After almost a year of being stuck at home, Stephanie Schweitzer, 30, was desperate to board a plane and head to anywhere in the world where tourists were allowed. Before the pandemic, Schweitzer, who lives in Miami and works in marketing, took two or three international trips a year to countries such as India, Colombia, and Mexico.
“I went from globetrotting to being housebound except for a few local camping trips,” she says. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
After researching her options, Schweitzer decided to splurge on a 12-day vacation to Hawaii with a friend and said that she stretched her budget beyond what she normally would. Their February getaway to Honolulu and Maui included a stay at a five-star hotel and pricey excursions such as a helicopter tour and private boat charter to swim with whales.
“I definitely went all out and spent more than I have on past trips, but given how long I was cooped up, it was well worth it,” she says. “The expense was easy to justify.”
Schweitzer is far from the only traveler with the pent-up urge to explore the world in a big way. Call it the comeback trip, the revenge vacation, or whatever you want — so long as it accurately describes that feeling of hard-earned victory travelers all over the country are feeling as they plan and take their first, post-quarantine, extravagant- but safe- vacations this summer and beyond.
Caroline Danehy, 24, a New York resident and the founder of the men’s swimwear brand Fair Harbor, is another example: “I’ve started researching a 10-day trip to Patagonia for the fall,” she says. “It’s like a fantasy to be able to see the stunning scenery, go trekking through the landscape I’ve only seen in pictures and learn about a new culture.”
Danehy says that she has never been to South America, but the pandemic has inspired her to go.“Before Covid, the world was literally our oyster, and when that privilege was taken away, I realized how essential travel is to my well-being,” she says.
Travel industry professionals say that travelers across the board have the same sentiments.
“We have spent a year in isolation, and travel is how we are healing and reconnecting with others and ourselves,” says Erika Richter, the senior director of communications for the American Society of Travel Advisors, which represents more than 14,000 advisors in the United States. “The big trend today is that people are spending way more on their first post-pandemic trips than they normally would. The rest of this year and into next year is shaping up to be a golden era for travel.”
Ilana Silverman, a travel advisor in New York with IMS Travel, agrees and says that her clients, many of them women in their 20s and 30s, are spending double their usual travel budgets. “They want to get as far away from home as possible and use the opportunity of the world opening up again to take their bucket list trips whether that’s an African safari or exotic island,” she says.
Erina Pindar, the managing director for the luxury travel company SmartFlyer, says that she is seeing the same pattern. “People have saved up money in the last year from not going out to restaurants or taking trips, and now they’re ready to plunk down cash to have that perfect experience,” she says. “They realize that experiences trump material goods like handbags and clothes.”
Allyson Blauvelt, 32, who lives in Tribeca and works for a nonprofit, has her sights set on the South of France for August if borders are open. Then, it’s Maldives in the fall (the Maldives is already open for tourism). “It’s where I’ve always wanted to go, and this is the perfect time to do it,” she says. “My dream is to check into a beautiful resort on a private island and stay in an overwater villa, and now I want to bring that to life.”
Blauvelt knows that the trip will be expensive but says that quarantining over the last year has left her clamoring for a “wow” welcome back to travel trip.
After a year or camping, hanging their hat in Airbnbs in lieu of hotels or not going anywhere at all, people are done roughing it and springing for luxury to compensate for the loss of the last year. Some hotels report brisk business in the wake of the popularity of revenge trips. Stuart McPherson, the owner of the San Jose del Cabo, Mexico resort ACRE, which has 11 open-air treehouses, says that he has gotten a flood of bookings for girlfriends’ getaways for the summer and fall. “Summer is usually the low season for Cabo, but we’re far busier than we ever have been,” he says. “People like that we’re spread out because it’s automatic social distancing.”
Marielle Leigh, 33, who lives in Holmdel, New Jersey and works in digital marketing, stayed at ACRE in late for April four days with her girlfriend, also named Marielle. Cabo was her first post-quarantine trip, and she had used the pandemic to reflect on what she really wanted out of a vacation. “Instead of a typical beach resort, I was now more interested in a trip that gave me a connection to nature, and ACRE, with its treehouse setting, was it,” she says. “We would wake up to the sounds of birds and monkeys.”
Next up, says Leigh, a European jaunt is on top of her list. “I’m going as soon as borders open,” she says.
The latest data supports the idea that Americans are ready to hit the road: a survey of more than 1200 travelers by the research firm Destination Analysts between April 23 and 25 shows that Americans’ anxiety about contracting the virus are the lowest they have been. Over 43% say they would not feel guilty traveling — a record since the pandemic started. In addition, the average American traveler will most probably take two leisure trips by August.
Where exactly are they going? The survey indicates that more than 70% plan to travel out of state, and 34.2% plan to fly with one out ten with plans to travel internationally.
The “revenge” people are seeking on these trips is against the pandemic that has wreaked havoc on their lives. Now that the world is returning to somewhat normal, they’re treating themselves indulgently. Their actions could be construed as selfish, but travel does help stimulate the economy. It also offers a relaxed setting where people can connect.
Danehy, as an example, traveled to Los Angeles in early April for a mix of business and pleasure. She stayed with friends at Santa Monica Proper and spent her days lounging by the pool and exploring the city. At night, her group hit buzzy restaurants such as Craig’s, a spot known for its celebrity sightings. “We ate great food, laughed a lot and had an incredible time,” she says. “Yes, it was more indulgent than what I would do, but it didn’t matter. We were focused on enjoying the moment and each other, which we hadn’t been able to do in so long.”