2015 is just around the corner, and so the team at Cheapflights.com has gotten out its crystal ball for a peek at the travel year ahead. Read on for our thoughts on what trends will shape where we go and how we travel. And, as a bonus, we’ve thrown in what our team has to say about some unexpected new travel hot spots for Americans.
Health and wellness move up the travel agenda
In the era of Fitbits and Crossfit, healthy living is on the upswing. So too is healthy vacationing. More and more travelers are baking “wellness” into their getaways, going out of their way to nurture mind and body on their vacations. While high-end resorts are rolling out high-priced programs such as the newly launched Energy by Four Seasons, bargain hunters will seek out conventional and alternative therapies farther afield.
Mexico and Costa Rica are rising stars for stress-busting yoga and wellness getaways as well as places to get in touch with your inner athlete (surf camp anyone?). Asian countries such as India, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Korea all have well-developed – and reasonably priced – retreats that offer a variety of massages (no, not that type) and spa treatments ranging from fish pedicures to python massages to butt facials and fat-transfer treatments that will give you a bum like Kim Kardashian. She may be doing her best to “break the Internet,” but at least you won’t be breaking the budget when it comes to looking after your body abroad.
Wearable tech and location-based services to go mainstream
Airlines are increasingly using wearable tech to engage directly with their passengers and provide efficient, targeted service throughout the journey – from check-in to baggage.
Virgin Atlantic held trials with Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches. Japan Airlines has been ahead of the curve too, equipping staff with smartwatches. In 2015 we’ll see a greater rollout of this – in-flight as well as on the ground. For example, the Spanish airline Vueling has partnered with Sony to create the concept of a smartwatch-based boarding pass.
For the travelers themselves, high-quality wearable cameras such as GoPro and Autographer will continue to fuel social media networks, meaning that every single step of a vacation is documented.
On-the-go tech also translates to the ability to arrive in a city and find “just-in-time” deals on everything from tours to hotels to meals. This trend is increasing in popularity with budget-minded travelers who are not fixed on a particular hotel or plan and will trade predictability for affordability.
Greater segmentation and personalization on flights
2015 is all about the “c” word – choice, choice, choice. Be on the lookout for opportunities to personalize and upgrade your flight. Airlines will create special pods in their economy classes giving families and couples greater privacy – if not oodles more legroom.
The U.K.s’ Thomson Airways’ newest jets will be featuring booth-style seating at the back of the plane that can accommodate four to six people. Duo-seating includes a third seat that can transform into a table. This follows Air New Zealand’s Skycouch, which offers Premium Economy seating at something closer to Economy prices. Closer to home, JetBlue’s new Mint class offers personal suites on flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco (with more routes coming) for prices far below traditional First Class.
More airlines will offer the sort of perks once reserved for First-Class flyers. Think the Flying Nannies service and butlers on Etihad Airways’ long-haul flights, although butlers for bargain hunters may be a ways off yet.
We’re also betting hotels will strive to differentiate themselves against peer-to-peer rental sites such as Airbnb with value-added services (concierges for example) and establish themselves as destinations in their own right. Expect more opt-in extras and “value packs” as hotels look to woo higher-spending customers. And the list of extra services will grow and grow from basics like kids go free to pet nannies, helicopter rides, tour tickets, children’s activities, hangover butlers and staff to buff your sunglasses and gadgets. At the other end of the scale, sharing-economy accommodation sites will add higher end offerings and features to compete with hotels.
With power-up rules at some airports, omnipresent mobile tech, the potential for hacked boarding passes, seat defenders wielded by assertive passengers, the predominance of the in-flight selfie (taken with the near-ubiquitous selfie stick) and carry-on meals that often pack an odor punch all creating flash points for passenger conflict, we are expecting “Airtiquette” to be a major issue in 2015.
Airlines will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to air rage. Flight crews will be on the lookout for trouble and ready to bring in official help when they need it. However, to get ahead of issues, the airlines will get proactive, adapting the seats on their planes, creating alternate seating layouts, adding dual-level armrests and “smart” pockets to stow devices and charging “stations.”
Food has always been part of both travel and celebrations but, increasingly, travel has become a way to celebrate cuisine. 2015 is a landmark year in this regard as the idea of a formal restaurant turns 250. The birth place of dining out was (where else?) Paris. The year was 1765. The restaurateur was Monsieur Boulanger. And the house specialty was soup.
Fast forward to today and celebrity chefs, online reservations and reviews and a more mainstream “foodie” mentality have turned dining into entertainment at home and on vacation. Cooking (and even extreme eating) shows spotlight the cuisine of cities and cultures around the world, making everything from destination cooking classes to celebrity chef tours (on land and on cruise ships) and a renewed emphasis from airlines on food and beverage ready to be front and center in 2015.
Along these same lines, expect sustainability and traceability to be high on the menu next year. Expo Milano 2015 will be the largest worldwide event ever, running from May 1 to Oct. 31, drawing 22 million visitors from 130 countries (a billion people online) for food festivals and cultural celebrations.
Hot destinations for 2015
As the U.S. dollar gets stronger, a host of international airlines continue to increase their presence in America and the number of passports issued climbed for the third straight year, we are bullish on seeing more overseas travel in 2015. Here are some of the spots we see gaining ground as popular destinations.
Americans are starting to catch on to Asia and Australia’s newest budget destination of choice. Bali is a postcard-perfect Pacific island undergoing a boom of growth in new hotels and resorts at price points to meet every budget.
From serene beaches and iconic temples to an array of spas and a sizzling club scene, Bali has pretty close to everything under the sun. Its appeal is such that, rumor has it, “The Bachelor” will be taking some dates there in the upcoming season.
Flights from the U.S. are becoming more frequent and affordable, but the eye-popping deals are from the host of bargain airlines out of Australia promising flights for well under $100.
It’s hard to be sure whether Walter Mitty, Wow Air or volcanoes have done the most to put Iceland on travelers’ to-do lists. All we can say is that we it expect it to be a red hot (maybe even molten hot?) travel spot for 2015.
Iceland moved into a leading travel role when Ben Stiller hurled himself downhill on a skateboard past a sweeping mountainscape in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” This was a rare case of Iceland starring as itself rather than a fictitious land, awakening millions of viewers to its rugged beauty.
Insiders say, however, that tourism started its recent upswing in the wake of the 2010 eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which made global headlines for causing the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights thanks to its ash clouds. While that volcano captured worldwide attention, the spewing of another volcano, Bardarbunga, this past August sparked a different flight trend – eruption sightseeing flights. Online videos of the Holuhraun Lava Field once again put Iceland center stage, showing it as a place like no other.
The one thing holding Iceland back as a destination, however, has been the expense. And now, rounding out the trifecta, we have Wow Air. This budget airline, based in Iceland, has now started to offer flights from the East Coast to Reykjavik starting at $99 each way. Look for other airlines to respond to the pricing pressure. And for opportunities to lay over for free for a few days in Iceland on your next trip to Europe.
This historic island nation, part of the British Commonwealth, is a popular beach destination for Europeans. However, it’s garnering increased attention on this side of the pond as well, especially after the Jolie-Pitts bestowed the highest honor on the nation when they had a working honeymoon on the island of Gozo, filming “By the Sea.”
And, if the Hollywood effect isn’t enough, Malta is likely to get the royal treatment in 2015 as well. The Duchess of Cambridge was due to make her first solo overseas visit to the republic to mark 50 years of independence in September but pulled out due to severe morning sickness. Our U.K. experts predict she will instead visit with Royal Baby No. 2 in tow.
And, for the royal sweep, the Queen and her three heirs (Charles, William and George) are expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta next November.
Topographically speaking, we’ll all be high in 2015. July will be 150 years since the first Matterhorn ascent and Zermatt is celebrating with open-air performances, festivals and sporting events. The Hörnli Hut, the starting point for a Matterhorn climb, will reopen after being refurbished. This 101-year-old Matterhorn mountain lodge stands at 10,500 feet above sea level.
As “The Sound of Music” marks its 50th year, Austria will be alive with the sounds of the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s gem. Salzburg will host exhibitions, tours and sing-alongs.
And finally, the “Frozen” juggernaut will show no sign of slowing down in 2015. The global phenomenon may be set among the Scandinavian fjords, but with the Peak Walk in its infancy intrepid travelers can feast their eyes on the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau feeling just like Anna when she conjured up her ice kingdom.
Lithuania will adopt the Euro on Jan. 1, 2015, bringing the Baltic country into the single-currency club. There’ll be no more messing around with litas. Prices are expected to rise – in line with other countries that joined the Euro – but visitors can expect plenty of bang for their buck.
Its beer is legendary, its cuisine hearty, cheap and local (tying into the sustainable food trend) – cepelinai (potato and meat dumplings) and balandėliai or little doves (minced-meat-stuffed cabbage leaves) are national dishes. Its coast – the Curonian Spit – is UNESCO-listed and balmy in the summer time. And its culture comes with a side order of quirky.
Užupis is a bohemian, independent republic with a 12-man army and a statue of Frank Zappa (they tore down their statue of Lenin and replaced it with Zappa in the mid-1990s). Visitors to the independent country will be rewarded with a stamp in their passport, one of the best souvenirs for travelers.
2015 looks to be the summer of sports in Canada. The FIFA Women’s World Cup will play out across six host cities throughout June with the finals in Vancouver on July 5. Then Toronto steps into the host role for the Pan American Games in July and the Parapan American Games in August.
Summer time in Canada sees a rush to embrace the outside with a packed agenda of festivals, fishing, hiking golf and lakefront fun. While sports fans may lead the charge to head north of the border, we expect an overall surge as word spreads about all the action, on the playing fields and beyond.
(Featured image: whatshername used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)