COVID-19 travel trends: Canadians are booking up vacations in these hot destinations — months in advance

·6 min read

As Canadians are sticking out their arms to receive a full series of COVID-19 vaccinations, their comfort and desire to travel continues to increase, but there are certainly tips travel enthusiasts should keep in mind as they book any upcoming vacations.

According to a survey from Flight Centre Travel Group, conducted in June with 2,000 participants, more than 67 per cent of respondents indicated that Canada’s vaccine rollout has made them more confident to travel and 79 per cent indicated they will “definitely” or “probably” travel to countries accepting fully vaccinated travellers in the next 12 months.

“There has been significant demand in inquiry and bookings as more and more people get vaccinated,” a statement from Michelle Suggett, vice president of retail operations for Flight Centre Travel Group (Canada) reads.

“That, combined with more than a year and a half of restrictions and border closures, is now translating into bookings as consumer confidence lifts.”

Do I need to worry about availability for my favourite destination?

According to Flight Centre, group travel is filling up “fast and first.”

The June data from Flight Centre found that travellers are not waiting until the last minute to book they’re trip, despite COVID-19 related restrictions being in flux. More than a third of travellers are booking trips three to five months in advance of departure.

“All those postponed destination wedding destinations, family reunions and people wanting to hang out with their friends away seem to be the catalysts,” Allison Wallace, vice president of corporate communications and CSR for Flight Centre Travel Group (Americas) said in a statement to Yahoo Canada.

“Surprisingly people are not waiting until the very last minute to book their trips despite frequent changes and varying travel restrictions worldwide.”

More than one third of travellers, 36 per cent, are booking three to five months in advance of their departure.

Cruises are also in big demand for 2022, with May to September 2022 comprising the largest share of cruise bookings. Flight Centre clients are booking up trips for destinations in Asia and the South Pacific as well.

Hilltop houses and Greek Orthodox church dwarfed by cruise ship anchored offshore, Gialos (aka Yialos), Symi (aka Simi), Rhodes, Dodecanese Islands, South Aegean, Greece, Europe.
Hilltop houses and Greek Orthodox church dwarfed by cruise ship anchored offshore, Gialos (aka Yialos), Symi (aka Simi), Rhodes, Dodecanese Islands, South Aegean, Greece, Europe.

What do the prices for travel look like?

According to Wallace, pricing for travel is “fairly expected” and most of the deals available aren’t for peak travel periods or the most in-demand destinations.

Generally, being flexible about the timing of your trip will get you the best price.

“For example, going to Hawaii at Christmas is very expensive right now as demand is very high,” she explained. “But if you want to go to Mexico in November or early December the pricing is very good.”

“Cruise lines are seeing big demand but also providing big incentives with pricing and upgrades.”

According to Expedia, you can save about 10 per cent if you book international or domestic flights on Sundays. The best day to depart for a domestic trip is Friday, and Thursday is the best day to depart on an international flight, in terms of pricing.

Most in-demand travel destinations

According to Flight Centre, summer travel is still largely domestic with continued restrictions between Canada and the U.S., and uncertainty around international travel.

A day-by-day look at flight search interest on KAYAK in Canada, compared to the same day two years prior. (KAYAK)
A day-by-day look at flight search interest on KAYAK in Canada, compared to the same day two years prior. (KAYAK)

According to flight search data by Canadians on KAYAK, there has been a significantly bigger rebound in domestic flight searches versus international flight searches. International inquiries are still significantly below searches on the same dates two years ago, pre-pandemic.

British Columbia, Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta, and Atlantic provinces are popular choices for summer travel destinations among Canadians, based on information from Flight Centre.

Despite restrictions, Flight Centre is still seeing interest in travel to New York and San Francisco for leisure travel for the late summer time.

According data from Expedia obtained by Yahoo Canada, these are the most popular domestic destinations for Canadian travellers, based on hotel searches, for summer travel (until Sept. 30):

  1. Banff

  2. Kelowna

  3. Niagara Falls

  4. Whistler

  5. Jasper

  6. Quebec City

  7. Tofino

  8. Penticton

  9. Tobermory (Ontario)

  10. Mont-Tremblant

These are the most popular domestic destinations for Canadian travellers, based on flight searches on the platform, for summer travel (until Sept. 30):

  1. Vancouver

  2. Calgary

  3. Toronto

  4. Montreal

  5. Edmonton

  6. Halifax

  7. Kelowna

  8. Victoria

  9. Ottawa

  10. St. John’s

LAKE LOUISE, CANADA - JUNE 27: The ski area and nearby ski gondola observation deck becomes a popular destination for summer visitors on June 27, 2013 in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Major flooding along the Bow River in June washed out the Trans-Canada Highway 1 for nearly a week, forcing park visitors to cancel their vacation plans. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
LAKE LOUISE, CANADA - JUNE 27: The ski area and nearby ski gondola observation deck becomes a popular destination for summer visitors on June 27, 2013 in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Major flooding along the Bow River in June washed out the Trans-Canada Highway 1 for nearly a week, forcing park visitors to cancel their vacation plans. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

According to Expedia, these are the most popular international destinations for summer travel (until Sept. 30), based on hotel searches:

  1. Las Vegas

  2. Cancun

  3. New York City

  4. Santorini

  5. Honolulu

  6. Paris

  7. Miami

  8. Los Angeles

  9. Orlando

  10. Mykonos

These are the most popular international destinations for the same time frame, based on flight searches:

  1. Las Vegas

  2. Los Angeles

  3. Athens

  4. Fort Lauderdale

  5. New York City

  6. Orlando

  7. Miami

  8. Paris

  9. San Francisco

  10. Rome

“We have noticed an increase in international destinations being searched and it perhaps may be a result of the slow easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians returning to the country, so travellers are starting to think of additional travel possibilities,” Expedia highlighted to Yahoo Canada.

“We know there is so much pent-up travel demand, and in looking at last week to this week, we are seeing an over 10 per cent increase in hotel searches, indicating the desire and thought about travel continues to grow.”

Month over month, flight searches on KAYAK generally continue to increase. The top searched destinations by Canadians recently have been: New York, New Delhi, Winnipeg, Montreal and Paris, France.

Tropical beaches of Riviera Maya in Mexico / Summer vacations in Mexico
Tropical beaches of Riviera Maya in Mexico / Summer vacations in Mexico

What are the top destinations for the fall/winter?

Moving to the fall, Flight Centre is seeing more U.S. flight bookings, particularly for Florida, California, Nevada (Las Vegas), Arizona and Hawaii, in addition to significant inquiries for Europe.

Canadians love a good winter getaway to a warm weather destination and this year is no different. Destinations in Mexico, particularly Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas, are popular, in addition to interest in the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Hawaii is also in-demand for Canadians out west.

Looking at trip searches for October to December travel, Expedia identified that the overwhelming theme is the beach, including warm weather destinations in the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean. The average booking windows for international travel are 96 days and popular beach destinations are being planned for 125 days out.

“We are seeing early interest in warm destinations for the winter months, so an opportunity for those interested or thinking about travel south for later in the year, is to book/plan now and travel later,” Expedia confirmed.

“Expedia offers flexible options, so by reserving a trip now that is fully refundable this is one way to secure something early and have it on the calendar to look forward to for the future, but again, should plans change, travellers have that reassurance to move it around.”

According to data from Expedia, 91 per cent of stays booked by Canadians in the month of June were refundable rates.

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