After two years of living with Covid-19, travelers are making big vacation plans again.
But not every type of trip may be available this year, travel professionals said.
That’s because many people postponed more ambitious vacations during the pandemic — in some cases two years in a row — leaving little room for new bookings this year.
Nearly half of those who had vacations canceled in 2020 and 2021 plan to take them this year, according to a survey by travel insurance firm Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Only 5.5% are pushing these plans to next year, and less than 4% plan to cancel altogether, according to the survey of more than 1,500 travelers.
In addition, people are taking longer trips and booking them further in advance. Some fall and winter holidays are already beginning to sell out, said Lee Thompson, co-founder of adventure travel company, Flash Pack.
But some trips may be fully booked long before then, like these four types of vacations that travel insiders say are filling fast for the summer.
Booking an African safari 12 to 18 months in advance could be the new norm, said Shannon Kircher, founder of the U.S.-based boutique travel firm Compass & Vine.
Many travelers dream about going on a safari, but don’t pull the trigger because of the amount of planning and money that goes into it, said Kircher.
However, the pandemic has “challenged our ideas of pushing off meaningful trips,” she said. Plus, more people have the time and money to travel now, because of canceled trips from the past two years, she said.
For travelers easing back into the idea of international travel during the pandemic, the privacy and open-air nature of safaris are appealing, she said.
“Safaris are inherently socially distanced — you’re around more animals than humans generally,” she said.
Travelers are choosing to visit East Africa from June through October as the period coincides with the great wildebeest migration, Kircher said, with many extending their trip to squeeze in a gorilla trekking experience or a post-safari beach escape.
Hawaii vacation home rentals
Multiple locations in Hawaii are at risk of being without vacancies this summer, said Zander Buteux of home rental company VacationRenter.
“If you wait until June to book for June travel, you will have slim pickings,” he said. “This is especially true for the key cities on each island such as Honolulu, Lahaina and Kihei.”
Two areas that still have a good amount of availability are O’ahu and Hanalei, said Buteux, though he doesn’t expect things to stay this way.
Travel to Hawaii has been on the rise for the past eight months, said Buteux. Business is expected to pick up even more — along with prices — once the state lifts many of its pandemic travel restrictions this month, he said. Starting March 26, visitors from the continental United States will no longer be required to show their Covid-19 vaccination status or a negative pre-travel Covid-19 test to enter.
Summer isn’t the only time of year that’s being booked up fast, said Phil Jones, CEO of the luxury vacation home Pure Kauai. Easter and Christmas periods are also filling up, he said.
Like Buteux, he said: Once “quarantine restrictions have been lifted, we predict a surge in bookings.”
Luxury dude ranches
Americans who are still hesitant about international travel are booking luxurious off-the-grid vacation spots in the country, said Kircher.
Some well-known ranches are booked more than a year in advance, she said.
The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana is mostly booked until February 2023, and almost all weekend slots at Wyoming’s Brush Creek Ranch are full, according to their online reservation systems.
“For most people, the privacy and disconnected nature of dude ranches are appealing,” Kircher said. Activities such as horseback riding, fly fishing and white water rafting are outdoors and naturally socially distanced.
Plus, visitors also get many of their needs taken care of as “most of the high-end lodges are really all-inclusive, meaning food, drinks, and luxury amenities are included,” she said.
Private yacht charters
Booking last-minute summer yacht charters is a thing of the past, said Tim Geisler, founder of Grenada-based sailing company, Nautilus Sailing.
Many destinations, especially in the Mediterranean, are selling out well ahead of time, he said.
Greece, Spain and the French island of Corsica are the most popular charter destinations in the Mediterranean now, he said.
“We are noticing that things are starting to return to almost pre-pandemic levels,” said Geisler, adding that “80% of our charters are already booked out in Spain.”
Summer yachting trips to the Mediterranean are popular among Americans because they tend to avoid the Caribbean during this time, as it coincides with the area’s hurricane season, he said.
The company is seeing an increase in bookings and inquiries from travelers who want to book trips nine to 12 months ahead of time, which limits inventory down the line, he said.
“The later you make a reservation, the less choice you will have when it comes to yacht size, configuration and location, therefore it’s best to book [at least] six months in advance,” he said.
The company recently started operating in Croatia, said Geisler, adding that there is yacht availability there for the summer, but likely not for long.
The global yacht charter market, which was valued at $16.9 billion in 2021, is projected to reach $26.5 billion by 2027, with Europe being the top go-to destination in the summer months, according to the market research firm Mordor Intelligence.
— CNBC’s Monica Pitrelli contributed to this report.