Travels with Bob

International Travel Returning to 2019 Levels

With a wide range of Caribbean cruise options available December thru March of 2023, you will find outstanding travel values. Just don’t wait until the last minute because the best accommodations are selling out quickly.

Vacation travel continues to evolve as we adapt to a new “normal” and a plethora of new “Apps” designed make leisure travel healthier and easier to navigate. In addition, major cruise lines and tour operators have relaxed covid-related health protocols, as such technology fosters an increasingly “touchless” travel experience.

For example, I will be attending an international travel conference next week in Las Vegas and have already checked-in to my hotel via my smart phone. Upon arrival, I simply collect my card key and proceed directly to my room without standing in line to check-in.

I also recently escorted a cruise group aboard the Allure of the Seas and, by using Royal Caribbean’s cruise App, I was aboard the ship within 10 minutes of my arrival at the terminal. The App, downloaded to my cell phone, also enabled me to book excursion, specialty restaurant and entertainment reservations, as well as manage other aspects of my cruise. Mastering such technology may require a little patience but you will be rewarded with smoother vacations.

Holiday Travel Tips

The 2022 year-end holiday travel season shapes up to be one of the busiest ever and now’s the time to finalize your plans. Here are a few tips:

  • Make air reservations as soon as possible. Waiting much longer will only result in higher prices and lower availability. Consider traveling on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day if your travel plans permit.
  • European Christmas market river cruises are virtually sold out for this season, so look to 2023 for a holiday cruise if your bucket list includes such an experience. You also might consider skipping the cruise and visiting Christmas markets in three cities – Munich, Salzburg and Vienna – traveling via rail between each. Time and budget permitting, I also recommend including Prague on your itinerary. (My favorite is Salzburg, but each is well worth visiting.)
  • The Caribbean beckons couples and extended families seeking a warm-weather holiday at an all-inclusive resort, in a private villa or aboard a five to ten-night ocean cruise. Availability is shrinking rapidly for all such options, so act quickly and expect high-season pricing.
  • For a cold-weather vacation, consider a trip to New France by visiting Quebec City, which also offers nearby skiing. I also recommend celebrating the holidays in London – something I have wanted to experience for many years.
  • Finally, when your family gathers to celebrate the holidays would be the perfect time to start planning a multi-generational vacation for 2023.

    Many experienced travelers skipped the major European capitals this year to absorb the culture of smaller cities, including Avignon, France. It’s one of my favorite historic cities. You visit by rail (two hours south of Paris) or aboard a Rhône river cruise.

 Post-COVID Travel Trends

Travel to many Europe cities this summer surpassed pre-covid levels as vacation travelers opted for longer or multiple vacations on the continent after not being able to travel during COVID restrictions. Many people also opted for smaller cities and off-the-beaten-path destinations, although the perennial favorite European cities for Americans – London, Paris and Rome – continued to top the list.

I also see a transition to more luxury incorporated into vacations with many travelers opting for five-star accommodations rather than their usual four-star hotels, and others upgrading to larger and more luxurious staterooms on ships accommodating fewer guests. At the same time, demand for exploration travel aboard small luxury ships has never been greater. Meanwhile, American Airlines recently announced it was eliminating first-class on its international flights to add more business class seats given today’s growing demand.

In years past, luxury travel often meant spending more but now many travelers are simply seeking greater value by spending just a little more for their vacation accommodations or on desired travel experiences.

Looking ahead to next year and beyond, I believe there may be excess capacity for Caribbean cruises, making for excellent travel values. Meanwhile one-of-a-kind cruise itineraries, or those with unique itineraries, are already selling out. With most major cruise lines now operating at 75+ percent of capacity, I anticipate the cruise industry will return to full operations by the second half of 2023.

On a personal note, let me express my gratitude for the many calls and emails from clients and friends expressing their concerns following Hurricane Ian. Mary and I survived with only moderate damage to our home despite wind gusts exceeding 150 miles an hour as the eye of the storm moved onshore nearby. While SW Florida has only begun its recovery from this devastating storm, please don’t overlook the region for your next vacation. Beaches from Sarasota to St. Petersburg and across the Florida panhandle are as great as ever, so come on down.

Stay happy and healthy!

Yours in travel,