Reynisfjara is a world famous black sand beach on the south coast of Iceland.
Luis Cagiao Photography | Moment | Getty Images
Iceland has been a focal point of my wanderlust for more than two years.
The country is a dream landscape of natural beauty: the black sands of Reynisfjara, the towering icebergs of the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the steep, rugged peaks of Vestrahorn.
I had to postpone a meticulously planned trip there in 2020, like so many other globetrotters who refrained from going on excursions during the Covid pandemic. Since then I have asked myself: When is an adventure abroad feasible again?
The outlook for international travel in 2022 is brighter than ever, according to travel experts, especially for Americans who book trips in the summer or later. But they should expect more planning ahead and be flexible.
"There has not been a promising time since March 2020," said Sebastian Modak, editor-in-chief of Lonely Planet and the New York Times 52 Places Traveler in 2019, of traveling abroad.
“It really comes down to the traveler's own risk and comfort level when things go a little wrong,” he added.
The year to grow up
Mouhoub Madina / EyeEm | EyeEm | Getty Images
According to an upcoming Expedia travel trends report for 2022, a large fraction – about 37% – of US travelers plan both international and domestic travel in the next year.
After almost two years of pent-up wanderlust, more than two-thirds of American travelers plan to “grow up” on their next trip – be it a one-off trip abroad or an upgrade to a luxury hotel, according to the report.
While domestic only travel remains the most popular, appealing to 59% of US travelers, interest in overseas travel destinations is growing.
G Adventures, which offers guided group tours around the world, saw international bookings increase nearly 35% in November over the same period in 2019. The company sees "great demand" for travel to Peru, Costa Rica and Morocco from Benjamin Perlo, the company's US managing director.
The search for flights to major European cities has also increased significantly in a short period of time – according to Expedia data, for example, between September and October by 65% from Los Angeles to London and 110% from New York to Paris.
Warm-weather hotspots near the United States, such as the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Punta Cana, all in Mexico, were the most popular overall with American tourists traveling in early 2022, according to Expedia.
"I think 2022 will be the year to make it big and have some of those bucket list moments," said Christie Hudson, Expedia travel expert.
Machu Picchu ruins in the Andes, Peru.
Go Ga | 500px Prime | Getty Images
There are many reasons for consumer optimism. For one, Covid vaccination rates are rising, which means Americans can travel relatively safely.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend vaccinations before international travel, approved vaccinations for children ages 5-11 in early November to make family outings easier.
In addition, travel restrictions will be relaxed. Many countries have reopened their borders to Americans, dropping guidelines like mandatory quarantine times. New Zealand, which had one of the longest Covid-era tourism bans, said Wednesday it would open its borders to vaccinated non-citizens from April 30.
(Testing requirements are still widespread even for vaccinated tourists. Travelers can find country-specific requirements on the U.S. Department of State website.)
There has not been a promising time since March 2020 as it is now.
Editor-in-chief of Lonely Planet
The US lifted its travel ban on most non-citizens on November 8. That probably inspired more Americans to venture abroad as well – the proportion who said they avoided international travel hit a low of 55% in the pandemic-era destination analysts in mid-November.
"I've been in tourism research for nearly two decades and (the desire to travel) seems incredibly strong right now – the strongest I've ever seen," said Erin Francis-Cummings, President and CEO of Destination Analysts.
"I think that's a huge tailwind for all types of travel through 2022," she added. "People seem more open to new experiences or to returning to international travel."
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And there could be deals for those who book a trip, experts said. For example, according to a joint annual report published in October by Expedia and Airlines Reporting Corporation, the average price of a round-trip international flight is 35% lower than 2019's cost.
Of course, the health situation can change quickly and thwart plans. A new variant of Covid discovered in South Africa has multiple mutations that can make it more transmissible or bypass vaccination protection, although scientists have suggested that more data is needed for an assessment.
A new wave of Covid infections in Europe caused Austria to go into lockdown on Monday; Germany could soon do the same.
Auckland, New Zealand.
Scott E. Barbour | The image database | Getty Images
Some countries are still closed to American tourists or have yet to abandon strict health guidelines.
This is especially true for Asian countries, said travel experts. China, for example, requires Americans to quarantine themselves for at least 14 days in a government-selected facility. Japan does not allow tourist travel.
Some travel companies are still wrong on the US travel side. Fodor & # 39; s Travel, for example, limited its annual go list to domestic locations in 2022 due to uncertainties about traveling overseas, though it added a measure of optimism.
"Like many of you, we are still looking for international travel," wrote Fodor. "And trips abroad can still be an option for the intrepid.
"If you can travel there safely and responsibly, go – go anywhere in the world," he added.
Security and flexibility
Anton Petrus | Moment | Getty Images
Travelers should take certain precautions, especially in the interests of insuring against financial losses.
Experts recommend travel insurance that will reimburse travel expenses in the event of travel cancellation or other unforeseen circumstances.
However, there are different types of guidelines. A "cancel for any reason" policy is generally the only one that allows travelers to get funds back if they cancel a trip for a Covid-related reason, experts said. (Most basic guidelines don't cover this case.)
Even the "cancel for any reason" option may not provide a full refund, and insurers may require travelers to cancel a day or two before the trip. It is important to understand the specific terms of a policy before making a purchase.
Travelers should also weigh flight and hotel options that allow for refunds, travel credits, or changes, even if those options cost a little more, experts said.
"I think you can feel comfortable booking this trip to Egypt in October when you've got insurance and maybe booked a flexible flight with airlines," Modak said. "Make sure you have the option to book the flight for May 2023 at no cost if Egypt gets tough."
Many companies have kept additional flexibility in terms of their policies prior to the pandemic.
I've been in tourism research for nearly two decades and (the desire to travel) seems incredibly strong at the moment – the strongest I've ever seen.
President and CEO of Destination Analysts
With G Adventures, for example, customers can rebook a trip or receive full travel credit if they cancel up to 14 days before departure. (Previously there was a 60-day threshold.) This policy will remain in place for 2022 trips booked through March 31st.
"Those options weren't really there for every pre-Covid company," Perlo said.
It's also important to have a budget just in case, Modak said. For example, if a traveler overseas has Covid and needs to be quarantined before returning to the US, how much money might they need to cover an extra week or two in expenses?
It is important that travelers approach a trip abroad with personal flexibility and empathy. Note that certain activities may be restricted or unavailable. A city with legendary nightlife can be tamer than expected if, for example, bars and restaurants close earlier than expected during the Covid era. Travelers may need to turn around and should do a thorough research of a travel destination in advance.
Additionally, not all countries or their citizens have equal access to vaccines, so mask compliance and other local regulations are paramount.
"It's still a strange time to travel," said Modak. "Bring a degree of patience and grace into the travel experience."