Summer 2021 Travel Trends: Stay Flexible and Plan Ahead

It’s summertime, and travel is back in a big way. Here’s the expert scoop on what you need to know if you’re planning on venturing out this season.
Travel Trends

Since the CDC has issued relaxed guidance for domestic travel following the vaccine rollout, summer vacations are back, and here’s a little word to the wise: If you haven’t locked down your plans already, it may be time to get cracking. 

Everything from amusement parks to beaches and campground sites are seeing a rapid rise in attendance, and unfortunately, as crowds go up, so do prices. Ariane Ely of Earle Travel Co. advises: “Sadly, travel this summer is not going to be inexpensive. There are too many people on the move, and in some cases providers are not back to pre-pandemic staffing levels—for example, in car rentals and airlines—so there is limited availability.” But, that doesn’t mean that deals can’t be found, if you’re willing to be flexible about your destination and the timing of your trip. 

No matter whether you take a jaunt to a national park or plan a blowout Caribbean escape, the experts advise that you should try and stay open-minded and patient, and plan ahead for increased road traffic and long lines at airport security. To help make your summer trips go as seamlessly as possible, here are some smart tips from five local travel pros about what destinations are trending and what pitfalls to avoid this season.

Mandy Horn Travel Advisor for The Traveling CompassWhat are some travel trends that you are seeing for Indianapolis travelers right now?

We see couples celebrating milestones like honeymoons and anniversaries that were put off from 2020. Families are enjoying getting out of their own cities to see some different sites and finally get those long awaited vacations. This summer we see people traveling all over the US and the Caribbean. Popular closer vacation spots like Disney World, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Marco Island, and Key West are all in high demand, and national park road trips are also very common and the parks are often packed out. For bigger trips, we see people opting for Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and St. Lucia.

How has the pandemic shifted travel? 

Right now, travel is a bit closer to home—whether within the US or the Caribbean. Europe is just now beginning to open, and we have many clients getting ready to rebook and start their European vacations this fall.  

Do you have any tips for how travelers can find good deals this summer on upcoming trips?

Availability has become a huge issue. Book early! That great vacation idea you have? Everyone else had it too. We are already seeing popular destinations have limited availability for the rest of the year. Travel is back in a big way. Those who wait will find sky high prices—not only in accommodations, but also in rental cars. Make sure you read the cancellation policies carefully. Travel still requires a lot of flexibility these days as changes are happening all the time, and you don’t want to get stuck with a vacation you can’t take or move.

Sierra Sieracki blogger at Sierra in the CityWhat are some travel trends that you are seeing right now?

A major travel trend I have noticed this past year is the rise of road trips. I know my husband and I had a goal to plan more long weekend-style trips this year, so that’s exactly what we’ve done.

Since we went on an international honeymoon trip last year we planned on doing a lot of shorter trips this year that didn’t require taking a week off of work or purchasing an expensive plane ticket. Another major trend I’ve seen is that a lot of people are getting more into hiking and spending time outdoors. We recently went on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, to do some hiking and check out the breweries and that was the perfect balance of both! That’s been a popular destination for so many people this year. 

Do you have any tips for how travelers can find good deals this summer on upcoming trips?

My No. 1 tip for any trip is to come up with your main “goals” for the trip. So for example, our goals for visiting Asheville were hiking and breweries. When we visited Gatlinburg over the winter they were relaxing at our cabin rental, hiking, and visiting the downtown distilleries. When we visit Kentucky they are typically distillery tours and whiskey tastings. Once you decide on 2-3 main “goals,” then you can plan your itinerary around that and not get overwhelmed with everything there is to do!


Kate Owen from EZTravelPadWhat are some travel trends that you are seeing for Indianapolis travelers right now? 

My travelers are heading to a variety of places this summer. Many are looking to experience national parks (staying in hotels) and dude ranches out west. Florida is another popular destination since it offers great beaches without having to travel outside the US, and Disney World is still a family favorite! The Caribbean and Mexico are also being asked for since they are open to US travelers. Many of my clients are traveling as families, but there are also some adult-only trips, celebrating birthdays or just getting some time away from the kids. I do have several honeymooners traveling this summer as well, all staying in hotels.

How has the pandemic shifted travel?

Last summer while the pandemic was still in full swing, I did see a bit more road trip travel than usual. When flights were available, I had many clients that were comfortable flying within the US since international travel was almost nonexistent. Once the Caribbean and Mexico began to open up, clients were ready to get away and didn’t seem to mind the testing measures that were put in place. One of the biggest changes in travel is for those that enjoy cruises. With all the cruise disruptions, many of those clients have made the shift to all-inclusive resorts.     

Do you have any tips for how travelers can find good deals this summer on upcoming trips?

My advice to those looking to travel this summer is to use a travel professional to assist you. Many agents, like myself, do not charge fees for our services—it won’t cost the client more to use an agent than to try to book it on their own. A travel professional’s services are more valuable than ever; they will be able to help find the best destination for what you are looking to experience, answer questions about safety, COVID-19 guidelines, and destination information and updates. 

Melisa Keiser from Carmel Travel CompanyWhat are some travel trends that you are seeing for Indianapolis travelers right now?

I’ve been very busy since February, and my clients are very eager to travel again. That is the trend nationwide, not just here in Indianapolis. I would say that domestic travel is definitely up due to current travel restrictions, but I do see people venturing out as COVID-19 restrictions ease up in Europe and as vaccination numbers continue to rise, both here and abroad as this builds more confidence. 

Also, when I say “domestic travel,” I don’t mean local travel … I mean as far from home as possible! We have many clients planning trips to Hawaii and Alaska this year, and the majority of the bookings we have for the end of 2021 and into 2022 are international trips. So, I think that says a lot about our guests’ expectations.

How has the pandemic shifted travel?

The pandemic definitely caused a shift in travel, but I think it is temporary, as my clients are very interested in pursuing trips overseas. Up until very recently, there were only a few countries where Americans were allowed to travel with few restrictions. However, as those countries’ vaccination levels rise (and they see ours rise as well), they are allowing vaccinated travelers to enter without quarantining—in many cases without negative COVID-19 tests. But, right now, I would consider us in a transitional phase, and I would imagine travel requirements will be in place in one form or another until we (the world) really have a handle on this virus.  

Some clients are still just interested in traveling domestically because they understand they will need to have a negative COVID-19 test to return to the United States and they are afraid of missing work if they were to get sick. Or, their employer prohibits them from traveling abroad unless they self-quarantine upon return for 10-14 days. They simply don’t have the time to do that, and therefore must stay here. Others are concerned about extra costs associated with a lengthy hotel stay in a foreign country, but many resorts are helping conquer this fear by providing “complimentary” stays should a guest contract the virus while vacationing in places like Mexico or the Caribbean.

Do you have any tips for how travelers can find good deals this summer on upcoming trips?

One of the trends I’m seeing is people booking at the last minute—and this typically means that deals aren’t that great. So, I would say, give yourself some lead time to get some better pricing. Bundle your bookings to save a little, like by booking your hotel and flights together—and try to be flexible. 

One thing we are finding is a huge rental car shortage. I just tried to book a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, and there were no rental cars there or in Bangor. But, I could find some by booking into Portland, Maine. Same with Kauai, Hawaii—there were no rental cars to be found for the first couple of weeks of August. So, we switched it up to the northeast shore of Oahu and found a nicely priced rental car.

Suzanne Haire owner of Travel Agent SuzWhat are some travel trends that you are seeing for Indianapolis travelers right now?

People are tired of being cooped up; I am getting so many requests that I am having a hard time keeping up. Most want to know where they can go outside of the USA—there’s a ton of Mexico and Caribbean requests right now for sure. Many are asking when I believe it is safe to schedule a trip to the EU as well. I am also seeing a lot of requests for specific locations, like Iceland and Greece, so that is super exciting!

How has the pandemic shifted travel?

I am not seeing more road trips, I am seeing more requests for international travel actually; people want to explore and learn and connect and so forth. People who previously put off traveling seem to have come to terms with how short life can be and now want to make the memories and experiences instead of waiting until “someday.”

Do you have any tips for how travelers can find good deals this summer on upcoming trips?

I deal in service, not discounts, so when people ask me for a good deal, I have them define what that means to them. A discounted price on a “junk” trip that I wouldn’t take myself is not a deal; it’s a cheap price for a crappy trip! So, my goal is always to get a better return on investment rather than get the cheapest price.

When I have a client I know well enough to know their expectations and their personality, I will sometimes recommend going to a new property when it first opens if they are willing to be the “guinea pig” per se, as a new resort needs to work out the kinks and get service levels up to par. Then that client can typically get an all-inclusive property for a fraction of the actual cost—but the property and staff are going to be fresh and working out the bugs or kinks in the property and its service levels.

Airfare is very expensive to many places right now as the demand has skyrocketed, so with that said, I recommend booking further out and more in advance to have the best availability and the best pricing.  

Stephanie Groves is an Indy-based freelance writer who is ready to get back out and explore.

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