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Whether it was Plan A or Plan C(ovid), it’s clear Canadians spent 2020 exploring smaller towns in their own province with close proximity to the outdoors and ones that were only a drive away. As we look ahead to the new year, insights tell us that Canadians are thinking about a new plan C: Canada, and how they can embrace winter at home, which would be a first for many who typically flock to warmer climates.
Today, Expedia released its 2021 Travel Trends Report, sharing predictions and hacks for travellers for the year ahead. By analyzing Expedia.ca data and insights from the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), the report aims to arm travellers with the information and inspiration they need to make smart travel decisions coming out of an unprecedented year.
Airfare booking hacks for 2021
For six years running, travellers have come to rely on the annual Expedia ARC report, which analyzes billions of flight segments, to provide insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of air travel. Considering the atypical year, a new view is needed now more than ever.
What this means for Canadian travellers is that while average ticket prices are a bit lower for both domestic and international flights, prices rise during peak travel periods such as summer and the holidays. To get the best deal, travellers need to know when to book and start their trip.
Best Day to Book and Travel: The best day of the week to book an international or domestic flight is Sunday and the best day to start your journey for a domestic trip is Friday, with international travel being Thursday; this planning could save you around 10 percent.
This year, average ticket prices (ATPs) for domestic flights hit their lowest in early July right around Canada Day, and then started to rise over the course of the summer as pent-up travel demand picked back up. Looking at the fall months, ATPs for domestic flights have largely returned to their 2019 levels; however, depending on official travel restrictions and health guidance, we will likely continue to see prices fluctuate for the foreseeable future.
2020’s Trending Destinations Hold Canadian Roots
This year’s trending destinations list looks quite a bit different than last year’s, with more rural and remote places outside of city centres, and domestic destinations completely filling the top ten. In previous years, trending destinations included a mix of U.S. and other international cities, but this year the story is very much one of Canadian roots. The destinations showing the greatest growth include: Jasper, AB (#1), Gaspesie-Iles de la Madeleines, QB (#2), Banff, AB (#3), Tofino-Ucluelet, BC (#4), Okanagan Valley, BC (#5), Muskoka, ON (#6), Georgian Bay, ON (#7), Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, QB (#8), Thunder Bay, ON (#9), Golden, BC (#10).
The Next Big Trip: Top-Searched Destinations for 2021 and Beyond
While nearby getaways and road trips are likely to remain popular as travellers navigate the ongoing realities of life amid a pandemic, search data proves that Canadian wanderlust remains strong. More specifically, it seems vacation-deprived Canadians dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories:
Sun and Beach Seekers. Looking at the top 20 most-searched destinations, over half are islands in the southern hemisphere or those offering a warm and sunny beach escape. After a year like 2020, it’s not hard to imagine why so many travellers want to escape to an island the next chance they get. Typically, Canadians are used to trading in their winter coats for their summer clothes based on general seasonality, but of course this has been a year like no other, though this hasn’t stopped travellers from staying inspired and dreaming of warmer weather.
- Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum (#1)
- Puerto Vallarta (#2)
- Orlando (#3)
- Cancun (#4)
- Oahu (#5)
- Maui (#7)
- Punta Cana (#8)
- Maldives (#9)
- French Polynesia (#11)
- Bali (#13)
- Barbados (#15)
- Turks and Caicos (#16)
- Lucia (#17)
Slope and Coast Explorers. Whether travellers are looking for outdoor time to ski or take in the snowy mountains, or alternatively more temperate temperatures, the good news is Canada has both. In looking at search data we see these two themes emerge amongst popular destinations. This tells us two things – some Canadians are ready to embrace the snow and lower temperatures, while others are looking to find some warm reprieve domestically.
- Banff (#6)
- Okanagan Valley (#10)
- Whistler (#12)
- Mont Tremblant (#14)
- Victoria (#18)
- Collingwood (#19)
- Tofino-Ucluelet (#20)
Getting the most out of your trip
- Flexibility isn’t a “nice-to-have”, it’s required: In 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for travellers, who booked refundable rates nearly 10 percent more often this year compared to last. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever. Expedia.ca lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable bookings were nearly 15 percent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
- Health and safety advancements are essential: In 2021, concerns about staying safe while travelling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning, from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on Expedia.ca, which includes enhanced cleaning measures, contactless check-in, social distancing and other guest safety considerations.
- Shorter booking windows for travel plans: In 2019, the average Canadian traveller booked flights around 34 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window shortened to 22 days, where it remains. The new, shorter planning cycle illustrates how travellers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment and ongoing uncertainty. This is a trend we see with lodging as well. Last minute bookings during the summer were on the rise with around half of Canadian travellers booking trips 0-7 days out, an increase from previous years.
- Growth in alternative accommodation options: While the most popular lodging type in 2020 was hotels, this year certain alternative property types were more popular than in previous years. Specifically, this is the case for: private vacation homes, cottages, glamping experiences, treehouses and house boats. When looking to book a stay, the data shows that the lowest average daily rates are usually found on Mondays.
Where do you dream of travelling to in 2021?