Island Escapists: Expedia’s Guide to Your Next Big Trip in 2021

by Carolee Chanona

Considering the atypical year, a new cheat sheet is needed now more than ever. In addition to tapping into its own massive database of search and demand data, this year Expedia partnered with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for a deep dive on the effect of the pandemic on air travel. For six years running, travelers have relied on the annual Expedia ARC report, which analyzes billions of flight segments, to provide insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of air travel. Here’s Expedia’s tips on when to book and how to save on a next flight, what the next big trip looks like, and where travelers are craving.

The Next Big Trip: Island Escapists

While nearby escapes and road trips are likely to remain popular as travelers navigate the ongoing realities of life amid a pandemic, search data3 proves that aspirations persist for grander, far-flung vacations. More specifically, it seems vacation-deprived Americans dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories: island escapists and urban returners. Although, looking at the top 20 destinations, half are islands and another third are popular beach resorts. After a year like 2020, it’s not hard to imagine why so many travelers want to escape to an island the next chance they get.

Traveler Priorities in 2021

sun breeze check-in front desk belize

Check-in is a breeze at SunBreeze Hotel in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

  • Flexibility isn’t a “nice-to-have”, it’s required. In 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for travelers, who booked refundable rates 10 percent more often this year compared to last. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever: Expedia lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable trip bookings were 20 percent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Health and safety advancements. In the year to come, concerns about staying safe while traveling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning; from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on, including enhanced cleaning, contactless check-in, social distancing and other guest safety measures. Belize’s health & safety protocols for tourism were hailed as “one to emulate,” which earned them a TRIPSAVVY’S 2020 Editors’ Choice Award.
Considering that Belize’s GDP was valued at $4,815 per capita in 2019—over $60,000 less than that of the U.S.—it stands to reason that the Caribbean country provides a strong set of standards for the U.S. and other countries to emulate.

 for TripSavvy

  • Majority of travelers booking less than a month out. According to ARC data, in 2019, the average U.S. traveler booked flights around 35 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window lengthened to 46 days. The new normal (since August 2020) is just 29 days out – the average advance purchase dropping below the 30-day mark for the first time in years – and illustrating how travelers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment. However, with airlines eliminating change fees travelers may feel more confident booking further out, knowing they can always change their plans down the road.
  • Growth in alternative accommodations.While the most popular lodging type in 2020 was hotels, the types of accommodations showing the biggest growth compared to last year were castles, ranches, cabins, chalets and cottages.3 These types of retreats, typically found outside of big cities, were the perfect getaway spots for travelers in search of wide-open spaces, nature and privacy. This trend is expected to continue as people look to travel safely amid the pandemic. Whether it’s a hotel, vacation rental or chalet, Expedia lodging data shows the cheapest days to stay are Sunday through Tuesday, so try scheduling a long weekend trip at the start of the week instead of the end.4
  • Maximizing the trip. During lockdown, many travelers relied on virtual tours and activities to satisfy wanderlust. Once able to roam again, travelers resumed looking to activities as a way to get the most out their trips. Have a taste with these 10 virtual tours for a Belize adventure at home, or touring some of the best resorts in Belize.

Bang for Not So Big Buck$

united entry pcr Belize Denver face masks tarmac airport

Passengers arrive in Belize on an inaugural United flight. Photo by the Belize Tourism Board

Based on ARC data, average ticket prices (ATPs) for international flights briefly spiked in April before normalizing to 2019 levels in mid-June and finally settling between 30-35 percent lower year-on-year during the fall months. What this means for travelers is that while average ticket prices are historically low for both domestic and international flights, prices rise during peak travel periods such as spring break, summer and the holidays. To get the best deal, travelers need to know when to book and start their trip.

  • Best day of the week to book1: Sunday
    • For domestic flights, book on Sunday, not Monday to save around 15 percent
    • For international flights, book on Sunday, not Friday to save more than 20 percent
  • Best day of the week to depart2: Thursday or Friday
    • For domestic flights, start your trip on Friday, not Monday to save around 20 percent
    • For international flights, start your trip on Thursday, not Sunday to save nearly 25 percent
Learn more about all the ways to fly to Belize after re-opening here. Source: Header photo of Glover’s Reef Atoll by Our Travel Tip.

1Best day of the week to book recommendation is based on average round-trip ticket prices for January through early October, for both 2019 and 2020, sourced from ARC’s global airline sales database.

2Best day of the week to travel recommendation based on average round-trip ticket prices for January through early October, for both 2019 and 2020, sourced from ARC’s global airline sales database. Departure date determined by the first date of travel in an itinerary.

3Top searched destinations based on lodging interest on between Jan 1, 2020Sept 12, 2020 for travel in 2021.

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