For the past 25 years, Vrbo has been pairing homeowners with families and friends looking for places to stay, giving people the space they need to spend quality time with loved ones and make lifelong memories together. And for the past several years, Vrbo has released an annual Trend Report using travel demand data to identify trends shaping travel for the upcoming year.
However, it goes without saying that 2020 was a challenging year, and using the same methodology for the 2021 Trend Report would have been a fool’s errand. For 2021, in addition to analyzing data from its own global vacation rental marketplace, Vrbo invited family travelers around the world to participate in a first-of-its-kind consumer survey to help uncover what to expect for family travel in 2021.
This report is based on U.S. survey results from a survey of 8,000+ people from 8 countries, as well as Vrbo travel demand for the 12-month period ending August 31, 2020 (except as otherwise indicated).
2021 Travel Trends
Travel slowed down, but travel planning didn't
Some pandemic-era travel habits show no signs of slowing down, including road trips, visiting the great outdoors, and taking Flexcations – a longer stay mixing work and play.
And connecting with lakes, water, nature, and being close to the ground is important especially when we’re in buildings all the time. You’re tying in the emotional experience with the thematic experience, and are in tune with your emotions and body – which can really make a difference for families and kids, and their mental health. "
- Dr. Ann-Louise Lockhart, pediatric psychologist and parenting coach
Lakes, rivers and streams reign supreme
Vacation destinations near lakes and rivers saw an uptick in popularity, especially in areas across the south, midwest and eastern regions of the U.S. where families can fish, camp and hike.
Here are Vrbo’s top emerging U.S. destinations:
Outer Banks, N.C.
"To me, the exciting thing is just how many more Emorys and Slades there are in the world and how you can experience the joy of being together with your family, whether it’s by a stream, a lake, or a mountain cabin. There’s just so much diversity in someone’s hometown that you can keep exploring, and maintain your wanderlust through a pandemic.
I know my kids started the year in Disneyworld on New Year’s, and I can confidently say that now, we’ve had days that were as fun – or more – in National Parks. There’s just so much encouragement around the ability of people to celebrate together without that moment of too much planning and so much stress to make their vacation perfect. Because the perfect part is really about enjoying nature and spending time with people you care about. "
- Jeff Hurst, Vrbo President
Check out some of Vrbo’s favorite properties in these emerging destinations on this Trip Board.
Cozy accommodations rise to the top
With the increased interest in destinations near lakes and rivers, it seems natural that the coziest Vrbo accommodations – cabins and chalets – are the most in-demand properties for families looking to escape their own four walls.
Vrbo demand for cabins increased nearly 25% and chalets were up almost 20% year-over-year.
Check out some of Vrbo’s favorite cozy cabins on this Trip Board.
Time to go all out
Families aren’t giving up on travel despite all the canceled vacations in 2020. Once travel returns to pre-COVID levels, travelers plan to go all out – whether it’s traveling more frequently, spending more money or finally taking that bucket list trip.
Travel FOMO was at an all-time high in 2020. Rather than scrapping a canceled trip completely, families want to make up for lost time and redo their canceled vacation plans.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.