Lockdowns continue to restrict international flight options, which has encouraged travelers to seek vacations within their country’s own borders. In the last three months alone, Google Trends shows a 110% increase in searches for accommodations near me.
That search-related detail also follows trends seen on Booking.com. Between April and July of this year, 70% of room nights booked on our site were for domestic stays. The trend looks to hold into 2021, as 77% of bookers we surveyed indicate they will feel comfortable traveling domestically in the next six months and 46% of them saying they are planning a trip to experience the natural beauty of their home country.
What will these domestic adventurers look for when booking an accommodation? We reached out to popular travel bloggers to find out how you can focus your efforts to meet the domestic demand that exists while the world waits for a vaccine to restore international travel.
Hitting the road - family style
Over half of guests we surveyed (53%) say they will drive to their next destination. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association estimates a whopping 46 million Americans will take an RV trip in the next 12 months.
Among them will be the Taylor family, who document their adventures as 2TravelDads, the first LGBTQ+ family travel blog. Rob Taylor says they were planning on taking their two kids to China in October on their first international trip. “Instead, we bought a camper and ended up doing a cross-country road trip.” He sees travel in the US as analogous to travel in Europe. “As you cross borders, the food changes, the sights change, the architecture changes.” What doesn’t change are their accommodation preferences, which have solidified over time.
Location, price and …
Family road trips are a long-held American tradition, perhaps even more so during the pandemic. What do these two dads look for when booking an accommodation? While they often choose vacation rentals for longer stays with extended family, when it comes to traveling with the kids, they prefer hotels. In addition to location and price, when booking they pay close attention to room layout. “From our very first trip with our oldest, we discovered that being able to understand the layout of rooms before booking a hotel is key to a successful stay.”
Ideally, they look for a space where the sleeping area is set apart in some way, such as a junior suite or a room with beds separated from the TV area. “No adult that I know of likes to go to bed at eight o'clock when the kids go to bed,” explains Chris. Barring those options, they tick the box for balconies. “Something I love about all the Disney properties we've stayed at is that even though we might not have large rooms with separate spaces, we always have a balcony or a patio that we can step out onto and relax on.”
In their travels this year, Chris gives hotels high marks for cleanliness and hygiene. “The hotel industry knows that people are nervous, and they are working hard to make sure people's confidence is being reinstalled.” With each hotel they’ve checked into, from how things are managed in the lobby to the information in the rooms, they’ve noticed a new level of cleanliness. “I think it says a lot about how the hotel industry is working hard to mitigate risk at every turn. My confidence level is better than it was at the beginning of the pandemic.”With most international travel still on hold, a lot of families will be heading out on road trips in the coming year.
A new domestic adventure… every year?
Jacob Fu is committed to seeking out adventure close to home. He runs the blog Local Adventurer, in tandem with his photographer wife, Esther, who also documents their experiences on Instagram. The blog is based on a simple, but unique, premise: “For the past seven years, we’ve moved to a new city every year, basing ourselves there and exploring the surrounding area,” says Fu. “We wanted to give ourselves a goal, to push ourselves not to be complacent with where we are and practice finding adventure in our everyday lives.”
When they search for accommodations, they begin with location. After that, they put a premium on the aesthetics of a property, which isn’t too surprising considering their Instagram presence. “We love finding photogenic and unique hotels. We like to go with name brands because with that, we get a set of standards and know what to expect.”
As with most travelers, COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has significantly cut down their travel time. “We travel 40 to 60% of the year, although moving forward our goal will be to travel 30 to 40%.” Like most domestic travelers this year, they travel by car. “We haven't hopped on a plane yet - not since the pandemic began.”
They’re careful to follow social distancing recommendations, and they pay close attention to cleanliness and hygiene when they book, relying extensively on reviews. “A lot of properties put language on their website to say they’re keeping things safe. We try to look in more detail to see what the experience has been for people who stayed there recently, to see if a property is holding true to what they say on their site.”
Like 2TravelDads, their guest experience has been positive during the pandemic, from their first stay until now. “We went for a staycation at the Wynn hotel - the first hotel to come out with a plan in Las Vegas. Not only were they clear in communicating their hygiene efforts, but you could also tell that the staff cared to keep everything safe and followed all the rules.”
Blog traffic insights
Fu can see his readers’ experiences during the pandemic reflected in the blog’s traffic stats. “Our blog initially took a hit because nobody was traveling - just like everybody else in the travel industry.” Fu laments. “But one thing that’s been coming back is traffic to our national park and road trip guides” They’ve noticed a big uptick in interest around content that leans into social distancing, a notable bright spot in an otherwise difficult year. “In a way, it’s exactly what we hoped to inspire from the start of the blog, to encourage people to explore their city and surrounding area.”
- Between April and July, 70% of room nights booked on our site were for domestic stays, with 46% of guests surveyed saying they plan to take a trip to experience the natural beauty of their home country
- 2TravelDads, the first LGBTQ+ family travel bloggers, have clear expectations about family amenities they look for in an accommodation, including separate sleeping areas
- Husband and wife bloggers who run Local Adventurer have picked a new place to live as a home base every year and pay close attention to the details that attract them to an accommodation
- Both teams of bloggers have been impressed with the level of cleanliness they’ve encountered at hotels since the pandemic began, making social distancing easier for them in their travels