Travel in 2022 - Is it time to plan those big trips abroad?

By Travel Writer Greg Lacurci:

Iceland has been a focal point of my wanderlust for the better part of two years. The country is a dreamscape of natural beauty: the black sands of Reynisfjara, towering icebergs of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the steep, jagged peaks of Vestrahorn.

I was forced to shelve a meticulously planned trip there, like so many other globetrotters who set aside excursions during the Covid pandemic. Since then, I’ve wondered: When will an adventure overseas be feasible again? Perhaps soon.

The 2022 outlook for travel abroad is rosier than ever, especially for North Americans booking trips in the summer or later, according to travel experts. But they should expect to do more advance planning and remain flexible. “Since March 2020, there hasn’t been a time as promising as it is now,” Sebastian Modak, editor-at-large of Lonely Planet and the New York Times 52 Places Traveler in 2019, said of travel overseas. “It really comes down to the traveler’s own threshold for risk and comfort for things maybe going a little bit awry”.

THE YEAR TO GO BIG

A large share —about 37% — of travelers are planning both international and domestic trips, according to an upcoming Expedia report on 2022 travel trends. After almost two years of pent-up wanderlust, more than two-thirds of travelers plan to “go big” on their next getaway — whether that be taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip abroad or upgrading to a luxury hotel, according to the report.

Though domestic-only travel plans remain most popular, interest in overseas destinations is climbing. G Adventures, which offers guided group trips around the world, has seen overseas bookings jump nearly 35% so far in November versus the same period in 2019. The company is seeing big demand for trips to Peru, Costa Rica and Morocco, according to Benjamin Perlo, the company’s managing director.

Flight searches to major European cities have also grown significantly in a short time span — by 65% from Los Angeles to London and 110% from New York to Paris, for example, between September and October, according to Expedia data.

Warm-weather hotspots like the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Cana have been most popular overall for North American tourists traveling in early 2022, according to Expedia. “I think 2022 will be the year of going big and having some of those bucket-list moments,” Christie Hudson, a travel expert at Expedia, said.

A GREAT TAILWIND

There are many reasons for consumer optimism. For one, Covid vaccination rates are climbing, meaning we can travel with a relative degree of safety. Further, travel restrictions are easing. 

“I’ve been in tourism research for almost two decades, and [the desire to travel] seems incredibly strong right now — the strongest I feel like I’ve ever seen,” said Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destination Analysts. “I think that’s a great tailwind going into 2022 for all types of travel,” she added. “People seem more open to new experiences or going back to international travel.”

“Like many of you, we’re still jonesing for international travel,” Fodor’s wrote. “And traveling abroad may still be in the cards for the intrepid. “If you can travel there safely and responsibly, do it — go anywhere in the world,” it added.

SAFEGAURDS & FLEXIBILITY

Travelers should take certain precautions, largely in the interest of safeguarding against financial losses. Experts recommend travel insurance, which refunds trip costs in the event of a trip cancellation or other unforeseen circumstance.

There are different types of policies, however. A “cancel for any reason” policy is generally the only one that lets travelers recoup funds if they cancel a trip for a Covid-related reason, experts said. (Most basic policies don’t cover that eventuality.)

Even “cancel for any reason” options may not offer a full refund, though, and insurers may require travelers to cancel a day or two ahead of one’s trip. It’s important to understand a policy’s specific conditions before buying.

Travelers should also weigh airfare and hotel options that allow for refunds, travel credits or changes, even if those options cost a little more, experts said. “I think you can feel comfortable booking that October trip to Egypt if you have the insurance in place and maybe booked a flexible flight with airlines,” Modak said. “Make sure you have the contingency where if things get tough in Egypt, you can book the flight for May 2023 without suffering any financial cost.”

Many companies have retained extra flexibility relative to their pre-pandemic policies.

It’s also important to have a “just in case” budget, Modak said. For example, if a traveler gets Covid abroad and must quarantine before returning to the U.S., how much money might they need to cover an extra week or two of costs?

Importantly, travelers should approach a trip abroad with personal flexibility and empathy. Recognize that certain activities may be limited or unavailable. A city with legendary nightlife may be tamer than expected if bars and restaurants close earlier than expected during the Covid era, for example. Travelers may need to pivot, and should do ample research on a destination ahead of time.

Further, not all countries or their citizens have had equal access to vaccines, making the respect of mask mandates and other local rules of utmost importance.

It’s still a strange time to travel. Bring a level of patience and grace to the travel experience.