Travel’s getting cheaper — and easier. With cheaper flights and hotel options, travelers get to enjoy budget-friendly vacations whenever, wherever. See how travel changed for the better this year.
Experiential Travel Is a Thing
Vacationing is no longer about kicking back and relaxing. Now, it needs to come with spiritual and emotional experiences. Rob Harper of Namu Travel said interest in experiential travel grew in 2016 — and Airbnb is already on board, allowing hosts to offer guests unique and local experiences.
European Vacations Got Cheaper
Brexit was bad news overseas. For Americans, it made travel just a little bit cheaper. By May, the U.S. dollar appreciated by more than 10 percent against the euro and British pound. Just in time for a budget European vacation.
Airfare Hit Its Lowest in Years
Lower jet fuel costs and excess capacity drove down airline prices this year. In May, summer airfare projections showed costs would be lower than in 2015, according to Hopper Research. By the end of October, even Thanksgiving flights were lower than last year’s numbers.
Hotels Hone in on Wellness
Lyn Mettler of Go to Travel Gal said hotels this year increased focus on health and wellness. This includes everything from higher-quality sleeping arrangements to healthy lighting.
“Intercontinental Hotel Group opened several new Even Hotels, a chain dedicated entirely to wellness from top to bottom,” said Mettler. “They offer amazing amenities in-room like stand-up desks; fitness areas with yoga mats, fitness balls and workout bands; free washing of dirty workout gear; in-room workout videos; and more.”
Hilton is on board, too, said Mettler. It plans to roll out fitness-themed rooms across some of its properties.
Carnival Offers Staggered Check-In
Boarding a cruise ship has always been a pain. This year, Carnival looked to curb long wait times with staggered check-in.
“The change has made boarding so much smoother,” said Tanner Callais of Cruzely.com. Each vacationer is now given a 30-minute window to board. If you show up early, you’ll be turned away until it’s your time, said Callais.
Ready to Cruise? The Best Time of Year to Buy Tickets
Hotels Upgrade Tech to Get Ahead
Hotels continued to experiment with technology to stay competitive in 2016, said Mettler. The Hilton McLean Tysons Corner Hotel, located outside of Washington, D.C., is testing new technologies to see what sticks with travelers. Among their offerings are smartphone check-in and robot concierge.
Airport Security Lines Got a Little Less Terrible
For a while, airport security was atrocious, with some lines keeping travelers waiting hours for a pat-down. But TSA PreCheck is looking to make life easier. The program allows eligible, low-risk travelers to get expedited security screenings. Although the application for TSA PreCheck costs $85, Roman Shteyn of RewardExpert said many travel rewards cards will foot the bill.
You Can Now Bring Home Cuban Cigars
Traveling to Cuba isn’t nearly as difficult nowadays. And although you still need to meet certain activity requirements to travel there, you can bring home more souvenirs, thanks to President Obama. He lifted restrictions on the island’s rum and cigars in October 2016. So, start planning your next trip to Cuba.
Airbnb Eats Into Hotel Earnings
Airbnb continues to boom globally. In fact, U.S. listings make up just 16 percent of available properties on the site, according to a June report from CNBC. That international interest is one reason why Airbnb is one of the most anticipated IPOs of 2017.
Uber Got New Competitors
Here’s news that’s good for riders but bad for Uber: Google began offering a ridesharing service this year. The search engine giant is expected to expand its reach in 2017, too. Meanwhile, BMW expanded its rideshare service, ReachNow, to Brooklyn, N.Y.
Travel Rewards Credit Cards Offer More
Credit card companies are upping their game to counter the weakening value of frequent flyer programs, said Shteyn. “The sign-up bonuses [for travel credit cards] are at an unprecedented high, as seen with the 100,000-mile bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, with an increasing list of perks for members,” he said.
Hotels Are Getting You to Book Through Them
In a world of hotel-booking sites, your local Hilton and Days Inn wants one thing this Christmas: for you to book directly through them. If you do, you might be in for a treat, said Mettler. Between discounted rates, free WiFi and other perks, booking through your hotel of choice could be worth the trouble.
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