The Big Idea: Time to Roam
Travel is emerging, reshaped and reimagined, with a newfound focus around one idea: time. Today, travel is about taking time, with longer trips and fewer breakneck pit stops, lingering and exploring with greater leeway. Plenty may have vacationed in 2020 but often to easier, closer destinations: St. Barts, perhaps, or Mexico. The chance to explore again has inspired travelers to prioritize extra time they just never considered before. In 2019, 21 percent of trips booked by Asia specialist operator Remote Lands were longer than two weeks; now two-thirds are 15 days or more. Greaves Tours, which focuses on India, has seen the number of stops on itineraries halved, to just two or three compared with six or more two years ago; trips now lean longer, with far fewer one-week requests.
Travel allows time together. Families are reconnecting this way after separation, voluntarily or otherwise, during the pandemic. It’s not uncommon for groups to span three or four generations, 20 or more people exploring together where 8 might once have been the maximum. Adventurous, vaccinated eighty and ninety somethings whisk their grandchildren on safaris and to the Seychelles, each family grouping chartering a jet for their trip. Many of the older travelers drive these bookings, the pandemic’s memento mori giving them an extra jolt of carpe diem. New smaller hotels have emerged tailor-made to this booming market, ideal for full buyouts: see Lopud 1483, a five-suite 15th-century monastery in Croatia owned and run by art-world doyenne Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, or Xigera, in Botswana, a safari camp with just 12 suites.
The way we book has changed, too: either long ahead or with just weeks to spare. Silversea’s 139-day, 34-country world cruise, sailing from Sydney in January 2023, sold out within hours of cabins going on sale in March, almost two years in advance. A chance to savor anticipation for longer, sure, but also a sign of a practical problem: Many top hotels and destinations are booked solid through the start of 2022, often by rolled-over bookings; there’s barely a room free at the top lodges in Chile for the rest of the year, for example.
But cancellations always occur, so ultra-last-minute high-end trips are also on the rise, per Houston-based travel adviser Sarah Groen, of Bell & Bly. Every week, 70 percent of her time is now spent on requests for complex trips with less than two months before departure, compared with about 30 percent before. It’s a reflection, too, of the flexibility that the changing landscape of the pandemic taught all travelers. The ultimate embodiment of that? The new Magical Mystery Tour from Wonderlust and Travel Sommelier: an $11,999-per-person journey where the destination isn’t revealed until the day of travel.