With COVID-19 testing requirements lifted and mask mandates ending, travel is back in full force. While pandemic memories are something most of us want to forget, there are some COVID-induced travel trends that remain relevant. Meet 10 pandemic pivots that are worth holding on to.

Get out of town fast

Troutbeck is nestled in nature near NYCTroutbeck is nestled in nature near NYC — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

Sticking close to home was a driving factor in pandemic vacation choices. High gas prices and airline hassles are keeping a spotlight on getaways that are easy to reach.

Surrounded by farms and rolling hills, Troutbeck is a boutique resort only 90 miles from New York City that feels a million miles away. Relax in a hammock under shady sycamore trees and watch butterflies frolic with the gentle rush of a stream as your soundtrack. It’s no wonder Emerson and Thoreau were frequent guests of the original owners.

Seasons express themselves fully in this corner of the Northeast, adding up to year-round escape potential. A fabulous restaurant, swimming pool and sauna are bonuses.

National parks are a balm

Solitude at Congaree National ParkSolitude at Congaree National Park — Photo courtesy of Discover South Carolina

As the virus spread, nature was a salve. National parks saw an increase in visitation and numbers continue to be robust. If you’re craving solitude, consider a winter visit or select a lesser-known park, such as Congaree National Park in South Carolina, an old-growth hardwood forest lined with elevated pathways. Hike, kayak or fish in this forever-wild place of beauty and tranquility.

Hotels with outdoor options

Yoga at Flathead Lake Lodge in MontanaYoga at Flathead Lake Lodge in Montana — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

The pandemic was a springboard for outdoor activities, from walking to pickleball. Our collective craving to be in motion in the great outdoors doesn’t seem to be diminishing.

Flathead Lake Lodge is a family-owned dude ranch on the shores of its namesake lake. A range of daily activities, from horseback riding on pine-scented trails to sailing in crystal-clear waters to hilltop yoga, immerses guests in the Montana wilderness as they try pastimes old and new. It’s back-to-nature without roughing it, with delicious meals, fine wines and upscale cabins included.

Retro motor lodges

Rooms have plenty of extras at Bluebird SunapeeRooms have plenty of extras at Bluebird Sunapee — Photo courtesy of Bluebird by Lark

When travel anxiety was at its height, the limited interaction of a personal vehicle was perceived as safer, fueling a surge in road trips. Nostalgic roadside motels garnered a spotlight and continue to draw guests.

Bluebird by Lark is a collection of recently-opened roadside lodges that are designed to facilitate the great American road trip. They’ve taken existing properties and spiffed them up while keeping prices within reach of penny-pinchers. At Bluebird Sunapee in Newbury, New Hampshire, design-conscious rooms have beds with custom upholstered headboards and Pendleton blankets. An eclectic collection of records, a game room and an indoor saltwater pool enhance communal spaces.

Residential neighborhoods as a vacation base

Pedal around Cherry Creek NorthPedal around Cherry Creek North — Photo courtesy of Cherry Creek North

Once upon a time, hotels in action-packed downtowns were a magnet for tourists. But an increasing number of people working from home has added vibrancy to neighborhoods that once emptied during the workday.

Staying at a hotel in a residential part of town offers a genuine sense of local life. Just outside of downtown Denver, Cherry Creek North is a mixed-use, walkable, bike-friendly area with the city’s highest concentration of independently-owned shops, art galleries and a flavorful dining scene. Book a room at the Clayton Hotel, with Denver-inspired decor and an on-site members club, for a bona fide window into the Rocky Mountain lifestyle.

Eye candy outdoor art

Sculpture gardens are a great way to experience artSculpture gardens are a great way to experience art — Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota

When museums locked their doors, hundreds of outdoor sculpture parks continued to present an alfresco art experience in an ideal setting to practice social distancing.

At the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at Walker Art Center, art is freed from the practical constraints of a traditional museum’s four walls. Claes Oldenburg’ “Spoonbridge and Cherry” serves as the garden’s inventive centerpiece. This gigantic spoon with a cherry presents abstract proportions and whimsy. Admission is free.

Rooftop lounges

Brach hotel's rooftop has a view of the Eiffel TowerBrach hotel’s rooftop has a view of the Eiffel Tower — Photo courtesy of Evok Hotels

The pandemic nudged us to seek fresh air whenever possible. Rooftop lounges have sprung up at hotels around the globe. At upscale Brach hotel in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, the rooftop is a respite with a Scandinavian-style hot tub and breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower. Aromatic herbs grow in the garden, with freshly snipped basil and mint adding zest to cocktails and nibbles. A trio of happy hens emphasize the country-chic vibe.

Picnics are popping up

Picnic on the lawn at The Chanler at Cliff WalkPicnic on the lawn at The Chanler at Cliff Walk — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

Restaurants shifted to outdoor dining early in the pandemic. What started as necessity has sprouted a cottage industry of companies providing luxury picnics. Planning a perfect picnic isn’t easy; selecting foods that complement each other and stay fresh, plus creating floral centerpieces that are sturdy yet pretty, is practically an art form.

Hotels across the country are getting into the act. At The Chanler at Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, guests may order a picnic served on a lawn with an ocean view. You’ll dine on artisanal sandwiches and luscious desserts, complete with plush pillows.

Long-term vacation rentals suit digital nomads

Palm Springs is popular with digital nomadsPalm Springs is popular with digital nomads — Photo courtesy of Airbnb

A boom of workers with flexible employment arrangements has pushed demand for long-term vacation rentals. High-speed internet allows remote or hybrid workers the chance to get the job done from anywhere. Listings on sites such as Airbnb offer privacy, space and the comforts of home.

In California, desert oasis Palm Springs is one of Airbnb’s top extended-stay nesting spots. It’s on the map of stargazers, fans of mid-century modern architecture and the LGBTQ+ community. A range of fabulous rental properties draws digital nomads like bees to honey.

Upgraded airline seats

La Compagnie offers personal space and upscale serviceLa Compagnie offers personal space and upscale service — Photo courtesy of La Compagnie

Those flying during the pandemic were more likely to splurge on seats in premium cabins in an attempt to facilitate in-air social distancing. Perks like amenity kits and upgraded meals were welcome additions to roomier seats.

Airline passengers continue to pay for upgrades. At La Compagnie, a French carrier that flies from the U.S. to Paris, Nice and Milan, each plane has only 76 seats that go fully flat, providing passengers with personal space in addition to Wi-Fi, Champagne, a mediation channel and gourmet meals. Ticket prices are approximately 50% lower than major carrier’s business fares, for a more affordable luxury travel experience.

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