By Rishika Sharma, on January 5, 2023

No Normal: the hottest tips, trends and insights for travel in 2023

When you’re looking for vacation inspiration, what do you do? Do you Google the best places to visit? Scroll through Instagram or Pinterest for ideas? Or do you ask friends and family for their recommendations? Whatever your method, you can now you can add one more resource to your list: our annual 2023 Travel Trends Report, which has some of the best insights, tips and ideas for travel next year.

Every year, we spend months mining through billions of data points to look at when, where, and how people are searching for trips and booking them. We also team up with third-party researchers to get insights into the traveler mindset beyond just what we’re seeing at Expedia to build a complete picture of what’s going to be hot for the upcoming year. The end result is the annual Travel Trends Report, which we’ve been publishing for five years now. But this year, for the first time, we teamed up with our sister brands Vrbo and Hotels.com to add even more science into identifying what’s motivating vacations in 2023.

What we’ve discovered is that while 2022 was the year of going big, ticking off bucket lists, and taking the greatest of all trips, 2023 is looking to be a bit more relaxed and even more of a break from the normal (so much so that we’ve dubbed it the Year of No Normal). We’re seeing travelers who want to trade ultra-luxe resorts for simpler two- and three-star hotels so they can invest more time and money in discovering culture capitals across the globe and set-jetting to places that have caught their imagination via the silver screen. We’re also seeing a growing appetite for exploring more of America as well an interest in quirky wellness activities such as forest bathing, fruit harvesting, and laughter therapy.

To find out which destinations are trending for 2023, why you’ve got to make sure your next vacation rental has its own pizza oven, and why Jamaica will solve all your problems, check out the full episode now.

And if you are looking to book, don’t miss this season’s episode on travel hacks. It’s your insider’s guide to the best credit cards for travelers, and how to double, triple, and even quadruple dip on earning membership points.


Want to learn more?

Listen to the podcast now, check out the complete transcript below, or catch the full conversation on Spotify or Apple.

 

 

 



Nisreene Atassi, Expedia Global Head of Social Media, and host: I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel The System. This week, I am extra excited because it’s quite special – it’s the Travel Trends episode. We’ll talk trends…

Christie Hudson, head of Expedia PR for North America (sound bite): We’re kind of sick of seeing the same photo on Instagram of a destination. So seeking out places to go that you haven’t seen as you’re doomscrolling is something huge. We’re all trying to have something unique. We’re trying to go somewhere that hasn’t been plastered all over social media.

Nisreene: We’ll hear exclusively from our wonderful data correspondent, Christie Hudson.

Christie (sound bite): We polled 24,000 people globally on where they’re getting their inspiration from, the types of things that are kind of motivating them in the coming year. So that’s how we kind of get this big picture of what’s going on with travelers.

Nisreene: And really get down to business

Christie (sound bite): Let’s be real. Finances, budgets, inflation – it’s a huge topic right now. It’s a huge concern for a lot of people. So being able to find something that’s really high quality that’s going to have the amenities you want for a lower price – I think that’s a great thing.

Nisreene: Here we go!

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Our lovely data correspondent Christie Hudson is the main interview today. This entire episode is just jam-packed with hacks. We tell you all of the hot destinations and the trends that are going to be happening for the year ahead. So, without further ado, let’s get started. Christie, welcome to the show. How does it feel to be in the hot seat in the main interview today? Do you feel nervous about it? Are you ready?

Christie: Hi, Nissi. As you know, I love to be in the hot seat, so this is my time to shine. I’m pumped.

Nisreene: Amazing. Amazing. So, why don’t we start off by you just telling us a little bit about this report. Like, what makes it so special and how does it all sort of come together?

Christie: Yes. So this is a travel trends report we’ve been doing for several years now. And I don’t know if this is a surprise to you, but I’m a little bit of a nerd when it comes to trends and data.

Nisreene: Shocker.

Christie: I live for it. So this is my favorite thing we do each year. And the way that it comes together – so, we have a ton of data points that we can look at from our own traveler data. It’s, you know, millions and billions of data points of people searching for trips, booking trips, traveling. So we look at that across, Expedia Hotels.com and Vrbo to get all those nice insights from what are people actually doing and searching for. And then, to kind of get a little bit more meat for the report, we do a bit of third-party research. We polled 24,000 people globally on where they’re getting their inspiration from, the types of things that are kind of motivating them in the coming year. So that’s how we kind of get this big picture of what’s going on with travelers. We spend literally, I think, six months looking through to identify a couple of common threads and then we get to share it with all of you. So it’s super cool, it’s super fun.

Nisreene: And you do this every year, right? How many times have you done it so far?

Christie: I think this might be our fifth year from an Expedia standpoint, but what is special this year is we teamed up with our other Expedia group brands. So we teamed up with Vrbo to look at vacation rental trends – which has been huge during the pandemic and then that continues. And then we also teamed up with Hotels.com to look at some of the different factors that are driving people’s choices about the lodging they’re choosing. So this year, it’s just really comprehensive.

Nisreene: Why don’t we start with Expedia? Because it sounds like each brand sort of has their own set of trends. So what are the top trends that Expedia is seeing?

Christie: Well, I think first, let me just kind of set the stage. So over the last couple of years, with the pandemic, travelers were adjusting to a series of new normals. Right? First we couldn’t travel at all. Then we started taking road trips and visiting outdoorsy destinations so we could social distance. Then, last year, as travel really opened up, everyone wanted to have what we called last year their ‘GOAT’. It was their ‘greatest of all trips’. They wanted to have big no-holds-barred trips, and that became the new normal. Now, as we go into 2023, when we looked at the wealth of traveler data across Expedia, Hotels, and Vrbo, we saw that there was really no one thing – like, no one kind of trip that everyone is taking. There’s no new normal for 2023. So instead we’re kind of calling it ‘The Year of No Normal’ and…

Nisreene: Oh! Yeah! The No Normal. I like it.

Christie: Yeah. I mean, we don’t need a new normal. We need to just not be doing what we want to do. So it means there are an array of behaviors, criteria, and desires that are driving travelers in 2023. And as a result, there are kind of a diverse array of trends we’re seeing.

Nisreene: The No Normal. So what’s not going to be normal next year?

Christie: Let’s start with the first No Normal. So one thing is travelers are ready to head back to the hustle and bustle of cities and experience urban destinations. So, you know, whereas last year people wanted to do a big trip – it could have been a big beach trip, it could have been, you know, an overseas trip. This year, people are looking to get back to places where there’s really rich arts and culture scenes, where they can, you know, sit at a bar next to locals, where they can hear live music. And a lot of this is because, you know, festivals are starting again. If you look at some of the top destinations that Expedia unveiled that are really popular next year, they’re places like Edinburgh, Scotland, Lisbon, Tokyo, Dublin, Sydney, Montreal, Munich – like, all these places that have a ton of things going on every single month, year round. So, as an example, Edinburgh has a fringe festival – it’s a big comedy festival every year that’s just getting started again in 2023. Another example is World Pride is going to be in Sydney for the first time ever and Oktoberfest in Munich started this last year again for the first time in a couple of years. So these are the things that are really driving travel and the things people want to experience.

Nisreene: You know what’s interesting about that? We just did an episode about really immersing yourself, traveling like a local. And so, obviously, that’s been a thing that everybody wants to do, that’s been, like, the big trend in travel, I’d say, for like the last five years or so. But it almost feels like this is taking it one step further, right? It’s funny, because when you read off these destinations, people are like, “Oh, you know, big whoop. Everyone wants to go to Tokyo. How is that new?” But I think the fact that it’s all reemerging really says something about the people.

Christie: Exactly. When we looked at the destinations that were growing the fastest for 2023, we got this list of cities, some of which I just mentioned, and we were like, “Okay, what’s the common thread here?” We landed on the fact that they’re, essentially, culture capitals. They’re places that, like you said, they have a really rich, unique, specific arts and culture and food and local scene. And I think it’s just a result of being kind of deprived from that over the last couple of years that, you know, we want to go and rub elbows with people who live there. We want to go and eat food from the carts on the street. We want to listen to live music from local artists. Like, it just… I relate to this so much because it’s exactly what I want to do on my next trip, is what I’m, like, yearning for out of my next trip.

Nisreene: I’m all for traveling to see a concert these days.

Christie: Yes! Festival tourism.

Nisreene: I don’t know why, but I’m just like… yeah, I’m really into it. That’s my vibe for 2023.

Christie: This is a painful story. I went to Los Angeles last week – I’m based in Seattle – to see Harry Styles. I had that trip planned for months. I was like, “Fun, I get to go have a weekend in LA, I get to, you know, go with a friend and stay at a nice hotel and we get to go see a concert. It’s great!” The concert did get canceled ’cause Harry was sick and I’ll never forgive him for that. But, regardless, you know, it was still a good plan.

Nisreene: Yeah, you still had a weekend in LA with your friend in a gorgeous hotel, right?

Christie: Yeah, it was lovely.

Nisreene: Good. All right.

Christie: I only cried a little.

Nisreene: It’s okay. It’s all right. It happens. It happens. What else from Expedia? Any other trends?

Christie: Yes, this one’s kind of fun. We found that TV shows – specifically those that you stream – those are driving travel inspiration at a much higher rate than even, like, social media these days. So I think 61% of people have actually booked a trip after seeing a TV show where that destination was featured. And I love this. I mean, we all spend a lot of time, especially during the pandemic, watching shows. But I think the bottom line here is, you know, when you’re watching a show, whether it’s an actual travel and food show, whether it’s just a drama that’s based in a destination, you’re getting really immersed in the story and that backdrop. So the fact that people are actually then getting online and booking those trips to those places is really fun to me.

Nisreene: I mean, truer words have never been spoken, Christie. This is 100% true. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I literally write down places and go and start looking at, like, hotels. I used to call it, actually, the Eat, Pray, Love effect. Maybe that was the first time I watched something and I was like, “I got to go. I got to go do this. This is it. This is what’s going to happen.” And I ended up booking, I think, like, a trip to Spain. A little bit different but, you know, it was really inspiring. Are there certain shows that have been, like, really inspiring people with their destinations?

Christie: Yes. And this is something we’ve watched since, for the last couple of years, every time we see a new show or movie come out that really kind of captures the cultural zeitgeist, we see that people go online and they actually start searching. So it happened a couple of years ago when Crazy Rich Asians came out, right? Everybody was, searching for trips to Singapore. But this last year, we’ve seen that some of the destinations that have been popping up that really inspired people were – New Zealand was one of them. There is there was a new Lord of the Rings series.

Nisreene: Oh, yeah, yep.

Christie: That was up there. People are really interested in going to Great Britain, to the UK and that is a little Bridgerton is inspiring people. I don’t know if the Duke lives there for real, but people want to go there. And then, of course, White Lotus was really huge this last year and that was set in Hawaii, so we saw a lot of interest in Hawaii. Emily in Paris, I think, is inspiring a lot of people to want the wardrobe and the trip. New York also saw a lot of interest. I think Inventing Anna was in New York. So, yeah, there have been a ton of them. I’m watching the new season of White Lotus right now, and I need to go to Sicily. Like, I physically need to go there.

Nisreene: It makes a lot of sense, right? it does still spark your curiosity. Like, and I think a lot of these places, you just get the overall energy of the destination. Like, I feel like with New York especially, people always get excited about the serendipitous opportunities that always get depicted in movies that are based out of New York.

Christie: Yes, there’s just always something happening.

Nisreene: Yeah, magic’s always, like, happening around the corner. I get it. Those are all pretty good shows, all of which I have binged. Any other good shows that are sort of sparking travel?

Christie: You know, one that was really standout to me because the destination itself isn’t a traditional kind of tourist destination, like in Emily in Paris, is the Welcome to Wrexham show that was on FX.

Nisreene: Don’t I know it!

Christie: Yeah. Yeah, I think you’re familiar, I think you’re familiar.

Nisreene: I’m familiar.

Christie: So it was all about the Wrexham soccer team, the Wrexham Football Club, right? And after that show aired, we took a look, and interest in Wales,. where Wrexham is located, was up 50% compared to the prior couple of months because of that show airing.

Nisreene: Unbelievable.

Christie: And, so people obviously, maybe, aren’t going to fly from the US and just visit Wrexham – it’s kind of a small town – but they’re planning trips to Wales, and then they’re going to Wrexham during their trip, which they normally wouldn’t have. And that is such a clear, you know, example of how people are literally making travel plans, visiting places they never would have gone, maybe, it wasn’t for a show that they streamed. So…

Nisreene: Oh my God, I love that! I love that so much. And for those of you who are new to the show this year, go back and look through our archives. I had an amazing opportunity last season to interview Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds when they first bought the club, Wrexham. So go ahead and listen to the episode and you can hear a little bit more about the that cute little town that they’re all from. What about Hotels? What are some of the major, like, Hotels trends that we’re seeing?

Christie: Yes. This is super interesting. So we talked a little bit earlier about how travelers are no longer planning just one big blowout trip. They are wanting more spontaneous, easy, frequent trips. So that is prompting people to look at getting more value for the place that they’re staying. And as a result, we’re seeing two- and three-star hotels are really popping. So what’s interesting about that is you might think two- and three-star, it might bring to mind, like, something not as chic or something, you know, a little more budget. But actually, in reality, it doesn’t really speak to the quality of the hotel. It’s actually more about the amenities that they offer. That’s what the stars mean. So they may not have, you know, an onsite full-service spa, for example, if they’re two- or three-stars. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have really nice common areas, really great amenities in terms of, like, free parking, free breakfast, stuff like that. So this is super cool. We’re calling them three-star superstars and it just reveals that travelers are choosing places where they can get great amenities and really great value instead of a blowout kind of breaking the bank.

Nisreene: Wait a minute. I genuinely did not know that the star rating was based purely on the amenities.

Christie: It’s true.

Nisreene: That’s just blown my mind. That’s, I mean…

Christie: I mean, what else would it be based on?

Nisreene: I don’t even…

Christie: Would it be based on some arbitrary opinion of whether they like the overall vibes?

Nisreene: (Laughs) I don’t know what I thought it was based on, to be honest. I think maybe I thought it was based on, like, the luxeness of the hotel. Like, how nice the sheets are. Maybe that’s still sort of a part of it, but I always sort of equate it with comfort for whatever reason, even though you’re right, that’s not necessarily true.

Christie: You just have to think about what type of experience you want. If you’re going to a destination to stay all day at the resort or the property, sure, maybe you want to up-star a bit so that you have the spa and the pool and the 24-hour room service and stuff like that. But if you’re going to a place and you have plans to see the area, explore, then choosing a place that has the right amenities for you, it’s huge. And a lot of two- and three-star hotels have those amenities. I love, like, the bonus extras. You know, a ton of them have free breakfast or free parking on site, which is great. I mean, you don’t get that at five-star hotels, so it’s just a lot of value. And Hotels.com put together a whole list of some of the best of the best ones. So you can really see for yourself that there’s really cool decor, really awesome, like, lobby areas – that you’re not compromising on the quality.

Nisreene: Christie, let me tell you a story about how I stayed at what was a four-star place, but it was… I don’t know. Comfort level was not there. So, it’s funny because I always equate a four-star hotel with, like, a much more luxe experience. But now that you’ve just re-opened my eyes to what the stars actually stand for, it actually reminds me of a time that I went to New York and I stayed in – it was, like, the hottest hotel at the time. And I’m not going to name the hotel because they’re probably also listening.

Christie: Was I staying with you at the time?

Nisreene: You were not staying with me. You are not staying at…

Christie: ‘Cause we stayed at that one in the Lower East Side that was kind of similar.

Nisreene: Yes, I know. Yes, I’m… Yeah, that one as well. This one, this scenario was actually just, like, a smidge worse because it was like, you know, the hotel just didn’t open up, it was four stars… Like, it was a hot spot. Like, the bar area was, like, a very scene-y place. But this place, the room was an absolute shoebox. It wasn’t even a full-size bed. It was the most cramped I’ve ever been. And, like, it kind of reminded me a little bit, like, one of the hostels I’d stayed in in Europe. But, like, yeah, it was clean and that kind of stuff. But it was not what I was expecting, for sure. But the four-star was probably because the hotel was amazing overall. But my point is that you’re right. Like, sometimes it’s really not going to be super indicative to exactly what you need or what the experience is going to be like for you.

Christie: Yes. I just got back from staying in The EDITION, Times Square. That was great.

Nisreene: Oh. Oh, my gosh. EDITION, EDITION Hotels are like… (Smooches) ..chef’s kiss.

Christie: I mean, the way that they won’t even give you bottles of the lotion in your room because they know people are hoarding them…

Nisreene: Yeah, I know. The whole place is beautiful.

Christie: It’s delightful. Okay, I just encourage people, if you’re one of those people who’s, like, really stuck on star ratings, you can actually go on Hotels.com and search and go on the app and search by star and see for yourself. Because there are so many hotels that are two- and three-star that are actually really chic and you’re not compromising on quality. So, let’s be real. Finances, budgets, inflation – it’s a huge topic right now. It’s a huge concern for a lot of people. So being able to find something that’s really high quality that’s going to have the amenities you want for a lower price – I think that’s a great thing.

Nisreene: Yeah. Three-star superstar. I’m into it. I’m into it. All right, what else? What else are we looking at for trends from a hotels standpoint?

Christie: You’re really going to like this one. The other thing that Hotels.com found was people are super into wellness breaks.

Nisreene: Yes.

Christie: Like, maybe that doesn’t feel new, but it’s actually it’s actually kind of quirky wellness. We’re calling it new, new wellness.

Nisreene: Like colonics? Like a week of colonics type of thing?

Christie: (Laughs) I mean, it’s probably on the list. The couple that we kind of identified as being the types of things people are looking for is one called sylvotherapy. Do you know what this is?

Nisreene: Oh, my God. Obviously not. Tell me about it.

Christie: It is forest bathing.

Nisreene: Stop it.

Christie: So you have, like, a guide and you go out into the woods, into the forest, into the trees and you just, like, take the energy. You bring in the energy from the trees. It makes you feel relaxed. You might have, like, a little guided meditation out there. You might have a little sound bath action in the forest. But yes, sylvotherapy, it’s an actual thing. Hotels are offering it. There’s also things like food boot camps, there’s, like, any kind of animal you can do yoga with, from puppies to flamingos. Oh, I love this one! I feel like this would be really healing. Laughter therapy. Laughter therapy.

Nisreene: Oh, my goodness. I love that!

Christie: Both kind of maniacal and also great. And fruit harvesting. So you can stay somewhere where they have gardens and you can go out and, you know, pick fruit and just be out in nature. I think a lot of this is, really, being unplugged, right? And forcing yourself in new and interesting, unique ways to be unplugged and really detox and just get the most out of that stay.

Nisreene: We did an episode on health and wellness effects of travel, and we actually talked about forest bathing. But my guest at the time used the Japanese word for it, which is ‘shinrin-yoku’.

Christie: Ohhh.

Nisreene: So I don’t know the sort of Americanized term for it, I guess. I just am familiar with the Japanese term, so I’m quite an elevated person. So I, I love this kind of stuff. And you want to know why I love it so much? It’s because I feel like people are making a shift to where they’re getting more in tune with their mental health and their physical health beyond just, like, the cosmetic look of it all, right? I think, like, we used to define health as, like, weight loss or beauty and things like that. But now everyone’s kind of looking inwards a little bit more. So I feel like this is the next evolution of that.

Christie: I totally agree. And I will, you know, spare everyone from the depth of woo-woo that I, in my life, love and embrace, you know.

Nisreene: Your witchiness? Are we calling your witchiness woo-woo now? Okay.

Christie: I love these trends because, just like you said, they’re less about, like, you know, physical results or a cleanse or something like that. And they’re much more about, like, food for the soul…

Nisreene: Yeah.

Christie: ..and kind of feeling, you know, rejuvenated and recharged, in a way. And that across the board is something I think you can only get from travel. And, so adding these things into your experience, whether you’re going to a place that specifically offers this type of thing or, like you said, going to a place and then seeking – even a big city like New York and then seeking out some of those quiet, peaceful moments, like, I think that’s only going to elevate your trip.

Nisreene: Yeah.

Christie: Give you more out of it.

Nisreene: This feels like my generation, through and through. I bet you millennials are driving this one. Are they? Do you know that?

Christie: They are, but Gen Z. This is a big one for Gen Z.

Nisreene: Okay.

Christie: Yep. So, they… I think millennials are driving the, like, wellness breaks in the US trend, but Gen Z is really interested in wellness trips to Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sri Lanka. So they’re trying to really get out there and see some new stuff.

Nisreene: Oh, my gosh, I love that. But should we should we go back to the fact that when you introduced this trend, I went straight to colonics. What’s wrong with me?

Christie: (Laughs) You know what? You just didn’t know that…

Nisreene: Like, how horrible would that be? Like, a week of colonics. Could you even do that? You would probably die. You’d be like… (Laughs)

Christie: I mean, you can probably find that somewhere. There’s really something for everyone.

Nisreene: Actually, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, mainly because I watched – I feel like this was a couple of years ago. Maybe it was just last year. I don’t even know. You know, COVID years are like dog years. You have no idea how long it was, how long ago it was like. It’s like this time warp where you can’t make heads or tails of it. But anyway, I watched this episode on Netflix from GOOP and it was about how there’s this place in Jamaica where you go and you basically do mushrooms with therapists and you essentially just go for a couple of days and you work out, you know, whatever trauma you’ve got and people – and you’re, like, in Jamaica. And it’s just basically, like, you know, therapy-vacation that just so happens to be guided by therapists and mushrooms. So I’ve been…

Christie: That looked intense. I saw that episode and that looked extremely intense. Like, I don’t know if I’m ready for that, but…

Nisreene: I don’t know. I feel… I was like, “I don’t know what I have to work out, but I feel like whatever it is will get solved in Jamaica.”

Christie: (Laughs) All right. Well, you heard it here. We’ll be doing a special episode while on mushrooms in Jamaica.

Nisreene: In Jamaica.

Christie: So stay tuned for that episode.

Nisreene: All right. What else we got in the trends space? What about vacation rental trends? Because I feel like vacation rentals really had their moment during the pandemic. So what’s next for that space?

Christie: Absolutely. So, a couple things from vacation rentals. Like you said, people who formerly didn’t do vacation rentals, who were maybe always hotel people, started renting vacation homes during the pandemic because places were closed, they wanted more space, whatever. That trend has just persisted, right? So as things started to open up, people wanted to be together with their families. And where is a better place to do that than a large home that can accommodate extended family or large groups of friends? And then, even now, people are looking for unique experiences. They’re looking to save a little bit, maybe, by being able to cook within the place they’re staying. So this is still a trend. The thing that popped out this year as kind of unique is something we’re calling foodie-menities. So people are not only looking for a kitchen in their Vrbo, of course, but they’re looking for kind of like…

Nisreene: They want a baller one.

Christie: ..they want, like, a fancy one. They want, like, outdoor space to cook in and eat in. That’s huge. They want fancy coffee machines. They want air fryers. They want pizza ovens. They even want gardens and fresh produce on site. So travelers are, like… their standards are kind of high and this is what they’re looking for.

Nisreene: Okay. So I did go to have a Vrbo that had fresh produce on site. It really added a special touch to the trip. Like, we didn’t choose this place because of that, but it does elevate your experience in an oddly bizarre way. I’m a foodie myself. I love to cook. So when the amenities are really nice, I feel like it just all comes together so nicely.

Christie: Totally! I mean, think about when you have, like, a house party or you have people over. Everyone just congregates in the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home. So if you are staying at a home away from home, that’s going to organically happen. And I remember – I’ve been staying at vacation rentals a long time because I have kids and it’s just very convenient and it’s a nice way to, like, be in the neighborhood or be in kind of an authentic part of the city or town that you’re visiting. Remember when, like, a well-equipped vacation rental kitchen was, like, maybe some, like, three-quarters-of-the-way-gone olive oil and some salt and pepper? Like, that was all you got.

Nisreene: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christie: And, like, maybe a pan. Just, like, one pan. So, now, you know, it’s – the standards are definitely changing. These kitchens come very well-equipped. I, personally, love the outdoor eating and cooking space, like a pizza oven. I, honestly, I think brands should be jumping on this and, like, sponsoring and outfitting these kitchens, because when I go someplace and there’s, like, a really nice coffee machine, I’m like, “Ooh, do I need this?” So, just saying, like, there’s some opportunity there.

Nisreene: Does Vrbo have a filter for pizza ovens? Because I would legit choose a place if it had a pizza oven.

Christie: Okay, I’m going to talk to some people and we’re going to make that happen.

Nisreene: Yeah. I would probably plan a weekend around a pizza oven. Do you know what I mean?

Christie: It becomes, like, a top criteria. You’re like, “Two bedrooms, two baths, pizza oven.”

Nisreene: Pizza oven. You’re like, “Let’s…” I would drive an hour outside of Seattle with my friends just to spend a weekend making pizzas. Breakfast pizzas, dinner pizzas…

Christie: I would come to that, ’cause I feel like you would do a really good job.

Nisreene: Oh, my God. So fun. I think vacation rentals have also gotten a little bit more expensive in the past couple of years. Is there a good time to book one? Like, is there a lead time or do they have, like, peak seasonality? Like, what’s a good price hack for vacation rentals?

Christie: I’m so glad you asked, because vacation rentals, like you said, they’re very hot. That means you need to book sooo early, especially if you are looking to travel somewhere during a peak time – like during the summer, during the month of July, for example, to a beach destination. So, general rule of thumb, you need to be booking, like, nine months out.

Nisreene: Insane. But that’s, like, for the really good ones, right? Primo location. Like, ones they have a pool, maybe, in the summer or something like that.

Christie: My recommendation is, as soon as, you know, you and your big group of people, whoever they are, want to go stay somewhere, start planning those things, start having those group chats. Use Vrbo’s trip boards to invite a bunch of people to collaborate and weigh in on the property that you want to stay at. Start that process super early, because we know how messy those group chats can get. So use the trip board, start planning and try and lock in those properties, yeah, six to nine months in advance.

Nisreene: Yeah. I mean, I think we all think our lives are so exciting, that so much is going to happen and change that we can’t plan that far ahead. I mean, at least, I think like that about my life. But, in reality, it’s not that exciting.

Christie: You have to realize that there are a lot of people that go to the same places every year and they’re literally booking their Vrbos as they walk out the door.

Nisreene: When they walk out.

Christie: Yeah, yeah. For the following year, for the same time.

Nisreene: I love people like that.

Christie: I love them too. My in-laws are those people. I love that for us.

Nisreene: I need more of them in life.

Christie: (Laughs) I know. So you’re competing with some real planners, some people who know what they like and are going to lock it in. So, yeah. You gotta jump on it early.

Nisreene: All right. What else in the vacation rental space? What else are we looking at for 2023?

Christie: Yeah, this is cool. Cowboy-cations. Cowboy-caytions. Yes, we’re here for it. So, this is a trend that is based on Vrbo traveler data that shows that some of the places that are getting booked up faster and seeing the highest searches are out in kind of western states. So think Montana, Colorado… But even internationally, places in Europe that have, like, farmhouses, or winery views in Australia – these are the types of places that are really seeing a peak in demand, which is really cool. People want, like, wide open spaces. They want, like, amazing vistas. So we’re calling it cowboy-caytions. People are looking for rustic ranches, lodges and farmhouses, a lot of Western charm. And those are joining the ranks of always popular, perennial popular, beach and mountain destinations.

Nisreene: Let me bring it full circle for you. So I started to plan my own cowboy-cation, but it was because I was a set-jetter and saw Yellowstone.

Christie: Yellowstone. Yes!

Nisreene: So I binged Yellowstone and then basically spent hours finding the right Vrbo that would give me a similar experience on, like, a dude ranch type thing. And you know what, people? They’re out there. They’re out there. But they were all booked because I was trying to plan, like, something for next weekend.

Christie: (Laughs) This is classic Nissi, trying to plan something a week away. No, and I think you’re referencing other trends we talked about. I also get the kind of new wave wellness vibe from this because…

Nisreene: Oh, yeah.

Christie: ..to me, living in kind of a densely populated area with lots of light pollution, I would love to go to Montana and see, like, more stars than I get to see in the city. That just sounds really nice and healing, and then go on hikes and nature. So I think there’s a lot of aspects that we talked about that are driving this behavior.

Nisreene: Yeah. Forest bathing. Go to Montana and forest bathe. Although, is it forest bathing if there’s not a lot of trees? It’s just the act of getting outside, right?

Christie: No, I think you need a forest if you’re going to forest bathe. But I’m sure there’s a name for just strolling through…

Nisreene: These are travel trends, Christie. We don’t need to split hairs on it, all right? Okay?

Christie: (Laughs) It doesn’t have a catchy name like sylvotherapy, so, no, it’s not real.

Nisreene: All right. Anything else in the vacation rental space?

Christie: Yeah. Just to share some of the top destinations that are popping on Vrbo so that if any of these start to kind of tickle your fancy… Is that a weird thing to say? I don’t know. If any of these start to pique your interest, you can start planning a little bit early. But these are some of the hidden gems that Vrbo has has revealed: Nampa, Idaho; Greensboro, North Carolina; Layton, Utah; Irmo, South Carolina. So, we had an episode earlier this season about small towns and hidden gems in the States. And this list is perfect for people who are kind of keen to plan something like that.

Nisreene: Of all of the places that I thought you were just going to say, it was none of those that I had in my head.

Christie: (Laughs) The bingo card was not looked at.

Nisreene: Yeah, I lost. Like, no checks on my bingo. Yeah. I mean, these really are hidden gems. I’ve never even – I’ve heard of one of these places. One of them. It speaks to, I think, what people want. They want the No Normal, right? They don’t want, like, that sort of typical thing. They want to go to some unconventional, alternative, off-the-beaten path destinations, I guess. I love that.

Christie: That’s exactly right. I mean, I think we talked earlier about how things like TV shows are really outpacing things like social media for inspiration, sources of inspiration. And I think, you know, my takeaway there is we’re kind of sick of seeing the same photo on Instagram of a destination. It feels a little bit oversaturated. And, so, seeking out places to go you haven’t seen as you’re doomscrolling is something huge. We’re all trying to have something unique. We’re all trying to go somewhere that hasn’t been plastered all over social media. And I love that for us.

Nisreene: Yeah, I do too. I do too. Any other, like, hot trends for 2023 that we didn’t get a chance to mention?

Christie: My takeaway for travelers in the No Normal of 2023 is… go take the trip that feels special to you, whatever that’s going to look like. And don’t worry whether it’s the hot new thing to do or whether your friends are doing it. Just go out. Be No Normal.

Nisreene: I mean, I can tell you my friends aren’t doing it because they all have kids, so no-one’s doing anything great.

Christie: (Laughs) And I think this is all very relevant right now because travelers are out… I mean, travel demand is back. And if you were in Italy this fall, when it’s supposed to be kind of shoulder season and down season, you were waiting in line at the Duomo for hours. Like, travelers are everywhere. So, you know, finding places to go that maybe are a little hidden or just planning some unconventional things while you’re in a very popular destination, I think it’s going to work out really well in this kind of transitional phase where everybody is really eager and getting back out there.

Nisreene: Well, Christie, what a way to end. Thank you so much for dropping in with all your amazing tips and and hacks. It’s been really helpful having you on every episode, teaching us all your hacks. So, thank you.

Christie: It’s been my favorite thing. Thank you so much for having me.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: You know what I absolutely love about the Expedia Group Travel Trends Report is that it really opens my eyes to the fact that I do a lot of the same travel behaviors over and over and over again, and these types of things remind me that I need to sort of step out of my comfort zone every once in a while. Book that three-star superstar, get into the wilderness a little bit more. But, also, if I feel inspired from Emily in Paris, to basically capitalize on that and take that trip, right? So, really getting myself out of my comfort zone, really knowing that there’s just so much more out there to visit.

All right. If you have travel plans for 2023, we want to hear about it. Go ahead and share your top travel destinations. And don’t forget to tag at @Expedia. For more info on episodes, guests, and to find travel inspiration, be sure to visit Out Travel The System’s blog at expedia.com/stories/podcast.

I want to thank Christie Hudson for coming on today’s episode for the entire duration and for really giving us a deep dive into all of the amazing tips and hacks for the year ahead. And if you have any questions for me, or comments, or thoughts, of course, be sure to hit me up. You can DM us on @Expedia. Follow, subscribe, and share so that you don’t miss an episode.

Out Travel The System is brought to you by Expedia, with special thanks to PRX and Sonic Union. I’m the Executive Producer and your host, Nisreene Atassi. Special thanks to the following:

Additional writing by Rachel Sullivan.
Producer Rishika Sharma.
Associate Producers Syma Mohammed and Nathanael Taylor.
Production Assistant is Alex Thiel and Carolina Garrigo.
Theme music and original composition by Kevin J Simon.
Music edit, sound design, and mix by Rob Ballingall, and music supervision by Justin Morris. Executive Producer and Writer Halle Petro.
PRX Executive Producer Jocelyn Gonzalez.

And Out Travel the System is recorded with Sonic Union in New York City.

All right, everyone, be sure to tune in next week for our last episode of the season. We’ll be having a Season 4 wrap-up, where we’ll cover all the things we’ve learned from our amazing guests.

Till next time, this is your host, Nisreene Atassi, for Out Travel The System. Find us on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Happy travels!

Nisreene Atassi, Expedia Global Head of Social Media, and host: I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel The System. This week, I am extra excited because it’s quite special – it’s the Travel Trends episode. We’ll talk trends…

Christie Hudson, head of Expedia PR for North America (sound bite): We’re kind of sick of seeing the same photo on Instagram of a destination. So seeking out places to go that you haven’t seen as you’re doomscrolling is something huge. We’re all trying to have something unique. We’re trying to go somewhere that hasn’t been plastered all over social media.

Nisreene: We’ll hear exclusively from our wonderful data correspondent, Christie Hudson.

Christie (sound bite): We polled 24,000 people globally on where they’re getting their inspiration from, the types of things that are kind of motivating them in the coming year. So that’s how we kind of get this big picture of what’s going on with travelers.

Nisreene: And really get down to business

Christie (sound bite): Let’s be real. Finances, budgets, inflation – it’s a huge topic right now. It’s a huge concern for a lot of people. So being able to find something that’s really high quality that’s going to have the amenities you want for a lower price – I think that’s a great thing.

Nisreene: Here we go!

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: Our lovely data correspondent Christie Hudson is the main interview today. This entire episode is just jam-packed with hacks. We tell you all of the hot destinations and the trends that are going to be happening for the year ahead. So, without further ado, let’s get started. Christie, welcome to the show. How does it feel to be in the hot seat in the main interview today? Do you feel nervous about it? Are you ready?

Christie: Hi, Nissi. As you know, I love to be in the hot seat, so this is my time to shine. I’m pumped.

Nisreene: Amazing. Amazing. So, why don’t we start off by you just telling us a little bit about this report. Like, what makes it so special and how does it all sort of come together?

Christie: Yes. So this is a travel trends report we’ve been doing for several years now. And I don’t know if this is a surprise to you, but I’m a little bit of a nerd when it comes to trends and data.

Nisreene: Shocker.

Christie: I live for it. So this is my favorite thing we do each year. And the way that it comes together – so, we have a ton of data points that we can look at from our own traveler data. It’s, you know, millions and billions of data points of people searching for trips, booking trips, traveling. So we look at that across, Expedia Hotels.com and Vrbo to get all those nice insights from what are people actually doing and searching for. And then, to kind of get a little bit more meat for the report, we do a bit of third-party research. We polled 24,000 people globally on where they’re getting their inspiration from, the types of things that are kind of motivating them in the coming year. So that’s how we kind of get this big picture of what’s going on with travelers. We spend literally, I think, six months looking through to identify a couple of common threads and then we get to share it with all of you. So it’s super cool, it’s super fun.

Nisreene: And you do this every year, right? How many times have you done it so far?

Christie: I think this might be our fifth year from an Expedia standpoint, but what is special this year is we teamed up with our other Expedia group brands. So we teamed up with Vrbo to look at vacation rental trends – which has been huge during the pandemic and then that continues. And then we also teamed up with Hotels.com to look at some of the different factors that are driving people’s choices about the lodging they’re choosing. So this year, it’s just really comprehensive.

Nisreene: Why don’t we start with Expedia? Because it sounds like each brand sort of has their own set of trends. So what are the top trends that Expedia is seeing?

Christie: Well, I think first, let me just kind of set the stage. So over the last couple of years, with the pandemic, travelers were adjusting to a series of new normals. Right? First we couldn’t travel at all. Then we started taking road trips and visiting outdoorsy destinations so we could social distance. Then, last year, as travel really opened up, everyone wanted to have what we called last year their ‘GOAT’. It was their ‘greatest of all trips’. They wanted to have big no-holds-barred trips, and that became the new normal. Now, as we go into 2023, when we looked at the wealth of traveler data across Expedia, Hotels, and Vrbo, we saw that there was really no one thing – like, no one kind of trip that everyone is taking. There’s no new normal for 2023. So instead we’re kind of calling it ‘The Year of No Normal’ and…

Nisreene: Oh! Yeah! The No Normal. I like it.

Christie: Yeah. I mean, we don’t need a new normal. We need to just not be doing what we want to do. So it means there are an array of behaviors, criteria, and desires that are driving travelers in 2023. And as a result, there are kind of a diverse array of trends we’re seeing.

Nisreene: The No Normal. So what’s not going to be normal next year?

Christie: Let’s start with the first No Normal. So one thing is travelers are ready to head back to the hustle and bustle of cities and experience urban destinations. So, you know, whereas last year people wanted to do a big trip – it could have been a big beach trip, it could have been, you know, an overseas trip. This year, people are looking to get back to places where there’s really rich arts and culture scenes, where they can, you know, sit at a bar next to locals, where they can hear live music. And a lot of this is because, you know, festivals are starting again. If you look at some of the top destinations that Expedia unveiled that are really popular next year, they’re places like Edinburgh, Scotland, Lisbon, Tokyo, Dublin, Sydney, Montreal, Munich – like, all these places that have a ton of things going on every single month, year round. So, as an example, Edinburgh has a fringe festival – it’s a big comedy festival every year that’s just getting started again in 2023. Another example is World Pride is going to be in Sydney for the first time ever and Oktoberfest in Munich started this last year again for the first time in a couple of years. So these are the things that are really driving travel and the things people want to experience.

Nisreene: You know what’s interesting about that? We just did an episode about really immersing yourself, traveling like a local. And so, obviously, that’s been a thing that everybody wants to do, that’s been, like, the big trend in travel, I’d say, for like the last five years or so. But it almost feels like this is taking it one step further, right? It’s funny, because when you read off these destinations, people are like, “Oh, you know, big whoop. Everyone wants to go to Tokyo. How is that new?” But I think the fact that it’s all reemerging really says something about the people.

Christie: Exactly. When we looked at the destinations that were growing the fastest for 2023, we got this list of cities, some of which I just mentioned, and we were like, “Okay, what’s the common thread here?” We landed on the fact that they’re, essentially, culture capitals. They’re places that, like you said, they have a really rich, unique, specific arts and culture and food and local scene. And I think it’s just a result of being kind of deprived from that over the last couple of years that, you know, we want to go and rub elbows with people who live there. We want to go and eat food from the carts on the street. We want to listen to live music from local artists. Like, it just… I relate to this so much because it’s exactly what I want to do on my next trip, is what I’m, like, yearning for out of my next trip.

Nisreene: I’m all for traveling to see a concert these days.

Christie: Yes! Festival tourism.

Nisreene: I don’t know why, but I’m just like… yeah, I’m really into it. That’s my vibe for 2023.

Christie: This is a painful story. I went to Los Angeles last week – I’m based in Seattle – to see Harry Styles. I had that trip planned for months. I was like, “Fun, I get to go have a weekend in LA, I get to, you know, go with a friend and stay at a nice hotel and we get to go see a concert. It’s great!” The concert did get canceled ’cause Harry was sick and I’ll never forgive him for that. But, regardless, you know, it was still a good plan.

Nisreene: Yeah, you still had a weekend in LA with your friend in a gorgeous hotel, right?

Christie: Yeah, it was lovely.

Nisreene: Good. All right.

Christie: I only cried a little.

Nisreene: It’s okay. It’s all right. It happens. It happens. What else from Expedia? Any other trends?

Christie: Yes, this one’s kind of fun. We found that TV shows – specifically those that you stream – those are driving travel inspiration at a much higher rate than even, like, social media these days. So I think 61% of people have actually booked a trip after seeing a TV show where that destination was featured. And I love this. I mean, we all spend a lot of time, especially during the pandemic, watching shows. But I think the bottom line here is, you know, when you’re watching a show, whether it’s an actual travel and food show, whether it’s just a drama that’s based in a destination, you’re getting really immersed in the story and that backdrop. So the fact that people are actually then getting online and booking those trips to those places is really fun to me.

Nisreene: I mean, truer words have never been spoken, Christie. This is 100% true. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I literally write down places and go and start looking at, like, hotels. I used to call it, actually, the Eat, Pray, Love effect. Maybe that was the first time I watched something and I was like, “I got to go. I got to go do this. This is it. This is what’s going to happen.” And I ended up booking, I think, like, a trip to Spain. A little bit different but, you know, it was really inspiring. Are there certain shows that have been, like, really inspiring people with their destinations?

Christie: Yes. And this is something we’ve watched since, for the last couple of years, every time we see a new show or movie come out that really kind of captures the cultural zeitgeist, we see that people go online and they actually start searching. So it happened a couple of years ago when Crazy Rich Asians came out, right? Everybody was, searching for trips to Singapore. But this last year, we’ve seen that some of the destinations that have been popping up that really inspired people were – New Zealand was one of them. There is there was a new Lord of the Rings series.

Nisreene: Oh, yeah, yep.

Christie: That was up there. People are really interested in going to Great Britain, to the UK and that is a little Bridgerton is inspiring people. I don’t know if the Duke lives there for real, but people want to go there. And then, of course, White Lotus was really huge this last year and that was set in Hawaii, so we saw a lot of interest in Hawaii. Emily in Paris, I think, is inspiring a lot of people to want the wardrobe and the trip. New York also saw a lot of interest. I think Inventing Anna was in New York. So, yeah, there have been a ton of them. I’m watching the new season of White Lotus right now, and I need to go to Sicily. Like, I physically need to go there.

Nisreene: It makes a lot of sense, right? it does still spark your curiosity. Like, and I think a lot of these places, you just get the overall energy of the destination. Like, I feel like with New York especially, people always get excited about the serendipitous opportunities that always get depicted in movies that are based out of New York.

Christie: Yes, there’s just always something happening.

Nisreene: Yeah, magic’s always, like, happening around the corner. I get it. Those are all pretty good shows, all of which I have binged. Any other good shows that are sort of sparking travel?

Christie: You know, one that was really standout to me because the destination itself isn’t a traditional kind of tourist destination, like in Emily in Paris, is the Welcome to Wrexham show that was on FX.

Nisreene: Don’t I know it!

Christie: Yeah. Yeah, I think you’re familiar, I think you’re familiar.

Nisreene: I’m familiar.

Christie: So it was all about the Wrexham soccer team, the Wrexham Football Club, right? And after that show aired, we took a look, and interest in Wales,. where Wrexham is located, was up 50% compared to the prior couple of months because of that show airing.

Nisreene: Unbelievable.

Christie: And, so people obviously, maybe, aren’t going to fly from the US and just visit Wrexham – it’s kind of a small town – but they’re planning trips to Wales, and then they’re going to Wrexham during their trip, which they normally wouldn’t have. And that is such a clear, you know, example of how people are literally making travel plans, visiting places they never would have gone, maybe, it wasn’t for a show that they streamed. So…

Nisreene: Oh my God, I love that! I love that so much. And for those of you who are new to the show this year, go back and look through our archives. I had an amazing opportunity last season to interview Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds when they first bought the club, Wrexham. So go ahead and listen to the episode and you can hear a little bit more about the that cute little town that they’re all from. What about Hotels? What are some of the major, like, Hotels trends that we’re seeing?

Christie: Yes. This is super interesting. So we talked a little bit earlier about how travelers are no longer planning just one big blowout trip. They are wanting more spontaneous, easy, frequent trips. So that is prompting people to look at getting more value for the place that they’re staying. And as a result, we’re seeing two- and three-star hotels are really popping. So what’s interesting about that is you might think two- and three-star, it might bring to mind, like, something not as chic or something, you know, a little more budget. But actually, in reality, it doesn’t really speak to the quality of the hotel. It’s actually more about the amenities that they offer. That’s what the stars mean. So they may not have, you know, an onsite full-service spa, for example, if they’re two- or three-stars. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have really nice common areas, really great amenities in terms of, like, free parking, free breakfast, stuff like that. So this is super cool. We’re calling them three-star superstars and it just reveals that travelers are choosing places where they can get great amenities and really great value instead of a blowout kind of breaking the bank.

Nisreene: Wait a minute. I genuinely did not know that the star rating was based purely on the amenities.

Christie: It’s true.

Nisreene: That’s just blown my mind. That’s, I mean…

Christie: I mean, what else would it be based on?

Nisreene: I don’t even…

Christie: Would it be based on some arbitrary opinion of whether they like the overall vibes?

Nisreene: (Laughs) I don’t know what I thought it was based on, to be honest. I think maybe I thought it was based on, like, the luxeness of the hotel. Like, how nice the sheets are. Maybe that’s still sort of a part of it, but I always sort of equate it with comfort for whatever reason, even though you’re right, that’s not necessarily true.

Christie: You just have to think about what type of experience you want. If you’re going to a destination to stay all day at the resort or the property, sure, maybe you want to up-star a bit so that you have the spa and the pool and the 24-hour room service and stuff like that. But if you’re going to a place and you have plans to see the area, explore, then choosing a place that has the right amenities for you, it’s huge. And a lot of two- and three-star hotels have those amenities. I love, like, the bonus extras. You know, a ton of them have free breakfast or free parking on site, which is great. I mean, you don’t get that at five-star hotels, so it’s just a lot of value. And Hotels.com put together a whole list of some of the best of the best ones. So you can really see for yourself that there’s really cool decor, really awesome, like, lobby areas – that you’re not compromising on the quality.

Nisreene: Christie, let me tell you a story about how I stayed at what was a four-star place, but it was… I don’t know. Comfort level was not there. So, it’s funny because I always equate a four-star hotel with, like, a much more luxe experience. But now that you’ve just re-opened my eyes to what the stars actually stand for, it actually reminds me of a time that I went to New York and I stayed in – it was, like, the hottest hotel at the time. And I’m not going to name the hotel because they’re probably also listening.

Christie: Was I staying with you at the time?

Nisreene: You were not staying with me. You are not staying at…

Christie: ‘Cause we stayed at that one in the Lower East Side that was kind of similar.

Nisreene: Yes, I know. Yes, I’m… Yeah, that one as well. This one, this scenario was actually just, like, a smidge worse because it was like, you know, the hotel just didn’t open up, it was four stars… Like, it was a hot spot. Like, the bar area was, like, a very scene-y place. But this place, the room was an absolute shoebox. It wasn’t even a full-size bed. It was the most cramped I’ve ever been. And, like, it kind of reminded me a little bit, like, one of the hostels I’d stayed in in Europe. But, like, yeah, it was clean and that kind of stuff. But it was not what I was expecting, for sure. But the four-star was probably because the hotel was amazing overall. But my point is that you’re right. Like, sometimes it’s really not going to be super indicative to exactly what you need or what the experience is going to be like for you.

Christie: Yes. I just got back from staying in The EDITION, Times Square. That was great.

Nisreene: Oh. Oh, my gosh. EDITION, EDITION Hotels are like… (Smooches) ..chef’s kiss.

Christie: I mean, the way that they won’t even give you bottles of the lotion in your room because they know people are hoarding them…

Nisreene: Yeah, I know. The whole place is beautiful.

Christie: It’s delightful. Okay, I just encourage people, if you’re one of those people who’s, like, really stuck on star ratings, you can actually go on Hotels.com and search and go on the app and search by star and see for yourself. Because there are so many hotels that are two- and three-star that are actually really chic and you’re not compromising on quality. So, let’s be real. Finances, budgets, inflation – it’s a huge topic right now. It’s a huge concern for a lot of people. So being able to find something that’s really high quality that’s going to have the amenities you want for a lower price – I think that’s a great thing.

Nisreene: Yeah. Three-star superstar. I’m into it. I’m into it. All right, what else? What else are we looking at for trends from a hotels standpoint?

Christie: You’re really going to like this one. The other thing that Hotels.com found was people are super into wellness breaks.

Nisreene: Yes.

Christie: Like, maybe that doesn’t feel new, but it’s actually it’s actually kind of quirky wellness. We’re calling it new, new wellness.

Nisreene: Like colonics? Like a week of colonics type of thing?

Christie: (Laughs) I mean, it’s probably on the list. The couple that we kind of identified as being the types of things people are looking for is one called sylvotherapy. Do you know what this is?

Nisreene: Oh, my God. Obviously not. Tell me about it.

Christie: It is forest bathing.

Nisreene: Stop it.

Christie: So you have, like, a guide and you go out into the woods, into the forest, into the trees and you just, like, take the energy. You bring in the energy from the trees. It makes you feel relaxed. You might have, like, a little guided meditation out there. You might have a little sound bath action in the forest. But yes, sylvotherapy, it’s an actual thing. Hotels are offering it. There’s also things like food boot camps, there’s, like, any kind of animal you can do yoga with, from puppies to flamingos. Oh, I love this one! I feel like this would be really healing. Laughter therapy. Laughter therapy.

Nisreene: Oh, my goodness. I love that!

Christie: Both kind of maniacal and also great. And fruit harvesting. So you can stay somewhere where they have gardens and you can go out and, you know, pick fruit and just be out in nature. I think a lot of this is, really, being unplugged, right? And forcing yourself in new and interesting, unique ways to be unplugged and really detox and just get the most out of that stay.

Nisreene: We did an episode on health and wellness effects of travel, and we actually talked about forest bathing. But my guest at the time used the Japanese word for it, which is ‘shinrin-yoku’.

Christie: Ohhh.

Nisreene: So I don’t know the sort of Americanized term for it, I guess. I just am familiar with the Japanese term, so I’m quite an elevated person. So I, I love this kind of stuff. And you want to know why I love it so much? It’s because I feel like people are making a shift to where they’re getting more in tune with their mental health and their physical health beyond just, like, the cosmetic look of it all, right? I think, like, we used to define health as, like, weight loss or beauty and things like that. But now everyone’s kind of looking inwards a little bit more. So I feel like this is the next evolution of that.

Christie: I totally agree. And I will, you know, spare everyone from the depth of woo-woo that I, in my life, love and embrace, you know.

Nisreene: Your witchiness? Are we calling your witchiness woo-woo now? Okay.

Christie: I love these trends because, just like you said, they’re less about, like, you know, physical results or a cleanse or something like that. And they’re much more about, like, food for the soul…

Nisreene: Yeah.

Christie: ..and kind of feeling, you know, rejuvenated and recharged, in a way. And that across the board is something I think you can only get from travel. And, so adding these things into your experience, whether you’re going to a place that specifically offers this type of thing or, like you said, going to a place and then seeking – even a big city like New York and then seeking out some of those quiet, peaceful moments, like, I think that’s only going to elevate your trip.

Nisreene: Yeah.

Christie: Give you more out of it.

Nisreene: This feels like my generation, through and through. I bet you millennials are driving this one. Are they? Do you know that?

Christie: They are, but Gen Z. This is a big one for Gen Z.

Nisreene: Okay.

Christie: Yep. So, they… I think millennials are driving the, like, wellness breaks in the US trend, but Gen Z is really interested in wellness trips to Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sri Lanka. So they’re trying to really get out there and see some new stuff.

Nisreene: Oh, my gosh, I love that. But should we should we go back to the fact that when you introduced this trend, I went straight to colonics. What’s wrong with me?

Christie: (Laughs) You know what? You just didn’t know that…

Nisreene: Like, how horrible would that be? Like, a week of colonics. Could you even do that? You would probably die. You’d be like… (Laughs)

Christie: I mean, you can probably find that somewhere. There’s really something for everyone.

Nisreene: Actually, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, mainly because I watched – I feel like this was a couple of years ago. Maybe it was just last year. I don’t even know. You know, COVID years are like dog years. You have no idea how long it was, how long ago it was like. It’s like this time warp where you can’t make heads or tails of it. But anyway, I watched this episode on Netflix from GOOP and it was about how there’s this place in Jamaica where you go and you basically do mushrooms with therapists and you essentially just go for a couple of days and you work out, you know, whatever trauma you’ve got and people – and you’re, like, in Jamaica. And it’s just basically, like, you know, therapy-vacation that just so happens to be guided by therapists and mushrooms. So I’ve been…

Christie: That looked intense. I saw that episode and that looked extremely intense. Like, I don’t know if I’m ready for that, but…

Nisreene: I don’t know. I feel… I was like, “I don’t know what I have to work out, but I feel like whatever it is will get solved in Jamaica.”

Christie: (Laughs) All right. Well, you heard it here. We’ll be doing a special episode while on mushrooms in Jamaica.

Nisreene: In Jamaica.

Christie: So stay tuned for that episode.

Nisreene: All right. What else we got in the trends space? What about vacation rental trends? Because I feel like vacation rentals really had their moment during the pandemic. So what’s next for that space?

Christie: Absolutely. So, a couple things from vacation rentals. Like you said, people who formerly didn’t do vacation rentals, who were maybe always hotel people, started renting vacation homes during the pandemic because places were closed, they wanted more space, whatever. That trend has just persisted, right? So as things started to open up, people wanted to be together with their families. And where is a better place to do that than a large home that can accommodate extended family or large groups of friends? And then, even now, people are looking for unique experiences. They’re looking to save a little bit, maybe, by being able to cook within the place they’re staying. So this is still a trend. The thing that popped out this year as kind of unique is something we’re calling foodie-menities. So people are not only looking for a kitchen in their Vrbo, of course, but they’re looking for kind of like…

Nisreene: They want a baller one.

Christie: ..they want, like, a fancy one. They want, like, outdoor space to cook in and eat in. That’s huge. They want fancy coffee machines. They want air fryers. They want pizza ovens. They even want gardens and fresh produce on site. So travelers are, like… their standards are kind of high and this is what they’re looking for.

Nisreene: Okay. So I did go to have a Vrbo that had fresh produce on site. It really added a special touch to the trip. Like, we didn’t choose this place because of that, but it does elevate your experience in an oddly bizarre way. I’m a foodie myself. I love to cook. So when the amenities are really nice, I feel like it just all comes together so nicely.

Christie: Totally! I mean, think about when you have, like, a house party or you have people over. Everyone just congregates in the kitchen. It’s the heart of the home. So if you are staying at a home away from home, that’s going to organically happen. And I remember – I’ve been staying at vacation rentals a long time because I have kids and it’s just very convenient and it’s a nice way to, like, be in the neighborhood or be in kind of an authentic part of the city or town that you’re visiting. Remember when, like, a well-equipped vacation rental kitchen was, like, maybe some, like, three-quarters-of-the-way-gone olive oil and some salt and pepper? Like, that was all you got.

Nisreene: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Christie: And, like, maybe a pan. Just, like, one pan. So, now, you know, it’s – the standards are definitely changing. These kitchens come very well-equipped. I, personally, love the outdoor eating and cooking space, like a pizza oven. I, honestly, I think brands should be jumping on this and, like, sponsoring and outfitting these kitchens, because when I go someplace and there’s, like, a really nice coffee machine, I’m like, “Ooh, do I need this?” So, just saying, like, there’s some opportunity there.

Nisreene: Does Vrbo have a filter for pizza ovens? Because I would legit choose a place if it had a pizza oven.

Christie: Okay, I’m going to talk to some people and we’re going to make that happen.

Nisreene: Yeah. I would probably plan a weekend around a pizza oven. Do you know what I mean?

Christie: It becomes, like, a top criteria. You’re like, “Two bedrooms, two baths, pizza oven.”

Nisreene: Pizza oven. You’re like, “Let’s…” I would drive an hour outside of Seattle with my friends just to spend a weekend making pizzas. Breakfast pizzas, dinner pizzas…

Christie: I would come to that, ’cause I feel like you would do a really good job.

Nisreene: Oh, my God. So fun. I think vacation rentals have also gotten a little bit more expensive in the past couple of years. Is there a good time to book one? Like, is there a lead time or do they have, like, peak seasonality? Like, what’s a good price hack for vacation rentals?

Christie: I’m so glad you asked, because vacation rentals, like you said, they’re very hot. That means you need to book sooo early, especially if you are looking to travel somewhere during a peak time – like during the summer, during the month of July, for example, to a beach destination. So, general rule of thumb, you need to be booking, like, nine months out.

Nisreene: Insane. But that’s, like, for the really good ones, right? Primo location. Like, ones they have a pool, maybe, in the summer or something like that.

Christie: My recommendation is, as soon as, you know, you and your big group of people, whoever they are, want to go stay somewhere, start planning those things, start having those group chats. Use Vrbo’s trip boards to invite a bunch of people to collaborate and weigh in on the property that you want to stay at. Start that process super early, because we know how messy those group chats can get. So use the trip board, start planning and try and lock in those properties, yeah, six to nine months in advance.

Nisreene: Yeah. I mean, I think we all think our lives are so exciting, that so much is going to happen and change that we can’t plan that far ahead. I mean, at least, I think like that about my life. But, in reality, it’s not that exciting.

Christie: You have to realize that there are a lot of people that go to the same places every year and they’re literally booking their Vrbos as they walk out the door.

Nisreene: When they walk out.

Christie: Yeah, yeah. For the following year, for the same time.

Nisreene: I love people like that.

Christie: I love them too. My in-laws are those people. I love that for us.

Nisreene: I need more of them in life.

Christie: (Laughs) I know. So you’re competing with some real planners, some people who know what they like and are going to lock it in. So, yeah. You gotta jump on it early.

Nisreene: All right. What else in the vacation rental space? What else are we looking at for 2023?

Christie: Yeah, this is cool. Cowboy-cations. Cowboy-caytions. Yes, we’re here for it. So, this is a trend that is based on Vrbo traveler data that shows that some of the places that are getting booked up faster and seeing the highest searches are out in kind of western states. So think Montana, Colorado… But even internationally, places in Europe that have, like, farmhouses, or winery views in Australia – these are the types of places that are really seeing a peak in demand, which is really cool. People want, like, wide open spaces. They want, like, amazing vistas. So we’re calling it cowboy-caytions. People are looking for rustic ranches, lodges and farmhouses, a lot of Western charm. And those are joining the ranks of always popular, perennial popular, beach and mountain destinations.

Nisreene: Let me bring it full circle for you. So I started to plan my own cowboy-cation, but it was because I was a set-jetter and saw Yellowstone.

Christie: Yellowstone. Yes!

Nisreene: So I binged Yellowstone and then basically spent hours finding the right Vrbo that would give me a similar experience on, like, a dude ranch type thing. And you know what, people? They’re out there. They’re out there. But they were all booked because I was trying to plan, like, something for next weekend.

Christie: (Laughs) This is classic Nissi, trying to plan something a week away. No, and I think you’re referencing other trends we talked about. I also get the kind of new wave wellness vibe from this because…

Nisreene: Oh, yeah.

Christie: ..to me, living in kind of a densely populated area with lots of light pollution, I would love to go to Montana and see, like, more stars than I get to see in the city. That just sounds really nice and healing, and then go on hikes and nature. So I think there’s a lot of aspects that we talked about that are driving this behavior.

Nisreene: Yeah. Forest bathing. Go to Montana and forest bathe. Although, is it forest bathing if there’s not a lot of trees? It’s just the act of getting outside, right?

Christie: No, I think you need a forest if you’re going to forest bathe. But I’m sure there’s a name for just strolling through…

Nisreene: These are travel trends, Christie. We don’t need to split hairs on it, all right? Okay?

Christie: (Laughs) It doesn’t have a catchy name like sylvotherapy, so, no, it’s not real.

Nisreene: All right. Anything else in the vacation rental space?

Christie: Yeah. Just to share some of the top destinations that are popping on Vrbo so that if any of these start to kind of tickle your fancy… Is that a weird thing to say? I don’t know. If any of these start to pique your interest, you can start planning a little bit early. But these are some of the hidden gems that Vrbo has has revealed: Nampa, Idaho; Greensboro, North Carolina; Layton, Utah; Irmo, South Carolina. So, we had an episode earlier this season about small towns and hidden gems in the States. And this list is perfect for people who are kind of keen to plan something like that.

Nisreene: Of all of the places that I thought you were just going to say, it was none of those that I had in my head.

Christie: (Laughs) The bingo card was not looked at.

Nisreene: Yeah, I lost. Like, no checks on my bingo. Yeah. I mean, these really are hidden gems. I’ve never even – I’ve heard of one of these places. One of them. It speaks to, I think, what people want. They want the No Normal, right? They don’t want, like, that sort of typical thing. They want to go to some unconventional, alternative, off-the-beaten path destinations, I guess. I love that.

Christie: That’s exactly right. I mean, I think we talked earlier about how things like TV shows are really outpacing things like social media for inspiration, sources of inspiration. And I think, you know, my takeaway there is we’re kind of sick of seeing the same photo on Instagram of a destination. It feels a little bit oversaturated. And, so, seeking out places to go you haven’t seen as you’re doomscrolling is something huge. We’re all trying to have something unique. We’re all trying to go somewhere that hasn’t been plastered all over social media. And I love that for us.

Nisreene: Yeah, I do too. I do too. Any other, like, hot trends for 2023 that we didn’t get a chance to mention?

Christie: My takeaway for travelers in the No Normal of 2023 is… go take the trip that feels special to you, whatever that’s going to look like. And don’t worry whether it’s the hot new thing to do or whether your friends are doing it. Just go out. Be No Normal.

Nisreene: I mean, I can tell you my friends aren’t doing it because they all have kids, so no-one’s doing anything great.

Christie: (Laughs) And I think this is all very relevant right now because travelers are out… I mean, travel demand is back. And if you were in Italy this fall, when it’s supposed to be kind of shoulder season and down season, you were waiting in line at the Duomo for hours. Like, travelers are everywhere. So, you know, finding places to go that maybe are a little hidden or just planning some unconventional things while you’re in a very popular destination, I think it’s going to work out really well in this kind of transitional phase where everybody is really eager and getting back out there.

Nisreene: Well, Christie, what a way to end. Thank you so much for dropping in with all your amazing tips and and hacks. It’s been really helpful having you on every episode, teaching us all your hacks. So, thank you.

Christie: It’s been my favorite thing. Thank you so much for having me.

[Musical interlude]

Nisreene: You know what I absolutely love about the Expedia Group Travel Trends Report is that it really opens my eyes to the fact that I do a lot of the same travel behaviors over and over and over again, and these types of things remind me that I need to sort of step out of my comfort zone every once in a while. Book that three-star superstar, get into the wilderness a little bit more. But, also, if I feel inspired from Emily in Paris, to basically capitalize on that and take that trip, right? So, really getting myself out of my comfort zone, really knowing that there’s just so much more out there to visit.

All right. If you have travel plans for 2023, we want to hear about it. Go ahead and share your top travel destinations. And don’t forget to tag at @Expedia. For more info on episodes, guests, and to find travel inspiration, be sure to visit Out Travel The System’s blog at expedia.com/stories/podcast.

I want to thank Christie Hudson for coming on today’s episode for the entire duration and for really giving us a deep dive into all of the amazing tips and hacks for the year ahead. And if you have any questions for me, or comments, or thoughts, of course, be sure to hit me up. You can DM us on @Expedia. Follow, subscribe, and share so that you don’t miss an episode.

Out Travel The System is brought to you by Expedia, with special thanks to PRX and Sonic Union. I’m the Executive Producer and your host, Nisreene Atassi. Special thanks to the following:

Additional writing by Rachel Sullivan.
Producer Rishika Sharma.
Associate Producers Syma Mohammed and Nathanael Taylor.
Production Assistant is Alex Thiel and Carolina Garrigo.
Theme music and original composition by Kevin J Simon.
Music edit, sound design, and mix by Rob Ballingall, and music supervision by Justin Morris. Executive Producer and Writer Halle Petro.
PRX Executive Producer Jocelyn Gonzalez.

And Out Travel the System is recorded with Sonic Union in New York City.

All right, everyone, be sure to tune in next week for our last episode of the season. We’ll be having a Season 4 wrap-up, where we’ll cover all the things we’ve learned from our amazing guests.

Till next time, this is your host, Nisreene Atassi, for Out Travel The System. Find us on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Happy travels!