(NEXSTAR) – When the travel industry (and pretty much every industry) went quiet in March 2020, we didn’t think we’d still be thinking about the coronavirus much in 2022. But here we are, heading into year three of the global pandemic.
Some of us still have leftover airline credits to use from canceled trips, and may be desperate to go somewhere — anywhere — that isn’t home. Others are still feeling nervous about the virus, and can’t puzzle out how safe travel is these days.
As the world (once again) reels amid a massive surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant, travel plans may feel even more uncertain.
We asked Melanie Lieberman, senior travel editor at The Points Guy, to help us understand what we can expect of the travel trends in 2022.
No place like (closer to) home
“High level, next year we’re going to see a lot of the same trends that we’ve been watching throughout the pandemic,” said Lieberman. The spread of omicron is giving people flashbacks to March 2020, and making them feel more cautious about taking off to a far-flung locale.
“The concern of getting stranded abroad becomes top of mind for a lot of people,” she said.
For that reason, Lieberman forecasted domestic travel being popular for the third year in a row. However, international travel is still possible. Just pay close attention to every country’s exact requirements and consider a destination that has committed to staying open.
“If you see a destination that’s constantly opening or closing, rules are changing every week … you just don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. That can add to the stress and anxiety around a trip.”
Out of office for longer
As travel remains more difficult than in pre-COVID days, people are more likely to book extended vacations in 2022, Lieberman said.
“For people to jump through all these hoops, they’re going to want to spend some more time [on vacation],” she said.
If you have to take multiple COVID tests, quarantine, or deal with other pandemic-related delays, make sure you have plenty of time to actually relax on vacation.
Rise of the vacation rental
Lieberman called vacation rentals, like spots you’d book on Airbnb or VRBO, “well suited to the uncertain times we’re living in.”
“Because you have everything you need right there, a kitchen, facilities for longer stays. It has a lot of appeal for travelers, knowing you have a private property to yourself and you won’t see other people,” she said.
Plus, vacation rentals can give people access to more remote places where there aren’t lots of hotel options, she said.
Nature is healing
National parks and other outdoor-centric destinations will still be very popular in 2022 — and for good reason. Outdoor activities are proven safer than indoor activities when it comes to coronavirus spread. Many people live within driving distance of beautiful state parks or national parks, making them easier to access.
“I do think the pandemic has taught a lot of people they can have incredible travel experiences without flying across the country,” Lieberman said.
RV trips, as kitsch and old-school, as they may seem, may also make a resurgence as people explore the great outdoors.