Travel trends come and go, and while the future of travel is a story that has yet to be written, it’s clear that one trend we wrote about in 2019 has bitten the dust. 

The trend, popular at the time with Millenials, Gen Z and Baby Boomers alike, was referred to as “micro-travel,” which were shorter trips (less than five days) that often occurred over a weekend. In other words, people were choosing to take extended weekends more frequently throughout the year rather than use their vacation days for the once-standard one-week vacation. 

Then the global pandemic, starting in 2020, ushered in a period of no travel for the vast majority of the world. It also brought lingering changes in how we work – namely, from home and via technology tools that allow us to meet and collaborate remotely. Now that most Americans feel comfortable vacationing again, “micro-travel” just isn’t long enough for the respite and recreation they seek. 

The situation has brought a new word into the travel world. It’s “flexcation” and refers to the blending of work and leisure travel, as well as virtual school for those with families. Airbnb reports that nearly 24% of nights booked in Q1 of 2021 were not for traditional trips but long-term stays of 28 days or more. In addition, a full 50% of nights booked were for stays of at least seven nights. 

Vrbo reports that the average length of stay for vacation rentals in its portfolio increased by 30% in Q1 of 2021 and that vacation rental travelers are 75% more likely to stay at least seven nights, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.   

This trend of longer trips is good news for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) because more and more travelers might potentially pour not only their tourist dollars into the destination but their daily living dollars, too. Grocery stores, nail salons, restaurants, and bars outside tourist zones could see a financial boost as out-of-town visitors include the establishments in their “home away from home.”  

“Flexcation” is not to be confused with “bleisure,” which was another trend from 2019. It might be 2022 or later until we see a return of that, which refers to people extending business travel by adding a few days for leisure trips. 

Additional findings from the Allianz Partners’ 13th annual “Vacation Confidence Index,” released this month, include: 

  • Summer vacations will be longer, and people plan to spend more than they did in 2019. Whereas 42% of survey respondents took a summer vacation of a week or more in 2019, 60% intend to this year. 
  • Households are expected to spend an average of $2,122 on their summer vacation, nearly $100 more than in 2019. Because of the greater number of travelers, this represents an expected 50% increase over 2019 spending in overall dollars spent on travel, likely crossing the $150 billion mark for the first time.
  • Younger Americans (ages 18 to 34) are more likely to travel than those over age 55 (73% to 51%), with 60% of those between the ages of 35 and 54 planning to travel. 
  • Men are 12% more likely than women to feel confident about travel this summer. In addition, a recent survey by Quicken shows that what people want from their trips differs by gender, too. Nearly 30% of women said the focus of their trips will be to improve their mental health. For men, that number is just 17%. Men intend to spend more, too.

The bottom line is that not only is leisure travel coming back strong, but DMOs have opportunities to market their destinations to travelers who want to linger a bit longer.