How to Travel Better in 2021

After more than a year of being grounded at home, it’s time to start planning for the return of travel in 2021.

As we daydream about where we want to travel, there’s an even more important question to ask. How do we want to travel? The pandemic has changed so much about our lives, and travel is no exception. When planning travel for 2021, many are looking at possible adventures with a new mindset. New trends and types of travel are emerging, and many are right up our alley. When you’re planning your next trip, consider these six 2021 travel trends to get the most out of your adventures this year.


Enjoy experiential trips with meaning

Travelers are no longer satisfied with short, action-packed trips that check off the proverbial bucket list.  They're looking for more meaningful experiences in their 2021 travel plans. People are looking beyond exotic locations or “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. Instead, they want trips that have more meaning and substance. Think culinary-inspired adventures or cultural retreats involving hands-on immersion into a local community. Or writers’ workshops with seminars as well as socializing with like-minded travelers. No longer are one-size-fits-all travel itineraries acceptable. Instead, custom adventure is on the rise as a huge 2021 travel trend.


Biking trip


Consider purpose-driven adventures

As the tourism industry pivots and shifts, many tourism boards are moving beyond the concept of sustainable travel. One of the newest 2021 travel trends is regenerative travel. This means not only being mindful of preserving the places you visit and leaving no trace behind. It means making the effort to leave them better than you found them.

Purpose-driven adventures can take the form of volunteering with a local organization in need or supporting a destination’s economy by buying locally made products. Dining at farm-to-table restaurants is also on the rise. Consider choosing accommodations and experiences that give back to the local community. Or, offsetting carbon emissions of your travel. These 2021 travel trends are growing as travelers become more aware of their impact on local communities and the environment.


Outdoor adventure


Take advantage of longer breaks

With the new live-from-anywhere culture that’s on the rise since the start of the pandemic, families and even solo-travelers are considering the possibility of longer breaks. Many have gotten used to spending more time in one place and learning to appreciate what’s around us.

We no longer want to rush from place to place. Instead, there is a  desire to slow down and connect meaningfully with destinations. With more people working and learning remotely, there’s room to balance work and play. Daily life can happen anywhere in the world. So why limit your travel to a two-week vacation?  A slower approach to travel can mean spending a month or more at a single destination. It's all about balance.  Work or school activities in the morning. Adventure or exploration activities in the afternoon. Longer trips allow for a deeper connection with a location. And with the people and the communities that live, work, and play in that particular area. Ready to find your new office abroad? Many hotels are embracing these 2021 travel trends. Look for discounted stays for longer durations as well as custom rentals for entire homes.


Drive tourism


Explore “drive tourism”

International travel continues to fluctuate with constantly changing regulations and travel bans. So many tourism boards are focusing more on localized travel. Known as drive tourism, this type of travel focuses on communities and places within a drivable distance. Thus, we are seeing the resurgence of road trips and localized tourism. It's the perfect time to discover some lesser-known destinations around your local area. Hit the road and steer away from the big cities to discover an under-explored side of the country. Between small college towns and coastal regions to small mountain getaways, there’s so much to explore in a quick weekend trip. Travel brands like Airbnb and Vrbo are encouraging this trend for 2021 travel. Consider their ‘Go Near’ lodging rentals that are specific to your location. One thing to keep in mind? Ensure that the local communities you are visiting are equipped to handle increased tourism. Check local government websites to find any pandemic-specific community guidelines before planning your trip.


Outdoor Adventure


Look for eco-friendly travel options

Eco-friendly and sustainable have taken an interesting turn since the global pandemic. Many restaurants and coffee shops require customers to leave reusable products behind. Single-use plastic use due to masks and gloves has increased across all sectors. But overall interest and preference for eco-friendly and sustainable options have grown dramatically in the past year. So think beyond the traditional eco-friendly travel mindset. Look at the bigger picture for eco-friendly options for 2021 travel.

Eco-friendly tourism means traveling responsibly. Choose tour companies and airlines that are prioritizing the environment and tackling climate change. Select services that benefit the communities you are visiting. Take local transport or stay at locally owned hotels. Not sure how to find eco-friendly travel options? You’d be surprised how much you can find out about a company's values online. Take time to research the businesses you’re considering before using them for your next vacation. Also, consider your personal footprint. Contributing to a carbon offset program is one place to start. Check out programs such as Offset Earth. They offer a monthly subscription that helps travelers offset their carbon footprint.


Star gazing


Choose outdoor and nature-inspired adventures

After being cooped up at home for so many months, people are craving wide-open spaces. Nature is calling and more people than ever are headed outside.

Studies have shown that direct contact with nature improves mental health and reduces stress. Use nature-inspired trips to reap these benefits in your 2021 travels.

In many cultures around the world, the concept of being in nature is not something new. There are many places to explore the beauty of the outdoors. And immerse yourself in traditional practices of other cultures. Consider Japanese Shinrin Yoku, a practice of being out in the forests. Or the German practice of Fernweh, deep exploration and engagement with the wilderness.

There are many ways to get in touch with the natural world on your next trip. Stargazing adventures at an officially designated dark sky destination. Wild swimming in the oceans and rivers around the UK. Dispersed camping in the many national forests in America and wild walking adventures in Europe. All these types of nature-inspired adventures are on the rise in 2021- so get outside and enjoy a different kind of travel!

Rewilding and conservation “working holidays” are also becoming popular. These types of trips put you on the front lines, helping ecosystems that are in distress. Travelers in 2021 are welcoming the chance to make a difference no matter where they go. These working holidays seem to fit the bill. 2021 travel trends show that this seems to be the year where travelers are demanding more. Not just from the travel industry and travel providers, but also from themselves.


How do you see your 2021 travel habits and expectations changing this year?


Karthika Gupta is a culture and travel photographer, freelance writer, and podcaster who focuses on documenting stories and visual narratives around global culture, diversity and lifestyle. Follow her adventures on her site CulturallyOurs or on Instagram at @karthikagupta.