When Will Social Distancing End?

And when will we be able to travel again?

Coronavirus, also called COVID-19, has brought the travel and tourism industry to a halt. You probably have your own story about the virus, whether it’s a dream-trip canceled, an important conference postponed, a wedding on hold or waiting for business to be up and running again. Everyone is wondering: when will this be over and when will I be able to travel again?

The short answer: as soon as possible. But it’s unclear when that will be. Every sector of the tourism industry is eager for things to be back to normal. And almost everyone around the world is suffering from a case of cabin fever as we all practice social distancing and self-isolation.

While we can’t predict how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last, there are a few indicators that hint at what travel will look like in the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Fall is the New Summer for Travel

Fall Foliage.

Traditionally, summer has been high season for travel but that will look different in 2020. As we all wait to see how things pan out, bookings have slowed. But don’t let that keep you from dreaming about your next trip.

Once summer rolls around and we have a clear picture of what the future holds, bookings will likely start to take off again, but they’ll be for trips in a whole new season: fall. Travelers may see a boon of deals roll in throughout the summer as destinations feel comfortable enough to encourage travel and the economy finds its footing.

That means now is a great time to dive into the early steps of planning a trip, looking through guides to destinations you’re interested in, thinking about family or friends you may want to visit and planning for when you’d ideally like to go somewhere in the second half of 2020.

Domestic Travel vs International Trips

fish Fish eye photography of city.

2020 will not be a year of international travel. As the world recovers, we’re likely to keep trips close to home. That said, as long as the travel bans are lifted and governments have given the green light, traveling abroad in the second half of the year could yield high rewards including having normally over-run tourist cities all to yourself. The risk, however, is also higher. If you’re thinking about doing a whirl-wind tour of Europe, consider getting traveler’s insurance, read the policies of everything closely before you purchase and keep an eye on world health reports.

Road Trips

A car on an empty road.

Another form of travel that will likely be popular in the coming months is the classic road trip. Road trips were already growing in popularity and now, their ability to offer more control and avoid crowds is even more appealing. If you’re thinking about hoping in the car instead of on a plane, consider how long you can safely drive and where that takes you. You’ll likely find yourself touring local spots you hadn’t considered before, from that tiny taco joint one town over that everyone raves about to the quaint historic spots you always meant to visit or underrated outdoor trails.

Camping and Outdoor Adventures

A man sitting in front of a tent looking at canyons in the distance.

Many of us are itching to get outside and, along with fresh air, the open outdoors offer respite from crowded cities. Local parks have already seen a boom in visitors as closed businesses and a lack of things to do drive us to the outdoors. And while many national parks are shutting down to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, the demand for outdoor activities will likely surge in the latter half of the year and into 2021.

As we’ve had enough of scrolling through our phones and staying locked indoors, a return to nature seems natural. And you don’t have to go far to find your own outdoor getaway. Look to the preserves and state parks in your area. They’re full of hidden gems just waiting for discovery.

Going Off the Beaten Path  

An empty road.

Along similar lines as outdoor trips is the idea that travelers may begin looking to lesser-known destinations. For years there has been a growing movement to explore areas that are off-the-beaten path, including campaigns from Colorado and Amsterdam to reduce tourism in over-crowded areas.

For international travelers, this could look like travel to smaller cities such as Marseille, a picturesque seaside city in France that for years has flown under tourist’s radar.

Domestically, travel plans could include all-out staycations spent exploring local attractions. There may also be a preference for so-called “second-tier” and even “third-tier” destinations such as Dubuque, Iowa and Columbus, Ohio. Crowd-aversion will drive some travelers away from classic destinations known for tourist throngs such as New York, Los Angeles and D.C., making this fall a time to tour lesser-known locales.  

The Future

Right now is the time to focus on what we have to work with. That might look like supporting local restaurants. That might look like passing the time and simply waiting. It might look like working the hardest you’ve ever worked.

For travel, it probably looks like holding onto those airline miles and hotel points for a future trip. We will be able to connect again, face-to-face, across cultures, over a good meal or a shared moment. And when we do, we’ll treasurer it even more.