The 2010s were the decade when travel became easier. The arrival of short-term lodging services, the embrace of “second cities,” and the rapid growth of budget airlines both shrunk our globe and made it more intriguing. And the siren song of social media sent us to far-flung corners in search of “authentic,” “local,” and “undiscovered” places, or (contrarily) to recreate influencers’ brilliant snaps.

But if travel became something of a competitive sport in the last 10 years, it’s starting to loosen up. As it turns out, trying to visit every country in the world before turning age 40—or simply checking off three bucket-list cities in a weeklong trip—is exhausting. The overwhelming number of booking channels and sources of inspiration has left travelers confused, too, struggling to figure out how to maximize every minute of their precious vacation days.

That’s why “slow travel,” which lets you get under the skin of a place by simply staying put there for a little longer, is gaining traction. The idea doesn’t just make for more restful time off, it’s also more environmentally sustainable and fulfilling. It underscores the majority of the trends that will reshape the way we think about our adventures in 2020 and beyond.

Enjoy Zero-Footprint Travel

We’ve already told you about carbon offsets and how it’s getting easier to properly offset your flights. But in 2020 that trend will go much further.

Cool Effect, the company we like best for carbon offsets, will release tools to help you offset the carbon footprints of your cruise vacations. Several airlines, including EasyJet, are setting goals to offset their entire fleets’ emissions. And tour operators are getting in on the act, making sure that our footprint on the ground nets out, too. Leading the pack is Natural Habitats, which in 2019 began offering zero-footprint itineraries. Now the company is one-upping that idea by offsetting travelers’ entire lives for a full year if they book one of its Climate Change & Our Wild World trips. (The offset calculations are based on home size, electricity bills, monthly expenses, and air and driving miles.) Led by experts from the World Wildlife Foundation, travelers can venture to see such spectacles as the whale migration in Cabo, the Amazon rainforest, or polar bears in the Arctic.

Other companies that are offsetting trips in 2020 include Metropolitan Touring (which runs wonderful tours and hotels in Colombia and Ecuador) and MSC Cruises. There’s also Intrepid Travel, which is aiming to be carbon negative in the year ahead rather than simply carbon neutral.
Gardens Are the Hot New Hotel Amenity

There isn’t a lot of idyll in our hyperdrive lives, and maybe that’s why gardens are becoming an increasingly popular hotel feature. It sounds quaint, almost boring—and yet that’s the whole point. You can already commune with nature this way in places like Gleneagles, the iconic Scottish estate which just redid its grounds to highlight more authentic local plants and flora rather than imported flowers. At the 300-year-old Dromoland Castle in Ireland, also fresh off a big renovation, you can go on official garden tours with the property’s head gardener, Dorothy Madden.

But rambling grounds are expected in that part of the world. Better proof of the trend lies in the Hamptons, where the new Shou Sugi Ban house puts a spotlight not on the ocean but on meditative Japanese gardens designed by landscape architect Lily Kwong. Or in Marrakesh, where the rambling Royal Mansour includes 3.7 acres by Luis Vallego, who’s been honored with the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan for his work with bonsais. To better highlight its Andalucian-inspired jardin, the hotel is expanding its grounds to include a “nest” where guests can have a private dinner surrounded by palms, vines, and aromatic plants.

The most spectacular example will be just outside Paris, where the new Airelles Château de Versailles will let guests sleep in the palace so beloved for its almost 2,000-acre gardens. Much of the experience will be oriented toward the epic green space—even the Alain Ducasse restaurant on-site will be housed in a glassed-in orangery that trains your eye constantly outdoors.
Your Vacation Will Start Before You Leave Home

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