If you plan to travel in 2024, things are a bit different than the last few years. It goes without saying that travel has changed significantly all over the world in the last three years due to the pandemic. Then, once the surge of travel returned, it changed yet again.
If you haven’t traveled in the last few years, or if you are getting back into it since travel has returned, you might be in for a surprise. From crowded airports to lost luggage, canceled flights and delays, travel in 2024 is different than it used to be.
Our family has traveled a lot in the last few years. We began with a road trip in the summer of 2020 and continued with the surges of 2021 and 2022. In 2023, we continued to see the ebbs and flows of the travel industry, and 2024 seems to be continuing in this pattern.
Before you go on your road trip, board the plane, or travel internationally, you may want to get caught up. This is especially true if you traveled early since the pandemic or not at all in the last few years. This post is for you.
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Travel in 2024 and Beyond
When travel came to a halt in March 2020, many travel and tour operators stopped operations altogether. Since that time, while travel has mostly come back in full, there are still remnants of the impacts of the pandemic years.
Whether it has been staffing challenges, changes that have stuck, shortage of rental cars, long lines for everything, or other reasons, some parts of travel are back in full swing, while others still have pandemic policies still in place. From reservations to capacity limitations, some areas of travel are still cumbersome while others have no trace of pandemic policies.
The other thing that happened is that once travel opened back up more fully, many destinations like National Parks, Disney, and Europe were inundated with people. This, with not yet fully staffed airlines, custom departments, destinations, and tour operators, caused for a frustrating and discombobulating travel experience.
From delayed and canceled flights to lost luggage and everything in between, travel for the last two years over the holidays through the summer were a challenge.
Since the summer of 2020, we have traveled on day trips, road trips, and on a plane. And, one thing became clear – travel in 2024 and beyond requires an added layer of advanced planning and extra steps. It is very different than it used to be, with added pain points it seems.
If you are planning to venture out to travel in 2024, there are many questions you may want to ask and plan for in advance. I have outlined a few here you may want to research or ask directly, to help you plan ahead for your next trip.
Travel in 2024: What Are Travel Operators Doing Differently?
Not long ago, I attended a travel conference online. According to the travel industry speakers, some trends are emerging on both the operators’ side and the travelers’ side to promote safer travel practices.
To know how these travel operators are coping with travel in 2024, here are some of the frequently asked questions with up to date answers.
Planes and Trains
Do I Have to Wear a Mask on a Plane or Train in 2024?
While wearing a mask is no longer a legal requirement, some airlines and railways still encourage their passengers to keep their face masks on. But even without that encouragement, you’ll find some passengers wearing theirs, especially those in the high-risk category.
In my experience, this is really a non-issue. I have not experienced anyone giving anyone a hard time for wearing a mask or for not wearing one. In short, do what is most comfortable for you and others will do the same.
What should I know about staying in hotels in 2024?
- Touchless systems for check-in/check-out and payment are still highly used.
- Most hotels are back to full occupancy.
- Proper cleaning/sanitizing is still on at some hotels though not as much as in the last 2 years.
- Servicing rooms for housekeeping during a guest’s stay are back but in some places, they may not replace towels daily for cost and conservation.
- Leaving any requested items (extra towels/sheets) at the door outside the room was the norm but now things are getting back to face-to-face interactions.
- Plastic partitions at the front desk are no longer a thing in most hotels in 2024.
Rental Cars and Road Trips
Are Road Trips Still Popular? Is There Still A Rental Car Shortage?
In the past two years, renting individual cars and campervans has been so popular, and the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon. In some locations, rental cars are in short supply because they got rid of their supply during the pandemic and have been slow to get them back.
This is particularly true in places like Hawaii or Orlando. If you plan to rent a car for your vacation, book it as far in advance as possible to ensure you have one. You may also find that it is very expensive to rent a car. It is NOT uncommon to show up to a car rental window with a reservation and for the rental company STILL doesn’t have a car ready for you (it happened to us this past July of 2023.) So plan ahead and pack your patience.
Those who had never traveled in an RV gave it a chance to be able to travel in a socially distance way, but even with no more social distancing, the trend is still thriving due to its ease of travel.
But with that increase in demand comes the high prices for car rentals and RVs and you will want to plan ahead.
Have cruise lines gone back to normal?
While cruise lines are operating pretty much as they did before the pandemic, some parts of cruising are different. You should check with your cruise to find out their check-in policies.
We are heading on a Disney Cruise Line cruise this year. One change from the pandemic that is continuing on is that you have to check in online – there is NO OPTION to check in at the port as there used to be. At least for Disney, you can’t even enter the port parking lot before your assigned boarding time, which you sign up for during online check in 30 days in advance.
If you don’t do this, you have to wait until the very end (read after everyone else has boarded) to be able to board the ship. If you show up early, they will still make you wait.
So, it is very important to double-check the policies of your cruise line in advance.
Travel in 2024: What Are Travelers Doing Differently?
Traveler behavior has changed since the pandemic. In addition to some folks still wearing PPE, many people are traveling differently due to the travel disruptions that have since become commonplace.
Here’s what many travelers are doing:
- Staying in secluded cabins or vacation homes and camping saw a massive surge in the previous years and it continues to be at the forefront of travelers. However, more and more people are getting comfortable traveling the way they used to pre-pandemic.
- Compared to the past few years which were mostly about road trips and minimal use of planes, more and more travelers are traveling by plane.
- Instead of staying at home, most people are opting to travel again.
- Most people still carry their own hand sanitizer, though the number using them has reduced tremendously.
- Train travel has returned to normal.
- Expect lines, so TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry is helpful to avoid such long lines.
- Many people are no longer checking bags to avoid lost luggage. Packing Air Tags in luggage is commonplace.
Is there Still Social Distancing in Airports or on Planes in 2024?
When our family flew first thing in the morning in 2020, the airport was practically empty. Our check-in line was socially distanced, with stickers on the floor to show where to stand. Very few people were in line at check-in and security.
Fast forward to 2022 through 2023, there was basically no social distancing. In some airports, the social distancing stickers will still be visible on the floor while in others, they’ll be completely gone.
In fact, you can expect crowded TSA lines and customs areas. Waiting in line is common during the busiest travel times, and you should plan accordingly.
The same goes for planes. As long as the seats have been booked, they will be occupied without leaving the middle seat empty.
But as with everything Covid-related, it’s important to find out from the airline what their practices are. You should also note any requirements of both your departing and arriving airports, like masks, vaccine requirements, proof, etc.
Are Reservations Required To Visit Locations?
Believe it or not, many destinations STILL require reservations to visit. While this is generally a holdover to plan for staffing purposes, you will find reservation requirements in many popular tourist destinations, so plan ahead.
Now Disney World in Florida has dropped the theme park reservation requirement as of January 9th, 2024 with several Disney World park changes that will be implemented as of that date. But Disneyland California STILL has theme park reservation requirements with no plan to drop them any time soon.
Likewise, many National Parks like Glacier National Park still require a park reservation to enter. And, when we visited Oahu this past summer, reservations were required for visiting Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay among other destinations.
So it is important to continue to check for the requirements of the destinations when you travel in 2024.
What are the General Rules at Hotels in 2024?
You should contact any hotel directly to find out if they’re still practicing social distancing, mask rules, sanitizing stations, and housekeeping prior to booking. But to give you an idea, here is how hotels are coping with travel in 2024 in general.
Disclaimer: These are the general tips followed by most hotels, but the hotel you book might have different rules, so, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to confirm with your specific hotel.
- Glass partitions are no longer common at reception desks, but you’ll still find them in several hotels.
- Touchless keys, check-in, and check-out are still heavily used.
- Some hotels still maintain social distance markers on the floor to show where to stand in line, but nothing seems enforced.
- Masks are recommended but not obligatory in both public and private areas.
- Most hotels fully opened their public spaces to all guests. There seems to be no limit to how many people can access them at a given time.
Will There Still Be Travel Interruptions in 2024?
We have had to cancel and change plans many times over the last three years. Between the ever-changing Covid numbers and staffing shortages, things have been in a constant state of flux. And, because of the ebb and flow of Covid and changes in rules and requirements, we remained flexible.
You should look at investing in travel insurance for families to protect your investment, belongings, and family. We are still in an uncertain time when things can change last minute.
We were booked to go to the Caribbean over New Years, but decided in November to change our plans and go to Montana instead. Because we had travel insurance, we got our money back.
I have also booked hotel stays that are non-refundable but offer insurance. I am opting for it every time right now given the uncertainty that remains in travel in 2024.
One of the biggest uncertainties is travel interruptions from staff shortages and weather. In both 2022 and 2023, canceled flights from these and even strikes in some countries caused a lot travel interruptions. Many bags were even lost (this is why you might want to carry on instead of checking your bags.)
The bottom line is that even in 2024, there are still uncertainties. Though travel interruptions are fewer than in the past 2-3 years, it’s still necessary to have travel insurance that covers any hotel cancelation and flight interruptions in case things change.
What To Know About Vacation House Rentals?
Many travelers have been opting for camping or renting vacation homes through Air BnB or VRBO and this trend looks like it will continue in 2024.
We recently rented a vacation home in a beach town, and I have to say it was great. While I did take extra precautions to wipe everything down with sanitizing wipes in places that were high-touch areas before we settled in, our two weeks in a vacation rental were great for getting away.
If you are opting to camp at a campsite, you should call in advance for any of their requirements and safety practices for common areas.
What Travel Restrictions Are There?
You DEFINITELY want to do your research for travel restrictions before hitting the road. Each state and country is currently imposing different requirements depending on their location and current phase.
Some states and countries have rules specific for travelers from certain states or countries. And, some locations are not allowing short-term rentals (as in vacation homes) for travelers from certain areas. In some cases, rules are specific for a city, county, or region.
Tips For Traveling In 2024
Here are my tips if you plan to travel in 2024.
- Do your research about where you are headed.
- Do your research about the restrictions to where you are returning, and gauge how that may impact your life if you need to return to work or if your kids will return to school.
- Consider looking into whether or not there are travel insurance plans that will cover any portion of your lost trip in the event of a cancellation or unexpected closure.
- You also should also have a plan for what to do if you or your family get ill while on vacation.
- You should be aware of the current health situation in your destination. It may influence your decision on whether or not to move forward with your trip and your behavior when you are there (especially if you are heading to a “hot spot.” )
- Call ahead to restaurants to find out about seating, and reservations, if they are open, and what is their process.
- Check with your hotel, rental home, car rental service, and airline for any specific regulations they have travelers abide by.
- Book rental cars far in advance.
- Sign up for alerts in case your flight gets changed or canceled.
- Know your cruise line check in policies in advance.
- Check for any needed destination reservations for National Parks and places like Disneyland.
- Get TSA PreCheck to help avoid extra waiting in lines.
- Try not to check luggage. If you do, consider putting air tags in your luggage to track it in case it gets lost or split up belongings over multiple bags in case your bag gets lost.
- Plan ahead and get REAL ID (if you are in the USA) which will be required beginning May 2025.
Final Thought About Travel In 2024
Travel is definitely different at the moment, but there are options for getting out there. Whether you are taking a plane, road trip, or heading out locally, call ahead to know about any safety changes or requirements. By being informed and prepared, and with some advanced planning, you can get out and enjoy a safer change of scenery.