January 17, 2020

20 Travel Trends for 2020

New year, new travel trends. Our staff pays close attention to the latest travel practices and hottest destinations, and we’ve compiled 20 we’re expecting to see as the year unfolds.

Some of this year’s hottest destinations include Japan (hosting the summer Olympics) and Peru (accessible and active outdoor travel). In terms of travel style, multigenerational travel is making waves, and off-the-beaten-path experiences are popular with families who want to avoid the crowds and see something fresh.

Without further ado, here are 20 trends that will define travel in 2020.

1. Multigenerational Travel

According to a 2019 AARP Travel Trends Survey, 32% of grandparents have taken their grandkids on a “skip-generation” or multigenerational trip at least once, leaving the grandkids’ parents at home. With older generations healthier than ever before, it’s easier to enjoy activities that the grandkids will love – biking through Athens, hiking in Morocco and so on.

2. Celebration Trips

Photo: Bjorgvin Hilmarsson

Kid’s lives are full of special moments: graduations, birthdays, school holidays, the list goes on. What better way to celebrate these lifetime moments than with lifelong memories?

While material objects break, rust and fade away, travel is the gift that lasts forever. We’re not just saying that: the formative experiences of travel help children learn valuable skills they will carry for the rest of their lives.

“They’re going to start learning the tools for developing meaningful relationships, especially across differences, from an early age,” Dr. Robin Hancock told Travel + Leisure. “We have the potential to raise a generation that knows how to live and coexist with each other.”

Celebration travel isn’t limited to milestones in a child’s life! Birthdays, anniversaries and family reunions are great reasons to see the world too.

3. Off-the-Beaten-Path Experiences (Second-City Travel)

A daughter catches some waves in Baja California.

Everyone wants to go to Paris, London and cities like it. And guess what? Everyone is going there – many world-famous cities are dealing with major crowding issues.

In 2020, travelers are going off the beaten path to skip the crowds, see something new and travel sustainably. Less-traveled locations offer unique history and experiences, reduce crowding in heavily trafficked areas and reduce the ecological impact on popular destinations.

For example, bicycling through the rice paddies of Vietnam is an off-the-beaten-path experience that offers genuine insight into the modern-day countryside. The pristine beaches in Baja California are less crowded and just as beautiful as anything in Florida.

4. Tanzania

In 2019, Tanzania was one of our top destinations of the decade – when you’re out on the golden Serengeti plains, spotting lions and leopards, it’s not hard to see why.

Often considered the “Switzerland of Africa,” Tanzania is a safe, peaceable country and home to the Great Migration, one of nature’s most awesome scenes. During this year-round phenomenon, about two million wildebeests and zebras stampede through the grasslands and hurl themselves across rivers, desperately trying to outrace crocodiles snapping at their hooves.

Awe-striking as it is, there’s more to Tanzania than the wildlife – families have opportunities to meet Maasai communities around the Serengeti for a game of soccer or just to hang out!

5. Sustainable Travel

In 2020, sustainability is a growing demand spanning every facet of our lives. That’s why many travelers and travel companies are looking to diminish their impact on the global environment and the ecosystems they visit.

Here are a few examples of how we can do our part to make the cleaner and healthier for everyone:

  • Use reusable water bottles and biodegradable straws instead of plastic, single-use items.
  • Plan with travel companies that vet and provide carbon offsets for your trip.
  • Look for opportunities to support local ecological initiatives in the places you visit (for example, helping plant endemic Scalesia trees in the Galapagos Islands).

Off-the-beaten-path travel is a great way to support local infrastructure dedicated to wildlife preservation. A safari in Tanzania supports the Serengeti ecosystem and the amazing wildlife that lives there.

6. Country Coupling

Temple IV at Tikal is one of the tallest Mayan pyramids in existence.

Country coupling is exactly what it sounds like: visiting two countries during one international trip. This travel method is increasingly popular among people looking for the most value and international exposure for their plane tickets.

Take, for example, Belize and Guatemala. In Guatemala, you can enjoy the emerald waters of Lake Atitlan, sunset views from Mayan pyramids and bustling indigenous markets. Then, in Belize, visit the Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre, San Ignacio and the Chaa Creek excavation site. The indigenous history, lush jungles and Mayan ruins of these two Central American countries complement each other in ways that help kids stay engaged and families have fun.

7. Japan

Sensō-ji is an ancient Buddhist temple and the oldest in Tokyo.

Tokyo, Japan, will host the 2020 Olympics from July 24 to August 9, 2020, meaning you can expect Japan to be a hot travel trend all summer. Even outside of the Olympic time frame, Tokyo and the surrounding areas will remain a popular travel choice.

As the Olympics approach, safety will be a top priority for family travelers. They’ll be happy to know that Tokyo is the world’s safest city, according to a recent Economist report. Osaka, Japan, is close behind in third place.

8. Cash-free Travel

Relying on paper money and coins in a new country come with a large set of issues: losing monetary value through exchange rates and commission, the hassle of figuring out unfamiliar denominations and the liability that comes with carrying money in crowded spaces.

Travelers today are going cashless. By ditching on-the-spot transactions in favor of pre-arranged meals, hotels and activities, all the risks and headaches of hard currency disappear. Travelers who don’t have to think about money stop worrying about their wallets and spend more time making memories with those they love.

9. Last-minute Travel Planning (and Why to Avoid it)

an airplane filled with people who followed our packing tips

Last-minute planning is the great gamble among travel trends. Planning a trip well in advance offers decisive benefits and peace of mind: better-valued flight prices, guaranteed departure space and the relief of having ample time to prepare.

When families search for last-minute trips, it’s well known international flights can be harder to find. Internal flights are an even greater gamble since they are not scheduled as frequently. Depending on the location and timeframe, they might not exist at all!

Permits and passes for museums, exhibits or sites, such as Machu Picchu and its surrounding hiking trails, tend to sell out in advance of the dates they are good for.

The best bet, in any situation, is to be proactive: plan at least 9 months in advance, and you can rest easy knowing space will likely still be available. You’ll be way ahead of all the last-minute planners!

10. Morocco

Few places promise such a mix of discovery and adventure as Morocco, and travelers know it.

The souks and medinas feel African and Islamic, with hints of ancient Spain from across the strait and some Roman ruins making an appearance, too. Find snake charmers, spices, storytellers and acrobats in Marrakesh. Ride camels on the windswept beaches of Essaouira. Bike the Kik Plateau, hike Sidi Chamharouch and meet local artisans for painting and pottery.

Travel experts Our Family Passport recently traveled to Morocco with us and brought back some invaluable tips for Morocco travel (not to mention gorgeous photos!). Read about their vacation here.

11. Make a Connection

Photo: Marcia Cohen.

The people you meet when you travel are often just as memorable as the places you visit. That’s why families are more interested in connecting with local communities than ever.

For example, in South Africa, meet local families for a barbecue dinner and a soccer game. In Japan, connect with students for a cultural exchange. Traveling in Egypt? Meet a local family and cook a large meal, learning and laughing along the way.

Personal access to real communities is simply invaluable, especially for kids who have yet to be exposed to new cultures.

12. Active Travel

After a hike on Mount Etna! Photo: M. Tomasello.

Along with cultural immersion, active travel offers a personal connection to a destination’s unique landscapes and environment.

Hiking and biking are two common options for active travel, but plenty of others also exist: kayaking, canoeing, surfing, snorkeling, tubing, zip-lining and horseback riding, to name a few.

13. Family Travel with Adult Children

As kids get older, parents worry that their kids will no longer want to travel as a family. Senior Travel Consultant Christine Bowe has a handy insider scoop for them.

“If you’re offering to pay, they’ll always travel with you,” she says.

We’re discovering this travel trend is true. Adult kids – loosely defined as anyone in their twenties and older – are going on more vacations with their parents than in previous decades.

Adult children and parents usually want a different type of vacation than they would have had in the past. Parents might want fewer active excursions and a little more sightseeing and relaxation time. Everyone might appreciate later starts in the morning, too!

Though the details of a vacation with adult children might be different, the core value is the same: quality time with loved ones, no matter the age.

14. Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru.

Birthplace of the Incas and home of Machu Picchu, Peru remains a popular and impressive travel spot. One visit to an Andean village, market or artisan will show you how deeply Peruvians are connected to their heritage.

Families interested in hiking the peaks and trails that surround Machu Picchu will find them to be just as family-friendly as they were through the 2010s.

Hiking and walking excursions are also available in Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo ruins, Qachikata Quarry and the Sacasyhuamán ruins, to name a few!

15. More Value for Your Airline Ticket

Petra, Jordan.

Airfare isn’t cheap, and it’s no surprise travelers are making the most of their plane tickets. One method is a trip extension to other parts of a country – or to other countries altogether. Just visited Egypt, but not ready to go home? Consider Jordan’s Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum.

Trip extensions allow families to see more of the world – just as importantly, families get to spend more time together.

16. Costa Rica

Whitewater rafting in Costa Rica.

Pura Vida (pure life) is more than a mantra in Costa Rica; it’s a way of being.

Relax on sun-dazed beaches, soak in the hot springs and float the rivers where you’ll spot iguanas, sloths and howler monkeys. Go canoeing in the jungle. Hike La Paz Waterfall Gardens, where wildlife roams. Enjoy the simplicity of nature without any fuss or stress.

17. Customize Your Travel

Camel caravan in the Sahara desert.

Custom and private trips were some of the fastest-growing travel trends we noticed among travelers in 2019. More and more, families seek accommodations, activities, sites and experiences curated to their personal tastes.

Custom travel also allows families to play a more active role in travel planning – in many cases, they are reaching out to dedicated travel consultants who help craft their dream trip, schedule all activities, build the itinerary and answer any questions they have.

18. Solo Parent Travel

Traveling as a one-parent family or traveling without your spouse? You’re not alone. These days, solo parents have more international options than ever.

In most cases, this is possible due to scheduled departures, where travel companies provide itineraries with other families already onboard. Solo parents and their kids have plenty of other families to talk to and befriend during their trip. Travel companies also make the planning easy – we help make sense of the paperwork and passport requirements that come with an international vacation, so nothing is ever coming out of the blue.

19. The Galapagos Islands

Located 600 miles from Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a lesser-known island getaway with one-of-a-kind beaches and volcanoes, where leisurely and active travel await.

Hike volcanoes, learn to surf and snorkel in the Pacific. Spot giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and friendly sea lions. Ninety-seven percent of the islands are protected national parks, meaning all of that beauty is untouched.

20. Forget the Theme Park

Rick Thomson and Judi Wineland with their children, Erica and Nicole.

Roller coasters, arcades and costumed staff are what make theme parks undeniably fun and flashy, but more and more families are looking for vacation options with a little more meat to it.

International family travel is more than a vacation; it’s an opportunity for growth. Children can hang out with kids from countries around the world, try new foods they’ve never heard of and see things they’ve only read about in textbooks. For all the fun of theme parks, they can’t offer the same sense of discovery that comes with climbing into an Egyptian pyramid or meeting a Quechua woman in the Peruvian highlands.