2020 Vision: What We See for the Future of Travel

Kiattisak Lamchan/Getty Images

This year will change the way we travel forever.

Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.

It’s a new year, which means it’s a brand new chance to explore the world. But, this year, instead of taking the same old trip, why not change the way you travel and try out one of these 2020 travel trends?

In 2020, you’ll likely see sustainability, train travel, and micro-vacations, take center stage in vacation itineraries. And that’s not all. The future truly is right now thanks to on-demand helicopters, DNA-focused trips, and even a rocket ship that’s ready and willing to take travelers to the International Space Station for a little rest and relaxation. Here are the 20 trends that will define our 2020 travels. 

Related: The Top Destinations You Should Be Traveling to in 2020


Courtesy Aer Lingus

Sustainability going mainstream

Yes, travel is important. But, the way we travel may matter even more. That’s why sustainable travel will absolutely be on everyone’s travel to-do list in 2020. In the new year, book a trip with a company like Lemala Camps, which is working with local communities on sustainable initiatives. The female management team behind the camps sponsor local businesses, including a women’s group, to make 100 percent recycled lunchboxes and another that makes placemats for the resort, and more. The lodges are also zero emissions, meaning you can feel good about spending your tourism dollars there in the new year.

Flying high with on-demand helicopters

Blade is ready to help people conquer weekend getaway traffic. The helicopter service is bringing big changes to short-haul travel by allowing users to book air transport by seat, rather by entire aircraft. This model is making private transport, including by helicopter or seaplane, more affordable than ever before. The service is offered from a number of locations around Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, to help people get out of the city and on mini-vacations sooner. 

Experiencing travel via locals 

Everyone loves to feel like they are getting a taste of local life on their travels. Luckily now there are several companies catering to this desire. Airbnb Experiences is one of those companies. Through the service, travelers can search the globe for travel experiences run by locals including cooking classes with real Italian grandmothers in Rome, viewing the arctic foxes in Iceland, and taking multi-day surf trips in Costa Rica with a few locals. 

Say goodbye to animal products while traveling 

Between 2014 to 2017 veganism grew by 600 percent in the U.S. alone. That makes it little surprise that more hotel, entertainment, and travel brands want to cater to this discerning clientele. In 2019, Saorsa 1875, a boutique hotel in Scotland, became the United Kingdom’s first vegan hotel, while Ryanair introduced a vegan lasagna, and even Disney announced vegan meals would be coming to all its U.S. parks. So, expect at least more meatless Mondays to hit menus on planes, trains, parks, and in hotels too soon. 

Meet your ancestors through DNA travel

Learning where your ancestors came from is all the rage. DNA kits like 23andMe and Ancestory.com have exploded in popularity, with millions of people swabbing their cheeks just to learn a little bit about their great-great-grandparents. However, some people are taking it to the next level and actually traveling to their family’s ancestral homes. Several tour operators are helping to make those vacations a bit easier, including Aer Lingus, which offers Ireland-specific ancestor tours, Uniworld, who offers a Jewish genealogy vacation, and Spector Travel, which offers African ancestry vacations. 

Go on a multigenerational vacation with your whole family

The family vacation is officially back. According to Virtuoso’s travel trend report, multigenerational travel was the trend in 2019, and it appears to be on an upward trajectory for 2020 as well. Sure, people are wanting to spend more time with their loved ones, however, they don’t want to go on any old vacation. Instead, families want to adventure together on ski trips to Jackson Hole, relax with grandchildren in the Carribean, and explore Europe with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and more. Yes, you even need to include your weird uncle on your 2020 vacation.

Get extreme, even on vacation 


Dream Pictures/Getty Images

Say goodbye to leisurely travel in 2019 and hello to more extremes in 2020. People are ready to be thrilled by their vacations, and that includes journeying to the far reaches of the earth on weeks-long voyages to Antarctica, or trekking through India on a tiger photo safari, and even to experience two extreme climates in one go with a fire and ice trip through Patagonia. Just be ready to pack extra layers on trips like this (and maybe a few first aid supplies in case).  

All aboard train travel in 2020


Nathan Gallagher/Courtesy Eurostar

In 2019, travelers became more aware than ever before on the impacts of flying on the environment. So, in 2020, you’ll likely see people taking alternative modes of transportation, and that will likely include plenty of train travel to come. Luckily for eco-conscious travelers, there are options when it comes to hitting the rails including a few luxury train rides across the United States, and even more luxury options across the globe.

Forget your phone on digital detox getaways 

Somewhere in the last decade vacations became more about posting images to social media than actually exploring new places. But, all that’s changing thanks to the introduction of more and more digital detox holidays. These trips may require just turning off your phone and setting an away message on email, while others ensure there’s no WiFi present at all. That way, visitors don’t run the risk of temptation. There are a number of digital detox vacations, but none as special as these nature-inspired getaways that will have you too busy connecting with mother nature to connect to the internet. 

'Home-tels' will help travelers get cozy 

The beauty of taking a vacation is escaping from your day-to-day life. However, even while on the road travelers still love to have the creature comforts of home. And that’s where “home-tels” come in. These accommodations seamlessly blend all the things we love about hotels (hello comfy robes and room service) with the home-vibe people crave. These properties are typically renovated villas to include multiple units, or one-time mansions turn boutique hotel. Each unit usually comes with a kitchen, laundry area, and common spaces to hang with other guests. Try booking a stay with Stay Alfred or Domio to test out a home-tel for yourself.

New-school cruising hits the high seas 


Courtesy Virgin Voyages

Cruising is getting a facelift in 2020 and it’s all thanks to Richard Branson. In 2019, Branson announced and slowly unveiled bits and pieces of his new venture, Virgin Voyages, a cruise company unlike any other. In spring 2020, the company’s first boat, The Scarlet Lady, will take to the high seas for her inaugural sail. However, on this boat passengers are called “sailors” champagne is delivered with the touch of a button, the suites come with high-end furnishings, the food is bespoke, and there’s even a private island involved. 

Open a new page on literary travel 

They say, books are the window to the world, but in 2020, take that love of literature off the coach and onto the road instead. Literary-inspired travel is becoming big business, with companies like Airbnb getting in on the action, offering unique stays in literary-inspired properties around the globe. Literary lovers can also hop aboard the S.S. Sudan, a river cruise down the Nile, to take the same route that inspired Agatha Christie to write Death on the Nile.

Country coupling trips lets people see more in one trip 

Americans are taking fewer and fewer vacation days, which means people want more bang for their buck on every trip. And that’s where country-coupling comes in. As Virtuoso explains, country-coupling trips happen when people mix multiple countries—even during shorter journeys—in one go. The trips often pair diverse activities and experiences to help it feel like two vacations in one. This is an easy feat to accomplish in Europe, where visitors can hop aboard Eurostar, which happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020, to travel from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and everywhere in between over a quick holiday. 

Go on a transformative vacation and come home with a brand-new you

It used to be that people were content with just coming home with a tiny souvenir from their vacations. However, now, people want to come home with an entirely new perspective on the world through transformative travel. Companies like Intrepid Travel can help people do just that with journeys like its female-only expeditions to Kenya, Turkey, India, and more. On these trips, people will not only learn about new cultures but will also have the time to reflect on their own place in the world too. As the Transformational Travel Council explains, this type of travel is all about the “how and why” instead of just the “what and where.” 

Bespoke travel is here just for you 

Travel should be a personalized experience. Now, several companies exist to help every minute of a person’s travel be uniquely their own. The Ultimate Travel Company, Scott Dunn Travel, and Bespoke Private Tours are just a few of the companies who will plan a trip just for you. For travelers who want to be a bit more hands-on with planning their bespoke travel apps like Journy, which pairs travelers with digital travel agents, are making that easier than ever too. 

Micro trips make long weekends even better 

Like we said before, people are taking fewer vacation days, which means sometimes they have to make the most of just a few days off here and there and a long weekend every once in a while. This had led to a new craze known as “micro-cations,” or taking multiple long weekend getaways rather than one long trip a year. In 2020, plan your own micro-cation to one of the national parks. Don’t worry, those little vacations in the wilderness can be luxurious too

Fitness and wellness trips continue to go 

Gone are the days of sitting by a pool, sipping on piña coladas, and lazing about all day. Now, vacations are all about physical and mental fitness too. There are dozens of luxurious wellness retreats all over the world that are ideal for those looking to do a few downward dogs in yoga class, and even a few spots for those looking to find a little zen in silent retreats. For those looking to exert more effort, there are hotels that cater to fitness fanatics too.  

Second city vacations will help everyone discover more 


Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Getty Images

Visiting Los Angeles is cool, but have you ever considered San Diego? And yes, Rome is stunning, but have you seen Sardinia? These places, and many others, should be on your 2020 travel itinerary as it will truly be the year of second-city travel. Second cities are those located close to major tourist destinations, but come without the crowds and often come with more surprising things to do, eat, and places to stay. And, if you do choose to go to a second city you won’t be alone. According to Booking.com’s survey for 2020 travel trends, 51 percent of traveling respondents said they would swap their original destination for a lesser-known but a similar alternative to help reduce over-tourism issues and environmental impact. 

Fido-friendly options open the doors to four-legged friends

Americans spend an astonishing $70 billion a year on their pets. Why? Because we love them like children. And that’s why we want to bring them along on vacations too. More hotels than ever before are opening their doors to man’s best friend, and are even catering to them with special dining plans, bedding, toys, treats, and more. Places like the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property L’Auberge de Sedona in Sedona, Bobby Hotel in Nashville, and the Dream Hollywood in Hollywood, are all waiting for you and your pet at the welcome desk in 2020.  

Take an out of this world vacation with NASA 

Your next vacation may truly be out of this world. In mid-2019, NASA announced its plans to open up the International Space Station for “private astronaut missions of up to 30 days,” with the first visit taking place sometime in the new year. However, this once-in-a-lifetime trip comes with a once-in-a-lifetime price tag of $50 million. For the trips, NASA will net about $35,000 a night per private astronaut, according to CNBC. But hey, that’s far less than some of the most expensive hotel suites in the world