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2022 US Vacation Rental Trends According to Vrbo

2022 US VACATION RENTAL TRENDS VRBO

Today’s travelers, vacationers, property owners, and prospective real estate investors find themselves in a churning sea of travel restrictions, unanswered questions, rapidly changing economies, and burgeoning markets.

Vrbo has recently put out its annual report for 2022, wherein we’ve found plenty of valuable insights through emerging trends.

The Vrbo Trend Report is an annual report that summarizes survey answers from 1,000 American families. The survey poses questions to ascertain the current travel demands for 12 months. The one-year end date for this 2022 report was October 14, 2021.

If you’re eager to explore further how travel behavior is shifting or learn about new exciting vacation possibilities, you can start with an overview of trend categories:

  • Destination and Lodging Trends: Which destinations people are visiting more, and what kind of lodgings are growing in popularity  
  • Family Trends: How the family vacation is changing and who’s getting invited  
  • Booking Trends: What’s new with booking that can help you book more intelligently    
  • Work-Play Trends: How this age-old battle is changing for the better or worse

Destination and Lodging Trends

Starting with Vrbo’s first categories, “Up-and-Coming Destinations” and “Chalet All Day,” we look at what areas of the country are hotspots for vacationers and why.

Destination Trends

Cincinnati, Ohio, Yorktown, Virginia, Niagara Falls, New York, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Matanuska-Susitna, Alaska are all identified as the trendiest kids in the US during 2021. The demand for vacation rentals in Ohio, New York, and Alaska tend to double each year. 

There are a few reasons cited as to why this is happening, but first, let’s point out that none of these (except Cincinnati) are considered urban areas. However, each is within relatively close driving distance of major urban centers. Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville are pointed as the big cities nearest to these destinations.

Cincinnati

While it does qualify as a major metropolitan area, Cincinnati is pointed out for brilliantly blending outdoor recreation options with tourist attractions throughout the city. The result is  “nearly 125%” increase in demand.

Niagara Falls

Looking more closely at each destination, we can see that the report suggests that Niagara Falls’ increase in popular demand results from a desire to enjoy the great outdoors, as well as an inability to cross the border into Canada.

The state of travel when crossing borders, affects travel trends. Border crossing, which we all know all too well from news sources, has become a far more complex, restrictive, and for many, stressful activity. Combined with the aforementioned desire to unplug that so many families share, we can better understand why Niagara continues to rise as a popular vacation spot.

Yorktown

Yorktown, Virginia, may come as a more surprising emerging destination trend. However, this town has been a popular spot for a long time. Yorktown has always attracted history buffs to its reenactments of the last battle of the Revolutionary War.

In addition, the Old Dominion (state nickname) hosts many outdoor recreational activities for families looking to unplug and get outside for fresh air and beautiful scenery.

Matanuska-Susitna

Next on the list is Matanuska-Susitna, Alaska, which, again, appeals to those venturing out into nature. Matanuska-Susitna’s claim to fame is owed to the nearby Denali National Park and Preserve.

In terms of current and future destination trends, we can attribute these veterans and rising stars to the pervasive need to unplug and enjoy the great wide open.

Benefits of Unplugging

In today’s technologically advanced world of smartphones, tablets, blue screens, and video conferences, there emerges a new demand: the need to unplug.

While it may seem unrelated to the findings of this report at first glance, it’s crucial to realize that trends in travel refer to trends in behavior. Human behavior, it can be said, sets the trends that we can see from a macro level.

To better understand the benefits of unplugging, we can look to what problems staying plugged in causes.

Sitting in front of a screen for long hours means things like less movement, less sunshine, less focus on your health and immediate surroundings.

Regardless of where you stand on the concept of health and well-being, the “need to unplug,” is a driving force of trending travel behavior.

Stepping outside, breathing fresh air, raising your heart rate through outdoor activities, and spending time away from your devices not only is enjoyable but it helps to give us a change of scenery and a much-needed break.

Those that prioritize unplugging on a weekly and daily basis often experience greater productivity and work satisfaction.

Lodging Trends

As for trends in popular lodgings, Vrbo has recognized the increase in demand for chalets enough to coin the phrase “Chalet All Day.” According to the report, the lodging category has seen an almost 85% increase in demand each year.

These large luxurious properties are designed to present residents with breathtaking views of the surrounding lakes, forests, and other scenery to create a rustic and peaceful experience.

With more people working from home than ever before as well as the possibility of having to quarantine, it’s not surprising that people are investing more into the quality of their lodgings.

Next, in this analysis of Vrbo’s trend report, we turn our attention to not where families are settling but to the trends emerging within the families’ demands.

Benefits of Luxury Lodgings

Here we continue to follow why these behavioral trends are emerging.

Considering the possible benefits of “unplugging,” we can begin to understand the benefits of choosing a rental property that hosts high-demand amenities and an overall luxury experience.

Working while on vacation, quarantining during vacation, and hiding from the cold while on vacation, all means staying inside. A space wherein you don’t feel comfortable and relaxed does not feel like a vacation at all.

The benefits of luxury lodgings like chalets are multiplied by the amount of time spent within said lodgings.

A peaceful space means work-time is handled more efficiently and cuts into quality family-time less.

Desirable amenities, such as jacuzzis that overlook sunrise and sunset, can be considered vacation experiences within themselves. That means less time and money spent preparing for hiking, skiing excursions, or other high-maintenance outdoor activities.

The most prominent benefit of a luxury lodging is that it offers comfort. De-stressing, decompressing, resting, and relaxing are synonymous with vacationing. Part of the fun is just taking it easy.

After all, once it’s over, we have to get back to the stress that comes with the everyday hustle and bustle.

Family Trends

We can break this section into two distinct categories of trends that Vrbo has designated within their report: kids and pets.

Kids Call the Shots

Destinations are not decided upon, first and foremost, by their surroundings, amenities, or quality. Instead, it starts with what the family is looking for, pining for, and what it prioritizes.

The report mentions the struggles associated with the modern-day home doubling as a school for the kids, office for the parents, and gym or studio all in one. These can be attributed to travel restrictions and, more precisely, to the pervasive lockdown and quarantining that’s been taking place since 2020.

All that can be equated to more time stuck inside with the kids. And when it comes to vacations, if the kids aren’t happy, no one is.

Vrbo reports that many families allow their children to determine the vacation destination. The kids aren’t expected to spend all of their time with family either, with 1 in 3 families inviting friends to tag along. 

The importance of family vacations cannot be understated as more parents pin a high value on these trips. Over 40% of parents pull their kids out of school to take breaks. Additionally, over 60% support disconnecting from devices while on vacation.

While quality time is mentioned as a growing priority, we can take note of the repeated desire to “unplug” from daily life.

Without fun engaging activities like skiing, hiking, or fishing, kids become quickly bored. And the kid who doesn’t like to hike is the one who’s on his tablet. So it makes sense that parents start the conversation with what the kids like to do, what they want to see, who they want to bring along, and where they want to go.

Pets are Part of the Family

Pet prioritization is another increasing travel trend throughout the United States. The report mentions that pet ownership has increased in the past years, especially with the pandemic yielding an onslaught of adoptions. 

Dogs, in particular, require a significant amount of time and attention. Therefore, work-from-home situations make housing a dog more manageable and more enjoyable.

Vrbo’s report indicates that pet-friendly vacation rentals are rising, with an average annual increase of 40%. Of those surveyed, over 70% were pet parents. In addition, the vast majority included their pets in travel plans.

Families were cited responding to survey answers about why they want to bring their pets on vacations. The usual reasons include disliking having to leave them behind and considering them as family members.

Benefits of Family Vacations

Whether they include the family dog or school buddies, family vacations are meant to create memorable experiences that bring families together.

It’s not all about fun and selfies, though.

Family vacations are bonding opportunities. Exciting memories are made, and between white water rafting and zip-lining, parents and children can spend intimate quality time together.

As mentioned in the sections above, the family includes Fido. But, especially for kids, the pet dog is more than just an animal to play with.

Sometimes it’s not about the most expensive or exciting activity scheduled for the family vacation that turns out to be the most memorable.

Moments worth remembering happen of their own accord, and these are the memories that bring families together.

Family vacations can further unite the family unit by offering opportunities for quality time, making memories, and being in a communal mindset.

Booking Trends

Delving into changes in destinations and lodgings allows us a bird’s-eye-view of travel trends in America. New vacation priorities and practices based on a shift in family dynamics bring us a step deeper to the source of what’s driving trends. However, at this stage, we can pivot to view things from a different angle: booking trends.

Planning Ahead

Planning vacations, which includes booking lodgings and travel, well in advance, is nothing new. However, with more people working from home and more travel happening year-round, availability has become more uncertain.

Reserving a beach house in the Outer Banks during Spring Break is still going to require forethought as well as a higher price, but now vacationers and travelers have to accept that the off-season isn’t an off-season for everyone.

Vrbo reports that guests are vacationing more frequently and for longer periods. As a result, many Vrbo hosts rely on their second homes for personal vacations.

Simply put, people are booking lodgings further in advance. “On average-2-3 months earlier than usual.” This includes the regular travel seasons like summer vacation or during the winter months surrounding Christmas for popular snowbird destinations.

Additionally, Vrbo’s survey reported that more than half of people surveyed intend to book travel plans sooner than they did before 2020.

The forces behind this new trend seem apparent. As long as travel restrictions and business closures are in a state of flux and can happen suddenly and without warning, it only makes sense that families will adapt by planning further ahead.

Benefits of Early Vacation Planning

The benefits of planning are well-known to those who had invested in the idea long before travel restrictions and travel trends started radically changing across the United States.

In short, planning ahead means allowing yourself to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

In terms of vacation, early planning means that you position yourself and your family to seize the best lodgings, the best prices, longer stays, and overall have access to more vacation opportunities.

Waiting until the moment you’re household is screaming for a trip out of dodge is one way to handle things. However, you’re likely to find yourself at the mercy of what’s available and what your current budget is.

Conversely, regular visits to Vrbo’s website to keep a finger on the pulse of popular travel will allow you to potentially visit exciting locales with beautiful lodgings at great prices.

Work-Play Trends

Concluding our emerging trends with work and play seems appropriate as it is the most impactful fundamental change to daily life that families across the country are experiencing.

The “Flexcation”

Vrbo has named a secondary trend of combining work with vacation as the “flexcation.”

It’s expected that the flexcation isn’t going anywhere as over 40% of families plan to work remotely, even from vacation spots. 

Following this, more extended stays are gaining popularity, with the report citing a 68% increase in three to four-week stays.

If you have your home rented out and are enjoying a grand view from the vantage point of the chalet you’re working in, then why go through the hassle of packing up so soon?

School breaks and company-wide holidays have waned in popularity due to the simple fact that these no longer offer the windows of opportunity to get away that they did before.

Paid Time Off, Seasons, and Holidays

Under prioritizing Paid Time Off (PTO), the report states that 77% of families appreciate the opportunity to separate their personal lives from the professional world, which again alludes to the need to unplug and make memories.

Also, in the survey, 84% appreciate the need for vacation time more than ever. More importantly, 91% reported a greater appreciation for experiencing quality family time.

Here we see more than a trend in vacation preferences. We’re seeing a pearl of wisdom and appreciation for the family emerge.

The blurred line of work and play that comes with a shared space for both is now being better delineated in other ways, like avoiding their work email’s inbox while on vacation.

We can expect the work-from-home lifestyle and the desire to regularly unplug to continue to shape fascinating trends in many industries that extend far beyond vacation rental platforms.

In addition, as business and travel restrictions change and evolve, the availability of certain recreational activities, like mountain bike rentals, will change while others, such as hiking, remain relatively unaffected. These changes or lack thereof will not only decide where families choose to play on their vacation, but which states and cities mom and dad choose to work from.

Benefits of Dividing Work and Play

The benefits of having a healthy and clear division between work and play include:

  • Higher productivity when working
  • Higher work satisfaction
  • More long term professional growth and success due to higher enjoyment of one’s job
  • More satisfactory home life
  • More engaging social life
  • A more functional family life

Dividing work-life from regular daily life has been a struggle that’s been around for a long time. That said, there are benefits to be gained by taking an active approach to the division.

Today’s travel trends make it so families and professionals are facing new challenges within this age-old struggle.

Dividing work and play means more productive time spent working because the individual is more energized, more focused, less distracted, and able to feel like they are doing a job rather than something in between working and playing.

On the other hand, working hard means that when it’s time to clock out, professionals can safely change gears and adopt a mindset more conducive to relaxing and having a good time.

The Bottom Line

Vacationers, travelers, real estate investors, and homeowners will undoubtedly find value in observing these emerging trends. Moreso, are the benefits of understanding the underlying factors responsible for fueling the shifts in behavior.

This article’s opinion is that these trends reflect a combination of two key observations. That which was already trending as popular has coincided with all the daily life changes that emerged early in 2020 and persisted today.

For example, the digital nomad lifestyle was already on the rise, and when work-from-home orders began to be issued to office workers across the country, it’s no wonder that so many people discovered that their place of work could be anywhere with an internet connection.

Maybe it’s time to rent out that property in the farmland of Ohio, gather the entire family, and book a month-long staycation in Alaska. At the same time, you work from home and explore Denali National Park and Preserve in between office hours.

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Rental Scale-Up

Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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