Usually, this time of year is the peak season for wanderlust. It’s a near year, we have a fresh set of vacation days at work, we’re reminiscing on the previous year of amazing travels and looking ahead to a new one. Often, our trips act as benchmarks to our year and we can’t wait to dive into a new year of making memories.

But this year is different.

Looking back at the previous year is seriously lacking in travel nostalgia. Looking forward is shrouded in uncertainty. The pandemic is still ever-so-present, many are grieving from the loss of jobs or loved ones, countries are reinstating lockdowns, new strains are emerging… the saga continues.

However, there are plenty of reasons for optimism. I mean, could it really get any worse than 2020? (Knock on wood).

Travel 2021 - Desert flower

It’s likely that we’ve been through the worst of it, although there is a long way to go, we’ve been processing the initial blow of living through a pandemic and are adjusting to the “new normal”. Call me a glass-half-full kind of gal but there is light at the end of the tunnel that is 2020.

Vaccines are being distributed around the globe, some countries have controlled their spread of COVID-19 and are able to expand their travel bubbles, such as Australia and New Zealand. More rapid testing is helping to curb the spread but also serve as an alternative to a mandatory two-week quarantine, making the possibility of travel more feasible for people who are able to do so safely.

Travel will not be the same, but there are plenty of reasons to keep dreaming and maybe even planning. Here are a few travel trends we’ll be looking out for in 2021 — and sharing through our stories right here on World Footprints, of course.

A greater appreciation for travel

In the pre-COVID-19 era, many of us were privileged enough to take travel for granted. We would go on at least one vacation a year, likely with other small getaways on long weekends, we would think nothing of booking a flight. We’d go back to our favourite beach spots for some R&R or go around the world conquering our bucket list. It was just a given. All it took was the time and money to do so.

But the pandemic has stripped that ease and ability away from us, and travel is now a precious luxury that we have been yearning for all year. It’s made us realize our privilege and appreciate the ability to travel on a new level, and this will continue into 2021.

Travel 2021 - Positive traveler

A greater appreciation for our planet

As we’ve been quarantining, our world has taken time to heal — waters are cleaner, vegetation has revitalized, pollution has cleared. Travel takes a toll on our planet, as do all of our actions, and many of us are realizing that we must move forward with more grace and respect for our planet. 

This means focusing on sustainable and eco-friendly travel. We must seek out organizations from tours to accommodation to transportation that prioritize our planet by minimizing their eco-footprints. Let’s take part in beach clean-ups, pack reusable items, cut out single-use plastic, pick up litter, and kindly educate others to do the same. Just as we need our big beautiful world more than ever, it needs us as well.

Travel 2021 - Green rice field

Steals and splurges

In terms of finances, it’s been a polarizing year. Many have been hit hard by COVID-19, losing their jobs due to a lack of demand or opportunity. And others have experienced quite the opposite, with some businesses prospering during the pandemic (Zoom, Amazon, DoorDash). Aside from that, many others have maintained their income levels, but are spending much less than before. They haven’t been dining out or going on trips, and they are ready to spend on luxury experiences in 2021.

Travel businesses have been and will continue to play to this demand. They have been hit hard due to the lack of tourism, so many are in desperate need to replenish their finances and have set their prices sky-high accordingly. Others are taking a different approach by offering discounts as incentives to get bookings up again. Savvy travellers will need to navigate their way through this new world of pricing.

Continued exploration of our backyards

One of the silver linings of this past year is that many of us have explored our backyards deeper than ever before, or at least deeper than we would have if it weren’t for the virus keeping us close to home. We’ve gotten well acquainted with our homelands, and many of us have discovered new local gems that we will continue to come back to. I’ve discovered a new hike in the hometown that I grew up in, the Abby Grind, that is a perfect way to work up a scenic sweat. I also road tripped the Rocky Mountains for the first time this summer, and am already planning my return in 2021.

Travel will start to open up eventually but it will take time, so we will continue to stick close to home for the better part of 2021 (at least). The good news is that road trips bring new surprises and new beauty every season!

Last-minute getaways

Many savvy and flexible travellers are skilled at snagging last-minute deals to incredible destinations. There is always a gamble with banking on prices dropping closer to the date, but now we are living in a global gamble known as the pandemic, and no booking is certain (this is coming from someone who recently spent an absurd amount of hours on the phone with Air Canada and Flighthub over a flight reschedule).

Between the initial hit, adjusting to the “new normal”, and navigating the second wave, COVID-19 restrictions have been changing on a whim, and flights are changing right along with them. It hardly makes sense to plan a trip months in advance when the state of the world is seemingly in limbo, so if there are any trips booked in 2021, they will likely be impromptu ones.

Meaningful & transformative experiences

Because we have been accustomed to booking a trip, hopping on a plane, and saying “hakuna matata” to the rest (it means no worries, in case Timon and Pumba didn’t communicate that clearly — sorry, I can’t resist a Lion King reference), vacations in the past have been a pleasant escape from the day-to-day hustle of life, but they didn’t tend to go much deeper than that.

Now that we’ve experienced life without travel as an option and know just how precious it is, we are looking for deeper, more meaningful travel experiences. These are trips that have been marinating for over a year in the wanderlust bank. We’re not booking spur-of-the-moment trips for the hell of it. Maybe this will be the time to conquer that bucket list experience that you’ve always dreamt of. Perhaps it’s time to volunteer somewhere or live abroad for awhile, to scratch that travel itch that’s been lingering your whole life. Travel is transformative, and after the year 2021 we’ve all had, a little transformation is deeply needed.

While time will tell what the next year will bring, especially in terms of travel, it’s always important to keep dreaming and remain positive. After the year we’ve had, we deserve to look forward to a brighter 2021 and hope that travel will be a part of it. Every experience can be an adventure depending on the perspective, and we look forward to continuing to share these journeys with you on World Footprints.