Sprucing up your travel wish list? These are the best trends and travel destinations of 2020 – get in now to beat the masses
With every other soul a seasoned traveller now, the question is not just: “where shall I travel to next?” – but also “how can I experience travel in new and unexpected ways”? The more crowded and chaotic the world around us becomes, the more we crave adventure with meaning.
The best kind of globe-trotting in 2020 should be sustainable, local and truly get under the skin of a given destination. We want experiences that are daring and unique; that chime with the personality of a place, while veering right off the tourist highway and leaving us raring for more.
Luckily, that kind of travel is the lifeblood of Flash Pack; it’s the very thing that makes us tick. Want to see the world for less? Get inspired with our pick of the trends and places in travel that everyone’ll be talking about next year, below.
Trend: off-season travel
Hitting up popular destinations off-season is a hack the more savvy traveller will leap on with gusto in 2020. And going against the grain in this way comes with a ream of happy benefits. For starters, you skip the crowds and higher prices. But you also get to appreciate the character of a place in an entirely different light.
To make the most of this 2020 trend, think about heading to Tanzania in April. It’s technically rainy season, but the temperatures are pleasant and it only rains for a few hours every day – we’re not talking monsoons here. It’s very quiet in terms of visitors yet the animals, making the most of water supplies, are out in full force. The often arid savannah is also flush with greenery and clear blue skies.
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Also consider summer Iceland; this traditional winter hot spot (or should that be cold spot?) is a delight in warmer months, with the opportunity to hike through a magnificent volcanic landscape lit up by sun that lasts well into the night. The Laurentian Mountains of Quebec is another typical winter playground that comes alive in summer months, with skiing is replaced by canoeing, ziplining and mountain trekking.
Destination: Paraty and Ilha Grande, Brazil
With its feel-good vibes and sunshine disposition, Brazil is a good bet for travel no matter when you go. But 2020 is of particular significance for the South American nation, with key sections of the Serra do Mar region granted protected status under UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This includes the historic coastal town of Paraty, once a hub for the 17th Century gold route, and surrounding areas of Brazilian Atlantic Forest.
Hop onboard Flash Pack’s Brazil adventure to make the most of this lovely area, as we zip between islands in the dense jungle landscape around Paraty – home to species such as the jaguar, the white-lipped peccary and woolly spider monkeys. As an added bonus, you’ll also get to whip up caipirinhas, learn how to samba and hit the beach in the party capital of Rio de Janeiro.
Trend: Transformative travel
With both adventure tourism and wellness continuing as major trends for 2020, people want holidays that are layered with meaning. It’s not enough to simply hit the beach for two weeks. Instead, the mark of a good vacation is in how it makes you feel. Are you getting under the skin of a destination in a way that makes you feel fully connected to it? Does the experience leave you with a sense of energy and excitement? Are you stretched and enriched by the journey?
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For travel with emotional resonance, look to Flash Pack’s Himalayan hike (which Flashpacker Tony Stevens – above – credits with shifting his outlook on life) or our popular sojourn through Sri Lanka (a new 2020 edition brings a more active focus to the trip). Experiences such as hot spring bathing in Japan, community cooking in Bali and adventure biking in Peru also offer scope for reflection and renewal. Our first-ever set of wellness escapes, meanwhile, span from kitesurfing in Morocco to mindful yoga on a Tuscan retreat: all the ingredients you need to feel fully transformed.
Destination: Thailand and Laos
Sometimes it’s the small details of a trip that make the difference, and so it is with Flash Pack’s adventure to Thailand and Laos. Travellers on the 11-day getaway have raved about a jungle lunch cooked up in bamboo tubes in the depths of Golden Triangle countryside. The moment is one in a series of local, authentic activities that this area really delivers on.
Longboat sailing down the Mekong taps into the growing slow travel movement, allowing ample time to drink in the scenery of Laos; the fabled Land of a Thousand Elephants. Meanwhile, waterfall swimming and forest hiking carve out space to reconnect with nature at a time when we desperately need it. And, as travellers become more conscious of holidaying responsibly, a stay at Lanjia Lodge – a community-run ecolodge nestled high in the Mekong valley – is most welcome. All this makes the region a hot favourite for 2020.
Trend: Combining work and play
Worldwide business travel spend is set to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020; but at the same time, people’s working habits continue to stray from the conventional 9-5. Investment bank Morgan Stanley predicts that more than half of the US workforce will be freelance by 2027 (up from 35% in 2018), in a trend mirrored by other market leaders around the world.
In terms of travel, this boom in the gig economy means that the lines between work and play are blurring more than ever before. When employees go on business trips, they’re extending their time in a particular destination – and heading beyond the realms of their hotel – to make the most of a place while they’re there. Flash Pack’s express escapes to the likes of Kuala Lumpur, Montreal and Oman (an hour’s flight from Dubai) are expected to grow in 2020 for exactly this reason. Meanwhile, the self-employed are looking to nomadic work hubs such as Bali and Amsterdam, in order to add a frisson of adventure to their daily grind.
Wild and remote Scotland is an adventurer’s paradise at the best of times. But it comes into its own in 2020 by celebrating a Year of Coasts & Waters. The occasion is marked by a series of unique events, including an outdoor coastal experience hosted by the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the “River of Light” show, where illuminated boats will gather in a dazzling night-time spectacle.
This is all in ode to Scotland’s magnificent natural scenery; something we get hands-on with on Flash Pack’s popular Highlands escape. The whirlwind long weekender sees us canyon through Loch Laggan, canoe to a river pub and hike through rugged mountain terrain to one of Scotland’s highest distilleries (where whisky and chocolate abounds).
Trend: Sustainable sleeping
People looking to hotels as experiences in 2020. The best kind of accommodation is not just a bed for the night, but also an event in itself; one that is a little out of the ordinary. Sustainability is a key part of this appeal. According to data from Bookings.com, 73% of global travellers intend to stay at least once in an eco-friendly accommodation in the next year and 70% say they’d be more likely to book a place knowing that it has green credentials.
There are no shortage of unique sleeping options that fulfil this need, from pioneering tree-tents in the forests of summertime Finland (where the Northern Hemisphere light offers scope for enchanting midnight sun picnics) to a remote jungle lodge in the depths of Sarawak rainforest, Borneo.
Elsewhere, the bucket-list factor beckons with Feynan Ecolodge, an off-grid candlelit haven in a Jordanian nature reserve, offering veggie cuisine and incredible rooftop stargazing. Feynan is closely connected to the local Bedouin community, something that’s also true of Coconut Lagoon on the Keralan backwaters, where cultural performances and a floating tea shop (run by a lady from a local village) are all part of the appeal.
Croatia’s third-largest city Rijeka – described by the Guardian as “a shipbuilding port with indie attitude” – is set to become European Capital of Culture 2020 next year. The title, shared with the Ireland’s Galway, shines a spotlight not just on Rijeka but the whole of Croatia. Visitors are expected to descend on the city for a taste of its thriving arts and music scene before spreading their wings to nearby beaches and islands.
Croatia is also the perfect place to satisfy a growing demand for micro-escapes. Without limited annual leave at their disposal, time-pressed travellers are increasingly looking to trade maximum adventure on minimum time. A fairly small and easy-to-navigate country, Croatia packs a fair heft when it comes to express experiences, from inland kayaking to trekking in Plitvice Lakes National Park; not to mention excellent wine and effortlessly chic beaches. The country’s brilliant festival offering also chimes nicely with a growing appetite for smaller, more off-radar events.
Trend: unscripted moments
It’s out with the old and in with the extraordinary in 2020, as globetrotters search down unexpected moments of adventure that didn’t make it into the brochure. With the adventure industry vying to keep pace with emerging destinations (and new ways of experiencing these), travellers are drawn more than ever before to trips that feel fresh and off-radar. Personal touches – ones that can’t easily be recreated by others on social media – are all the rage, too.
Here at Flash Pack, we love the opportunity to surprise and delight; and our adventures are loaded with carefully curated events (large and small). Whether you’re picnicking atop a volcano in Guatemala or sailing between hidden islands around Zanzibar, unexpected moments and uncharted territories are all part of our plan. We’ll often hand you the reigns to head off-road, too; with activities such as cycling the sacred Inca highlands in Peru, or snowmobiling in the Finnish wilderness.
Destination: The Middle East and North Africa
Wellness tourism is forecast to be huge in 2020, with the Global Wellness Institute spotlighting the Middle East and North Africa as a key region for wellbeing trips. Places such as Berber inns in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, or a nomadic desert camp in Oman, open up scope for a slower, more mindful mode of tourism that feeds directly back into the local community.
Morocco, Oman and Jordan all provide the perfect setting for wellness activities, from desert canyoning to beach yoga and wild swimming in turquoise wadis. Meanwhile, landscapes such as Toubkal National Park and the Wadi Mujib valley are still relatively unexplored, and feel a million miles off the chaos of everyday life. In a frenetic world, they carve out moments of calm and head space. For a really out-there choice, Oman fulfils the brief; it’s still emerging as a travel destination in the Middle East.
Trend: eating local
Moving into 2020, we’re seeing “a trend towards local and regional eating, seen more as a relationship between food and territory,” Global Food World Magazine reports. “[…] this relationship refers to the proximity of the place of production to the place a food is eaten, which is considered a guarantee of authenticity and freshness.” This pattern is propelled by the globalization of our taste buds, and finds its market in niche foodie destinations that are a challenge to track down.
Want to jump on the local food bandwagon? Don’t miss this merry jaunt to Mexico, complete with a cooking class led by local experts in Oaxaca, a tequila masterclass (with wrestling on the side) and a flavour-packed street food safari in Mexico City. The sights and smells of Hanoi come alive in Vietnam, on our day-one food walkabout in the Old Town markets, followed by a chance to cook up a five-course banquet in the pretty coastal town of Hoi An. And of course, there’s always bella Italia, where you’ll be tasked with visiting a Palermo market for local produce before rolling up your sleeves in the home of a Sicilian chef.
After years of political turmoil, Zimbabwe is once more opening up to the outside world. While the economic situation remains unstable, tourism has picked up and local businesses are welcoming back international visitors with open arms. What’s more, the lush national parks here are still quiet enough to have almost to yourself – it’s a case of getting in before the crowds descend.
Flash Pack’s escape to Zimbabwe and neighbouring Botswana is one of our most in-demand adventures of 2020, and presents a full spectrum of once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences. See Africa’s mightiest wildlife in their natural habit on spectacular bush walks, game drives and river safaris. Boutique camps with campfires and sundowner cocktails are all part of the pinch-myself experience.
Trend: wildlife in wild frontiers
Talking of wildlife, Flash Pack’s Galápagos getaway shifts towards an appreciation of the natural world in its wildest and most beguiling form. Nowadays, it’s not enough to merely spot a flamingo from behind a coach window; we all want to be David Attenboroughs. The Ecuadorian archipelago nestled in the Pacific Ocean is a great shout because it still feels farflung, dotted with rugged island terrain.
Wander through an other-worldly tapestry of volcanic islands to discover penguins, marine iguanas and giant tortoises in the peace of their natural habitat. Add in activities such as sea kayaking, and snorkelling with sea lions, and this foray to one of the world’s most untrodden areas becomes irresistible.