With all the uncertainty around this once-in-a-century pandemic, one thing feels certain – we won’t travel like we used to. The days of Instagram-inspired jet setting to places like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland or packing into throngs of people to glimpse a famous painting like the Mona Lisa are over. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Growing up, I remember not being able to sleep before a big trip. Disneyland, our annual summer trip to Hawaii, my first time to Europe (went to see the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong win his second tour) – in the days leading up to the trip I was restless and eager to get on the plane, secure the window seat, and gaze outside until our destination finally appeared.
My life has changed a bit since then. Last year between work and personal travel I took 86 flights and flew over 100,000 miles. Travel became routine and in many instances, required. Some people have referred to this pandemic’s silver lining as “the Great Reset”. With cities like Los Angeles seeing their longest stretch of clean air since the EPA has been measuring it (1995), and the water in the canals of Venice becoming clear again, the world’s destinations and travel itself appear to be resetting.
With this reset, people will travel less. Business travel will sink as companies opt for video conferencing vs. meeting in person. For personal travel, people will be more selective about where they go. The new normal of personal trips will be choosing destinations with more intent and meaning – rediscovering one’s cultural heritage, immersing in a place vs. blazing through TripAdvisor’s Top Things to Do. This intent will bring people to feel more connected to the places they travel to, to be more present in the moment, and be more appreciative of their experiences.
Personally, I’m excited for this new normal of less frequent, but more meaningful travel. It won’t return immediately though. I anticipate that there will be a couple of phases we need to progress through, with each phase building up consumer confidence that traveling can be done safely and comfortably.
When it comes to our environment in COVID-19, we’re comfortable with what we can control. Expect staycations, weekend trips to wine country, and extended visits to national parks to bounce back first. Stays at AirBnBs will be preferred over hotels and people will come with their cleaning supplies ready to fully wipe the place down. Distancing is a must, so some quality time in nature and small intimate dinners & activities will become the norm.
Road trips will make a big return this summer. I’ve already been talking about road trip plans with a few other Blueboarders to Southern Utah & Northern Arizona.
Once we’re comfortable with getting out of the house for a few days, domestic travel will start to pick back up. Larger hotel chains like Marriot will see more bookings albeit with a cap on occupancy to give people space to distance. More remote destinations will be preferred over typical tourist hotspots. Places where culture & lifestyle (think Charleston, SC or Savannah, GA), food & drink (Napa Valley, CA), or proximity to wide-open nature or ocean (Portland, OR or Santa Barbara, CA) will be preferred over destinations where the major points of attraction draw big crowds.
International travel will take time to resume. Prior to a vaccine being available, expect countries to closely monitor the travelers coming in. Mandatory two-week quarantines are in place in some countries to control the virus from spreading. Experts expect rapid testing in airport customs, widespread temperature monitoring, and potentially immunity passports to become standard (for example, some countries in Africa require a yellow fever vaccine certificate to enter). Countries will likely adopt a layered approach and each approach will differ by region and risk.
Each phases’ constraint (driving only in phase 1, domestic flights in phase 2, etc.) brings about options that many people previously overlooked. The mental decoupling of adventure and distance from home, a rise of national curiosity and pride in deeply exploring one’s own country – these are a couple of moments I look forward to.
Part of our mission at Blueboard is to help people find fulfillment through their travels. With many feeling anxious and cooped up from Shelter-in-Place orders, our Experience Curation team has been especially dialed in to ensure we continue to fulfill our mission of employee recognition – safely and comfortably for our clients.
So we asked our team of Curators to share the experiential rewards they’re most looking forward to our reward recipients redeeming as we progress through these phases of new normal.
Top Picks from Vito Amabile
Learn to Sail a Keelboat in the Bay
Recent times have shown us how important it is to have hobbies and skills that can be enjoyed away from the bustle of large groups, and there’s nothing like the freedom of getting out on the open water. Our friends at OCSC Sailing will guide you and a friend through a 4-day course that culminates in your certification to sail at sea. The course is designed both for students who have no sailing experience and for those who have experience but want to fine-tune their skills and get certified.
You will be at the helm (wheel) - learning to sail - on the morning of your first class, and in command of the boat through all of the fundamental maneuvers by the next afternoon. While you learn about sailing using practical training, you will also enjoy several short classroom sessions sprinkled throughout the course.
Hit the Road
With traffic at an all-time low, what better time to get out on to the open road for a cross-state trip? Riding in your own decked-out camper van for the weekend, you’ll have all the freedom of road tripping and camping while still having ample access to comforts and amenities. No need to jam-pack the family into the station wagon anymore.
Taking a hiatus from most of our usual favorite activities can mean the perfect time to reconnect with nature and celebrate wellbeing. Many state and national parks remained closed, so traditional camping spots are hard to come by. Camper vans are the perfect solution for that right now, as they allow you to set up camp on BLM land and pretty much wherever else you like (with the confines of the law, of course)!
Top Picks from Karen Vister
Bungee Jump Between Redwoods
If you’ve always wanted to try bungee jumping, this is the way to do it. We’re flying you and a brave guest to Sacramento, California to bungee jump in a Redwood Forest. Next, you will walk out on a tightrope between two of the beautiful trees. Finally jump between the two-hundred-foot trees!
Pictures and video included so you can relive the freeing rush for years to come. Your Blueboard Travel Concierge will book your flights, hotel, and bungee jump excursion. This is the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and fling yourself outside of your comfort zone. Get ready to conquer your fears and climb the massive California Redwoods!
The Golfer’s Getaway
There are only about 160 true link courses on earth where every hole, hazard, and shot is defined by nature’s presence. Your Blueboard Concierge will get you all set up with flights to Oregon, three nights in a beautiful room at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and two rounds of spectacular golf on two of the best courses in the USA.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity of gameplay on courses embodying the spirit of traditional Scottish links. Everything from the walk-only rule to the stunning landscape that accompanies each hole runs parallel with the legendary courses overlooking 2.3 miles of sweeping, undisturbed shoreline.
Top Picks from Lucas Restivo
What better place to escape the crowds, and hustle and bustle to the equilibrium of the outdoors than Wyoming? Home to six of America’s most awe-inspiring National Parks, including Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, the “Cowboy State” will stir something rousing in you.
Your Blueboard Travel Concierge will work with you to customize this trip to your exact qualifications. Whether it’s hiking in Yellowstone, rafting in Jackson Hole, camping out under the stars, or something entirely different.
The Grand Canyon Experience
You and three guests are flying to Arizona where you will embark on a four-night stay in one of the seven wonders of the world. That’s right, you’re off to explore the Grand Canyon in all its red, magnificent glory. We want you to have the best possible time so enjoy two incredible tours on your trip. One via land and one via SKY!
Discover the South Rim from the experts and fan favorites with a private Pink Jeep Tour. After a full day excursion to the canyon, you’ll rest at an awesome hotel inside of the National Park. Next, it’s a helicopter tour to leave you with unforgettable aerial views that will occupy your mind all the way home. This is the perfect chance to get out, break away from the crowds, and spend some quality time in nature.
Top Picks from Melanie Lesser
See Yosemite National Park
Visiting Yosemite should be on everyone’s bucket list. Home to the world-famous Half Dome and the world’s tallest waterfall, Yosemite is an incredible destination to spend some quality time with a fellow nature lover. You’ll get to spend three nights in a canvas cabin complete with a real bed so that you can sleep outdoors without having to really sleep outdoors. After journeying through the park and admiring the picturesque waterfalls and greenery, you can relax outside your cabin and enjoy the sunset together.
As we’re all itching to get out of the house, Yosemite is the perfect place to appreciate all that nature has to offer, while staying safe and maintaining social distancing. Surrounded by stunning granite icons, giant sequoia trees, and rushing waterfalls, you will experience the healing effects of the most beautiful national park in the country.
Napa Valley Voyage
It’s time to indulge in a delectable weekend trip to Napa Valley, California, home to breathtaking countryside views and legendary grapes. You and your guest will spend two nights in a scenic resort in the heart of wine country taking in the spectacular landscape (and all the wines) that Napa has to offer. You will visit three premium wineries in Napa Valley while traveling in style on a motorized replica of the ever beloved open-air, San Francisco cable car. Learn the in’s and out’s of winemaking from an expert tour guide as you drink the best wine in the Valley while doing it.
What could be better than getting out and about in Napa Valley, tasting wines and spending time with your favorite person? The two of you can steer clear of the crowds and treat yourselves to delicious wine and food, gorgeous vineyards, and the relaxing atmosphere of wine country.