We have spent over 50 days sheltering in place here in California, but we have been able to successfully flatten the curve. Just like the rest of the world, we are slowly, slowly talking about reopening and what that looks like. The thing is, for the foreseeable future, our reopened world looks a lot different from the world we left back in early March. So the question is, what will travel look like in a post quarantine world? And will it ever be the same again?
I don’t have a crystal ball, but based on some of what I’ve read, and some of what I’ve seen in the plans, here are a few predictions I have:
Air Travel and Cruises Will be Cheap For Some Time
While some states are eager to open up, the majority of Americans favor a longer shelter in place to ensure that the virus has run its course. A number of people will choose to stay home longer and avoid crowds for the foreseeable future. That means that the demand for air travel will continue to be low for some time. While there will be an increase, I believe we will continue to see low prices for a year or so as airlines try to entice more people to fly. We will see some airlines collapse, but it’s hard to imagine much more consolidation in the industry since it has shrunk so much already.
Cruises have definitely taken a major hit, especially since they were ordered to shut down for some time. The PR damage that cruises have taken is huge and I expect we will see some lines go out of business. It will take some time for people to feel comfortable to go back on cruises and trust the safety. The cruise lines that will survive will be the ones that can afford to offer steep discounts to try and draw people back onto the boats.
Social Distancing and Precautions Will Still Be Needed
Expect your travel day outfits to include some new accessories, particularly a mask and hand sanitizer. The CDC is recommending that all people wear a face covering in public, not only to protect you from COVID-19, but to protect you from spreading it to others. Already in California face coverings are required in public places, including all stores. Expect that to board a plane, train, or boat, to visit any site, or to do anything in public you will likely need to wear protective face covering. In addition, 6 feet of distance from other groups will continue to be encouraged. So don’t expect to be attending crowded shows or ball games this summer. Expect that locations that do allow multiple people will strictly control the number of people. Disney has announced its plans when it reopens the Shanghai location including capping the attendance during the day, and an online reservation system for rides to encourage social distancing . This leads to the next change…
Reservations and Planning Will Be More Important Than Ever
Six Flags has announced that when parks reopen, they will require reservations to allow them to cap the number of people in a day to encourage social distancing . Recently, the Jetsetting Family had to make an emergency trip and stay in a hotel. To even enter the hotel, they needed to show their reservation and ID. If you are taking a trip in the next year, spontaneity will be a thing of the past. If you wish to go to any place that might get crowded, expect to have to make a reservation or arrive early to get in. If you thought planning to see the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris was hard before, expect it to take even more advance planning when the world reopens. Demand will be down, but capacity will also be severely limited, so it will require you to take the time to plan and make reservation to do anything.
Camping and RVing Will Make a Comeback
People are being encouraged to get out and walk for exercise. And people who chose to spend more time indoors are now going out into nature and exploring the parks near them. As the people are allowed out, people will veer towards the great outdoors, where they can maintain social distance, and commune with nature. I expect that camping will be a popular option, as you don’t have to worry about sanitizing as much. In addition, you may even see an increase in RVing. There is an appeal to being able to travel around, but staying in the same room over and over, and taking care of cleaning it to your sense of satisfaction. It takes the fear out of hotels that may not be maintaining as strict a cleaning protocol.
Sustainable Travel May Finally Catch-on
There was much talk in the industry about over-tourism in certain areas. In places like Barcelona, locals complain of the overrun of AirBnBs, and you already can’t get in to see the big places without a reservation . In Disney, I went during what is traditionally the week with the lowest attendance, in the middle of the week (we pulled the kids out of school), and we still had rides we had to wait for over an hour. In the summer, it can be hours on line for hot big attractions. As traveling has become more accessible, some places have begun to get crowded. Emissions are going up, ancient sites are seeing wear and tear from the tourists coming through, and locals are being pushed out. People have been talking about sustainable travel, but it often feels like those are two opposites. Now, with travel slowing down and as places reopen under stricter regulations on crowd-sizes, I wonder if sustainable travel will finally become a reality. Maybe, we permanently cap the number of people who attend sites to a more enjoyable level. Maybe we find a way to explore what is close by instead of flying as often to far flung places. Maybe sustainability becomes the wave of the future. I do believe it’s important to experience different cultures and diversity of thought through travel. But it might not be such a bad thing to force people to do it in a more sustainable way.
Travel will change. And for the foreseeable future, I expect it to change drastically. Maybe it will die away, and we go back to “normal” by September. Maybe this changes the way we travel and move around the world for the rest of our lives. Only time will tell. But I think, as the world starts to reopen, and people start considering the option of leaving their “bubble”, we can expect to see many changes. But I have faith that they will all lead to changes for the better in the long run.
 “Six Flags to Require Advance Reservations to Visit”, Theme Park Insider
 “How tourism is killing Barcelona – a photo essay”, The Guardian,
* Starred photos taken by Atma Photography