After two years in which many travelers stayed at home, 2022 could be the year of big tripwhen travel was checked off bucket lists and the word “staycation” was discontinued forever.
Then came spring’s soaring Covid-19 numbers, record high gas prices, rapidly escalating airline tickets — and the war in Ukraine. In addition, last year’s chaos of airline cancellations and delays continues. For some people, that made the idea of staying closer to home — whether they’re really staying in their own city or settling for scaled-down plans — more appealing. And suddenly, American travelers are once again racing to book local hotels, restaurants and activities.
Among them are Milan Jones and his girlfriend Catherine Wilson. In 2020 and 2021, the couple had to settle for day trips to nature reserves, museums, and spas near their home in Georgia. This spring, they planned to head to the Maldives for their first blowout trip in over two years.
Then came the constant feelings of uncertainty – what would happen if they got sick abroad, didn’t the world seem too unstable?
There went the day flight to that remote archipelago. The new plan: A week at a local spa to take a mental and physical break from the past two years of built-up stress.
“We would only decide to go on a major vacation in the future if we had assurances that it was thoroughly planned and safe,” said Mr. Jones, 24, a content writer and editor. “We probably wouldn’t plan anything more than three months in advance, and the more remote the area we’re traveling to, the more peaceful we’d feel going there.” Their priorities: a stable region and a place with less risk of a coronavirus outbreak.
They’re not the only ones rethinking things.
April Fools study by Bankrate, a personal finance site, found that 69 percent of American adults who say they will be going on vacation this summer anticipate changing their plans because of inflation, with 25 percent taking shorter distances and 23 percent less expensive planning activities. Among people planning to take time off, a staycation was the second most popular option after going to the beach.
Another report released in May by TripAdvisor, the travel review site, found that 74 percent of US travelers were “extremely concerned” about inflation; 32 percent planned to take shorter trips this summer and 31 percent planned to travel close to home.
While this doesn’t mean that travel has been phased out completely, it does indicate that for the third summer in a row, staycations are expected to be a significant part of the mix, and “revenge travel— a total trip to make up for lost time — may have to wait a little longer, said Amir Eylon, the president and chief executive of Longwoods International, a travel market research consultancy in Columbus, Ohio.
An optimistic girl report of the Mastercard Economics Institute found that Americans booked domestic and shorter-haul international flights above 2019 levels by about 25 percent in the first quarter of 2022, although long-haul flights were still under pressure. But, the report warned, “While the tailwind of Covid-related pent-up demand is propelling travel recovery, headwinds from inflation, supply chain constraints, geopolitical uncertainties and Covid infection rates are also shaping 2022.”
The effect of rising prices may be uneven, the report said: “More price-sensitive travelers may stay closer to home, while less price-sensitive travelers, who are more likely to have more excess savings, are less concerned about higher prices and wanderlust.”
Domestic hotels book up
For those who don’t jump on long-haul flights, the winners seem to be nearby vacation destinations, booking hotels and short-term rentals. Airbnb’s U.S. bookings of people staying in their native region increased 65 percent in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2019, said Haven Thorn, an Airbnb spokesperson.
“Demand for domestic leisure travel is greater than ever after the pandemic,” said Emily Seltzer, marketing manager at River house near Odette, a small luxury hotel in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which attracts most of the guests from Philadelphia and New York. “Instead of having to fly, guests are more likely to jump in their car and enjoy their vacation.”
Amanda Arling, the president of the whale inn, a luxury hotel in downtown Mystic, Conn., said the hotel is filling up quickly for the summer, much faster than in previous years. Weekends are already almost completely sold out during Labor Day, and she said she’s starting to pick up weekday business as well. Ms. Arling estimates that 20 percent of bookings are local residents from Connecticut and Rhode Island on staycations.
“Domestic travel and staycations seem to satisfy a desire to explore new places,” she said.
“Staycations has opened up a new offering for the travel industry, and in the future we will see the sector start offering staycations in major metropolitan areas,” said Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of partner relations for Internova Travel Group, representing more. over 70,000 travel consultants worldwide.
Some have already started. Virgin Hotels in Chicago for example, offers up to 30 percent off hotel stays for Illinois residents.
Amy Lyle, 51, an author, and her husband, Peter Lyle, 56, a health systems consultant, who live near Atlanta, look at what their third year of staycationing could be. Their first planned trip, to the Amalfi Coast, was booked to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in April 2020.
Ms. Lyle canceled it when international travel almost stopped at the start of the pandemic. Instead, the couple took a residence 30 minutes north of their home, enjoying time on Lake Lanier.
Then, in April 2021, they tried again and booked a holiday with friends to Greece, Egypt and Israel. But in March, a month before they were due to leave, the travel agency informed them that Israel had been removed from the itinerary due to an increase in violence there.
The Lyles went back to the lake.
They have already canceled one trip this year, to Rome and Nice, due to concerns about the war in Ukraine. But they hope to head to Greece this month to finally celebrate their 10-year anniversary. When that is canceled, they settle for a stay in Darien, Georgia, a small fishing village on the coast.
“I’m an author of ‘The Book of Failures’, so canceling three European holidays is the story of my life,” said Ms Lyle.
Meaghan Thomas, 29, of Louisville, Ky., will be holding a staycation after canceling her May trip to London, which she planned more than a year ago.
“We were hopeful that Covid would have eased by then,” said Ms Thomas, who canceled the trip in April after numbers peaked there in March. Instead, she will take a road trip to visit a friend in Asheville, NC
Ms Thomas owns an organic spice company and more troubling to her than canceling her trip to the UK is the further delay of her business trip, planned this year to Tunisia, India and Sri Lanka to meet spice farmers.
“I’m really hoping for a late summer trip, but my confidence to fly and protect against Covid has dropped significantly,” she said.
Wherever you go, it’s vacation
But for many people, even a second-choice vacation is better than no vacation, and they’re just grateful to be leaving their homes, said Brian Hoyt, head of global communications and industry affairs for TripAdvisor.
“Travelers overwhelmingly said that they have been in their homes for 24 months and that they will get out this summer,” said Mr Hoyt, referring to the report released in May.
And the staycation isn’t that bad. Especially, some travelers say, when you consider things like the seemingly ubiquitous flight delays and cancellationslong flights that can no more masks needed and Covid rules associated with international travel, as they should test negative to return to the United States.
Heather Fremling, 55, a self-employed financial advisor in Merritt Island, Florida, had traveled all her life for work, family and pleasure. But during the pandemic, as Ms. Fremling drove across the country to help her elderly parents, she realized how much less stress she felt driving a car than flying.
“I was reminded at a pretty bad time of the freedom and happiness of arranging your own travel,” she said.
Now Ms. Fremling sticks to staycations, relying on resort passes and same-day hotel bookings to take advantage of luxury destinations without the stress and hassle of actual travel.
Steve Schwab, 49, the CEO of casago, a vacation rental company, said he normally travels to a new place every summer, but this year, with rising gas prices and inflation, he couldn’t justify the expense. So he and his family spend a week in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they live.
“We spent some time writing down our favorite activities,” said Mr. Schwab. “And just by listing them and thinking about what we want to do, I was a lot more excited about this than I was. Sometimes a little planning is all it takes to get you excited about what’s to come.”