12 travel predictions we’re betting will come true in 2020

Nov 25, 2019

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As 2019 rapidly comes to a close, we’ve been taking time to reflect on where our travels brought us this year — and how many of our travel forecasts came true. As predicted, hotels increasingly embraced their dual role as community and coworking spaces. And cruise lines earnestly courted millennials — and will continue to do so in 2020.

So what will the new year bring us? We’re going to keep watching some of these trends which have been slowly gaining traction with travelers. In 2020 two completely new cruise lines will hit the high seas — The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Virgin Voyages. Both are promising to appeal to new-to-cruise clients, especially millennials, and really reinvent the genre. We’re also seeing biometric security screening balloon. The expedited security screening program Clear is cropping up at airports (and stadiums) all over the country with escalating frequency, and Global Entry is finally rolling out facial recognition capabilities at several hubs.

And OK, commercial space travel isn’t a reality just yet (bummer!). But solo travel continues to grab a larger market share of the industry. And self-driving vehicles are still, well, a thing.

What other trends do we foresee taking hold in 2020? Here are the 12 trends we’re placing bets on now.

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The mini shampoo bottle will go extinct

(Photo by HowardOates/Getty Images)
(Photo by HowardOates/Getty Images.)

Major hotel brands have been phasing out single-use bath amenities since 2018. And now, Marriott, IHG and Hyatt have all committed to doing away with the tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and other products by 2021, if not earlier. We’re predicting that it’s just a matter of time before Hilton hops on the bulk amenity dispenser bandwagon, especially as entire states make miniature bottle bans a matter of law. Watching those tiny bath products go the way of the dinosaur might be an uncomfortable transition for some travelers, but it’s all part of a larger trend toward more eco-friendly practices across the industry. So, when you pack for your first trip of 2020, be sure to bring your own bath products if those refillable dispensers make your skin crawl — plus a stainless steel straw and a reusable water bottle.

Credit card sign-up bonuses will increase

For years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offered a standard sign-up bonus of 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after meeting minimum spending requirements. Then, in 2019, things changed: New cardholders can now earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. But though standard credit card sign-up bonuses will likely continue to increase — not just limited-time offers — we also predict more tightly regulated bonus eligibility restrictions and higher annual fees (like the time the annual fee for the Citi Prestige® increased from $450 to $495).

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Train travel will take the fast track

(Photo by Nikada/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nikada/Getty Images.)

An anti-plastic revolution is just one way the travel industry is changing as travelers become more conscientious about their eco-footprint. We’re seeing individuals (and, as of November, an entire airline) purchase carbon offsets from fuel emissions. Carbon offsetting may be a trend in and of itself, but we’re also watching trains recapture the hearts of travelers. Trains are among the most efficient and lowest-emitting modes of transportation. And yes, a trend that’s become known as the flight-shaming movement could push more travelers than ever to, when possible, take trains instead of planes. So, in 2020, we’ll hopefully see expanded networks and improved services, to help make train travel a more appealing option — especially for travelers in the U.S. You can even expect a train line, courtesy of Virgin Trains, to connect Orlando and Miami by 2022.

Vacations will get shorter

But more frequent! Anecdotally, we’re seeing travelers take shorter — but more frequent — vacations. And the data is starting to back this up. According to vacation rental platform VRBO, “short-hop, short-stay” vacations (typically two or three days in duration) are on the rise, particularly when the destination is within driving distance. We’re expecting 2020 to be the year of the “mini-moon,” and long-weekend getaway. For those of you not in the know, a “mini-moon” is a short post-wedding trip that may, or may not be, closer to home. Often they aren’t as elaborate as a traditional honeymoon.

Predicting redemptions will be more complicated

We saw an awful lot of award chart changes in 2019 — including the total loss of United’s award chart — that make it harder to predict how much your flight or hotel stay will cost. And though hotel and airline redemption rates will continue to increase, sweet spots will remain as many companies switch to dynamic award pricing. With Marriott’s new off-peak and peak award chart, for example, travelers can now use a 35,000-point free-night certificate (like those offered as an anniversary perk on the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card from Chase) to score a complimentary night at a Category 6 property during an off-peak date with a PointSavers rate. So, in 2020, it may be harder to anticipate how many points you’ll need to book a free night or an award flight, but great deals are out there, and may be even more valuable as a result of these changes.

Resort fees will die

(Photo by Alison Wright/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alison Wright/Getty Images.)

Pesky resort fees (sometimes known as destination or urban fees) have been on the rise at hotels and resorts all over the world. But with pressure increasing from travelers and even major OTAs, such as Expedia and Booking.com, hotels may be forced to ditch those fees — or, at least, fold them into the price of the hotel room. In November, for example, Expedia Group announced it would push hotels that charge resort fees lower in search results on Expedia.com. We’ve been saying resort fees should be eliminated since 2018. And it feels like 2020 could finally be the beginning of the end for this practice, thanks in part to legislation that’s entered Congress and aims to make hotel pricing more transparent.

Premium economy will hit its stride

While international airlines had a big jump on domestic carriers, the true premium economy experience will be more plentiful on U.S. carriers next year than ever before. We’ve been watching the product roll out across the legacy airlines since 2016, but now travelers booking international flights in 2020 increasingly can expect a bona fide premium economy cabin — not just economy seats with a few more inches of legroom. We’re talking real recliner seats and enhanced onboard service. U.S. carriers are still in the process of retrofitting their long-haul fleets, with the full rollout expected to come by 2021. But the era of true premium economy, dare we say it, is on its way.

Credit card offers will get personal

Credit cards will trend toward offering cardholder-specific offers and spending challenges (such as an opt-in for 5x on dining, or 10,000 points for spending $2,000 in three months). Some existing cardholders with Southwest credit cards, for example, were recently targeted with an offer to earn a 25% bonus on all points earned with their cards, up to a maximum of 25,000 bonus points. As technology improves, issuers will be able to better-identify profitable customers, while companies, such as airline and hotel partners, can use targeted offers to entice people with limited or no history with the brand.

Skip-gen travel will become more popular

(Photo by RgStudio/Getty Images)
(Photo by RgStudio/Getty Images.)

According to a 2019 AARP Travel Trend Survey, 32% of grandparents have taken their grandkids on “skip-generation” (skip-gen) trips — defined as grandparent–grandchild trips that leave the parents at home. Known by some as “Gramping,” we’re expecting more grandparents than ever to travel with grandchildren in tow, giving parents time to chill out — or plan romantic getaways of their own. There’s even a nonprofit organization, Road Scholar, that sponsors more than 150 specialized grandparent travel programs.

Travelers will ditch the DSLR

This year was all about smartphones with incredible cameras and low-light capabilities. Travelers should now feel comfortable leaving bulky DSLRs at home and just packing any one of the iPhone 11 models, the Google Pixel 4 or the Galaxy Note10+. With Apple’s Night Mode, for example, scenes so dim you might have once needed to pull out a tripod with a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera can be shot handheld with an iPhone. That doesn’t mean traditional camera equipment doesn’t have a place in 2020 — but there’s a reason the latest smartphones are being called “camera killers.”

You’re more likely to book a nonstop flight

The line between travel and fitness will disappear

(Photo by mustafagull/Getty Images)
(Photo by mustafagull/Getty Images.)

Retreats by the spin studio SoulCycle, and multi-day fitness-focused experiences plus a new five-star hotel from the luxury wellness brand Equinox — you get the idea. People will continue to expect their travels to support a fitter, more healthful lifestyle, while brands will continue to capitalize on the lucrative wellness travel. According to the 2018 Portrait of American Travelers survey, the segment accounts for 10% of all American travelers and spending: about $27.1 billion last year alone.

Bottom line

As we look back not just on the last year, but also the past 10 years of travel, it’s clear we’ve come a long way. In 2010, travelers were just downloading the first-ever version of Instagram. Now, it’s arguably the single-most important trip planning tool for the youngest generation of travelers. And though basic economy fares have been around for the better part of the decade, we’re still seeing them evolve. With the advent of JetBlue’s Blue Basic fares, it’s clear the trend is more of a steady simmer than a rolling boil. From the slow, leisurely pace of the cruise industry’s evolution to the rapid and total takeover of social media, we can’t wait to see what the year 2020 brings — and the next decade.

What travel trends are you watching in the coming year? Sound off in the comments below.

Featured photo by Andrii Lutsyk/Ascent XMedia/Getty Images.

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