2. Flexibility will be everything. Before committing to a trip, travelers will want assurance that they can easily cancel their cruise, hotel or tour without penalty. Providers are responding: Celebrity Cruises, for example, is now allowing customers to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before departure and rebook through May 2022 (certain conditions apply). Intrepid Travel, which offers small group tours, allows customers to change the departure date and/or destination up to 21 days before a trip for no fee. “For the first time in my lifetime, consumers are in the driver's seat,” says Clint Henderson, senior news editor at The Points Guy, a travel and credit card rewards website.
3. Last-minute getaways will be all the rage. This is another response to the unpredictability caused by COVID-19. Even those of us used to planning our big vacations months in advance may now wait to do so until close to departure. According to a recent trends report from the vacation rental site HomeToGo.com, the average time before check-in between when the pandemic began and the end of September was 50 days, a drop of almost 38 percent from the average lead time before the pandemic. This more spontaneous, wait-and-see approach to travel is likely to continue, says Jones: “There are just still so many unknowns.”
4. We may need documents that prove we're COVID-free. Proof of a negative test (and maybe vaccination) may become necessary for flying. A growing number of airlines and airports are partnering with destinations to develop travel corridors, where people flying between select destinations who show proof of a negative test can avoid quarantine mandates. Delta now has a COVID-19 testing program between Atlanta and Rome that enables Americans who test negative for COVID-19 quarantine-free entry into Italy, for instance. “I think these corridors will continue to exist at least through the first half of the year,” says Jason Guggenheim, head of the travel and tourism sector at the research organization Boston Consulting Group. At some point, says Henderson, “the travel corridors may become less about testing and more about proving you were vaccinated.”
“People will say, ‘Let's go to Wyoming,’ rather than spend time in Europe.”
5. We may carry digital “health passports” that show we've been vaccinated. It's unclear whether it will become standard for destinations and travel providers like airlines and tour companies to require COVID vaccination for entry, but one tool for doing so could be health apps that can reliably confirm negative COVID-19 test results and proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is developing one, the IATA Travel Pass, that will allow travelers to store verified test or vaccination results on their mobile devices. JetBlue is already preparing to use a similar app, CommonPass, developed by the nonprofit Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, on flights to Aruba; passengers will be able to test themselves for COVID-19 at home, send their test to a lab, and have their results uploaded to the CommonPass app, which will be scanned upon their arrival in Aruba.
6. Cruises will be a lot less carefree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requiring cruise lines to show they have strict infection prevention measures in place before they can begin operating again, and many have canceled cruises through the end of February or later. When they do set sail, passengers can expect mandatory pre-travel testing for COVID-19, lots of conspicuous disinfection and cleaning onboard, and the touting of new ventilation systems meant to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Like airlines, some cruise lines are considering whether they can require passengers to offer proof of vaccination. “Lawyers are looking at it as we speak,” the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings told Travel Weekly recently.