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Americans are 'going all out' on travel this year to make up for lost time

·5 min read

Brian Folmer used to plan at least a dozen trips every year to see friends and family around the country, but when the pandemic hit, he stayed put like everyone else, missing numerous holidays and important events. He even missed a best friend’s wedding — which he was supposed to be in. 

“The wedding was in Edmonton, Canada, and I couldn’t get across the border. I got to the west coast, but only as far as Portland,” said the 33-year-old from Brooklyn, New York.

This year, Folmer plans to make up for lost time. 

“I’m going to a bachelor party in Colombia, skiing in Vail in March. I’ve got a wedding in Cabo San Lucas in May, a trip to Boston to visit friends in July, a trip to Detroit to visit friends in August," he said. "And I’ll probably add a music festival for New Year’s Eve to the list.”

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 28:  Travelers make their way through Miami International Airport on December 28, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Over the holiday weekend, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. reached their highest level in nearly a year. More than 2,000 flights were canceled over the weekend as airlines dealt with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Travelers make their way through Miami International Airport on December 28, 2021 in Miami, Florida. Over the holiday weekend, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. reached their highest level in nearly a year. More than 2,000 flights were canceled over the weekend as airlines dealt with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Folmer is part of a growing percentage of Americans who are jumping back on the vacation bandwagon with renewed confidence and excitement, said Lee Thompson, a travel expert and co-founder of Flash Pack, a boutique adventure firm for solo travelers in their 30s and 40s. 

“Everyone feels as if they’ve lost two years of their life," Thompson said, "so they’re going all out.”

Christie Hudson, Expedia’s travel expert, echos this sentiment. 

“People don’t want to put plans on hold anymore if they can avoid it," Hudson said. "They’re more determined than ever to travel, and they’re doing it in a big way.”

Going big

For some vacationers, this means going all out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip overseas, according to Thompson. He said that while travel may be a bit ”bumpy” right now due to the Omicron variant, Americans are looking ahead in what he projects will be a solid year.

“Americans are going crazy for Africa right now—Tanzania and South Africa are our top sellers this yea," Thompson said. "Argentina is doing very well, too.”

Other popular destinations include London, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Dubai, Riviera Maya/Playa del Carmen/Tulum, according to Expedia’s 2022 Travel Trends Report. 

“People are also curious about Bali and the Maldives, although it’s still very intimidating to plan trips internationally,” said Hudson. “There’s so much in flux all the time, so many unknowns, and uncontrollable elements.”

ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 23: A United Airlines plane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. With Covid-19 vaccinations on the rise and Americans now traveling more freely, U.S. airports and airlines are expecting millions more passengers this holiday season compared to 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 23: A United Airlines plane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. With Covid-19 vaccinations on the rise and Americans now traveling more freely, U.S. airports and airlines are expecting millions more passengers this holiday season compared to 2020. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“It’s a nightmare,” added Thompson, who has recently hired someone full-time at Flash Pack to stay on top of the regulations and restrictions. “They change daily and there’s so much misinformation, which makes it confusing — and expensive — for consumers,” he said.

Just ask Rosie Zilinskas, who, over the past two years, has made two failed attempts to go the Beaches Resorts in Turks & Caicos on a pre-paid trip with her family. Both snafus involved Covid tests. Last year, Zilinskas and her 20-year old daughter were deported upon landing. 

“The immigration agent wouldn’t let us enter the country because we didn’t do PCR tests. At the time, I didn’t know there was a difference between the rapid test and the PCR,” said Zilinskas. “I’m kicking myself for not reading the fine print and relying on the Resorts’ customer service.”

When Zilinskas rebooked the trip for another time, she ended up having to cancel because they didn’t get their mandatory PCR test results back in time. Zilinskas has since rebooked again — not only because she refuses to forfeit the thousands of dollars she paid upfront, but also because she’s desperate for a family vacation.

“You have to be willing to go with the flow,” she said.

Staying close

Given the hassles of traveling overseas, most Americans — 59% per Expedia's report — are vacationing closer to home, going to warm weather hotspots such as Orlando and Destin, Florida, and Maui, Hawaii. 

“Domestic travel typically comes with fewer unknowns, which is one of the reasons it remains a top choice for Americans,” said Hudson.

The one thing that’s certain is that travel this year, regardless of the destination, will be about quality, said Hudson. For some, this means turning off the electronics, savoring the moments, and ultimately zoning out. For others, it means incorporating more outdoor activities/wellness or excitement and exhilaration into their vacation time.

Travelers carrying luggage walk through a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during the holiday season as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Omicron variant threatens to increase case numbers in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Bing Guan
Travelers carrying luggage walk through a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) during the holiday season as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Omicron variant threatens to increase case numbers in Los Angeles, California, U.S., December 22, 2021. REUTERS/Bing Guan

For many, it’s also about investing in upgrades and amenities they otherwise wouldn’t splurge on — not only to stay safe, but also to make the vacation more memorable.

For example, Danielle Taylor has booked a suite on the Ioanian Sea at a luxury five-star hotel for a wedding she and her husband, John, are attending in Sicily this July. 

“I’m not doing cheap hotels anymore,” said the 31-year old television booking producer from Leonia, New Jersey. “We’re going to wake up, look at the sea, eat, drink, and take it all in.”

Taylor is currently brushing up on her Italian as she counts down the days until her departure. 

“I can’t wait to get out of the house,” said Taylor, who not only works full-time from home, but also cares for her 4 children ages 7 and under. “Being at home for the past two years has been like being on ‘house arrest.’”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Colombia. It has been corrected.

Personal Finance Journalist Vera Gibbons is a former staff writer for SmartMoney magazine and a former correspondent for Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Vera, who spent over a decade as an on air Financial Analyst for MSNBC, currently serves as co-host of the weekly nonpolitical news podcast she founded, NoPo. She lives in Palm Beach, Florida.

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