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Travel as a Tool for Celebration

Contributed By Kayla Douglas

A deep exhale of anticipatory relief matched our pulling back from the gate: another birthday trip was unfolding with takeoff.

Looking back to the onset of summer 2021, the daily average for travelers passing through airport security has hovered over two million passengers per day across the U.S., whereas 2020 figures over the same period averaged just 645,174 passengers per day.

But the airport felt markedly different than it had during this same weekend last year when our annual celebratory summer vacation happened to also be the first time boarding a plane after our pandemic pause at home. The vast majority of the SmartFlyer team has been traveling since last summer to test the waters on behalf of clients, but in recent months, things have certainly heated up–there’s no denying that travel is back with a vengeance. But in case you need convincing, the TSA checkpoint numbers tell the story for us. On July 18th, TSA screened 2,227,704 passengers through airport security checkpoints, marking the highest checkpoint volume since the beginning of the pandemic. Looking back to the onset of summer 2021, the daily average for travelers passing through airport security has hovered over two million passengers per day across the U.S., whereas 2020 figures over the same period averaged just 645,174 passengers per day.

Naturally, the question that comes to mind for anyone tracking travel trends becomes, “Where exactly is everyone going?” To get a clearer picture, we checked in with our robust community of travel advisors who are both planning unforgettable trips for their clients and taking long-awaited adventures with their own loved ones. Turns out, these trips are resulting in #smartflyertakemeto moments across the globe in dynamic locations like Hawaiʻi, the Bahamas, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Montana, Tennessee, Arizona, the Côte d’Azur, Paris, Stockholm, Lisbon, Madrid, Ibiza, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Guanacaste, and Cabo…just to name a few.

Trading in Textbooks for Plane Tickets

Ft. Lauderdale-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Kristina Miller was able to make some graduation dreams come true, “I have clients about to leave on a postponed graduation trip for their son to Italy. He graduated in 2020 and their trip was postponed to this year. At the beginning of August, they will finally get to go on their celebratory adventure that has been in planning for over two years now! It was super exciting to help his parents plan to surprise him with a special private tour of the newly-opened floor of the Colosseum which will let visitors see the ancient amphitheater from a gladiator’s vantage point for the first time in two centuries.”

…because she’d been so busy for so long, the special part of the trip was making sure that everything was taken care of for her.

New Orleans-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Amina Dearmon weighed in on her recent celebratory travel planning experience sharing, “I just worked with a client on a solo trip to Maui to celebrate the end of her medical school chapter before she moved to begins her residency. She really wanted to celebrate all her hard work and knew that it would be more complicated to get away once she started residency–her goal was to treat herself, so she did all kinds of activities on The Valley Isle including a helicopter tour, private surf lesson, snorkeling, hiking and spa days. Because she’d been so busy for so long, the special part of the trip was making sure that everything was taken care of for her–right down to dinner reservations and shopping recommendations so that she could just show up and enjoy!”

Bring out the Birthday Candles

Tampa-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Jessica Horrell weighted in, “I’m leaving this week with my husband, daughter and parents for our annual summer trip to Sweden! We will be celebrating my daughter’s fourth birthday, my husband’s birthday, and our 6th wedding anniversary during this trip. We celebrated my daughter’s first and second birthday in Sweden but missed her third Swedish birthday due to COVID-19, so we are so excited to get back to our tradition this year!”

This trip will feel even sweeter due to the pandemic, but celebration travel has always been our go-to gift.

Washington D.C.-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Beth Washingon is sharing her love for celebratory travel with her family and clients alike, “My husband and I prefer the gift of travel for milestone birthdays, and we also love to travel with friends. For Charles’ 40th next year, we’ve chartered a catamaran in the Caribbean with a few other couples. This trip will feel even sweeter due to the pandemic, but celebration travel has always been our go-to gift. On the client-side, I had a mother-daughter trip to France booked for June 2020, then rescheduled to June 2021, then when it became clear they’d have to reschedule again, they decided to make it a bigger celebration trip for 2022 milestone birthdays, now making it a longer trip and bringing their spouses and families too!”

New Jersey-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Abby Kastin adds, “I just got back from Rosewood Baha Mar with a group of thirteen friends to celebrate a close friend’s fiftieth birthday. We called it ‘Dara’s Birthday Take Two’ as it was rescheduled from 2020. Our partners at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts were sure to honor SmartFlyer’s Elite benefits (think: daily breakfast, upgrades, a personalized welcome amenity and so much more).

Traditional Anniversary Gifts? How about a Trip Instead

New York City-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Susan Andrzejewski divulged, “For our 30th wedding anniversary, my family is heading to Greece in September. It’s a trip that has been planned and canceled a few times for various reasons–including the infamous global one of 2020–but we are finally making it happen! Maybe it was meant to be because we find the combination of mountains and ocean so romantic and felt this was the right destination for our celebratory trip. At the same time, it’s impossible for me to travel without thinking about my clients. I am always searching for new destinations and hidden gems and this trip is no different; I am excited to check out Folegrandos. This island has been on my radar for a while as it is still authentically Greek and has very little tourism. Since it is so close to Santorini, I think it could be a great combination for my clients and my family is happily going to help me explore. I can’t wait to report back!”

Dallas-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Michelle Gordon reports, “On my end, I’ve seen an increase in couples wanting to travel with other couples, friends, and extended family. I’m currently finalizing a postponed 50th wedding anniversary for a set of grandparents–it’s finally happening next month in Montana at The Ranch at Paws Up with the special couple, their kids, and grandkids! I also have a couple heading to Blackberry Mountain next month for their 45th wedding anniversary.”

The goal of the celebration was to just be and experience the hotel and the area–we ate a lot of delicious French food, went to some fun little towns, and really soaked up the essence of the Côte d’Azur.

Fellow Dallas-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Courtney Beaver adds, “My husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary this July. We went to the Maldives for our honeymoon and wanted to do another bucket list trip we probably wouldn’t do again; however, we have two littles that keep us being gone for too long. As things started to look promising for Europe opening in the summer, I started to think about something special we could do. Typically, summer months at Hotel du Cap Eden Roc are booked up way in advance, but due to COVID, they miraculously had space for us. So, I put a room on hold and waited to see if France would open–the stars aligned, the borders opened, and we had our bucket list trip to Antibes! The goal of the celebration was to just be and experience the hotel and the area–we ate a lot of delicious French food, went to some fun little towns, and really soaked up the essence of the Côte d’Azur.”

Los Angeles-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Lauren Tulp Cichocki echoed these Francophile sentiments, sharing, “This year, my husband Dan and I are headed to the Côte d’Azur to celebrate our five-year anniversary! We had been planning to go last summer as our first big trip without our baby, but obviously, plans got derailed. We’ll stay at Lily of the Valley and Terre Blanche ending with two nights at the iconic Hotel du Cap which has been on my bucket list since…forever; it will be worth the wait!”

Make your Something Blue your Passport

Louisville-based Taylor Cremo–who works side-by-side with Erin Trager-Kusman–shares, “In November, my immediate family and my partner’s immediate family are staying together in the middle of the deserts of Mexico at a private home, Casa Adela, secured through one of our trusted partners. We’ll all spend four nights gathered there for our wedding! It’ll be the first time our family’s meet…it’s long time coming due to the pandemic! I’m looking forward to seeing how a Ukrainian and Italian mother come together in the kitchen.”

Atlanta-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Keri Kaufmann weighs in, “I just had clients depart for their twice-rescheduled honeymoon to Costa Rica. I personally reached out to every hotel to make sure they were aware my clients are celebrating their honeymoon…almost a year and a half later! I can’t wait to follow along on their long-awaited celebration.”

Minimoons, Babymoons…All. Of. The. Moons.

Atlanta-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Alison White has continued to be creative in helping her clients celebrate their recent wedding. She divulges, “I’m working on a client’s twice rescheduled honeymoon to Portugal! We’ve planned a little domestic mini-moon to tide them over until the big trip, but they’re beyond excited to finally get to take their long-planned honeymoon.”

Knoxville-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Alexandra Stockton shares, “I’ve had several clients celebrating delayed babymoons since they weren’t able to go last year. I have even had honeymoon and babymoon combos as a result of delayed honeymoons coinciding with pandemic pregnancies. I’ve had many versions of this trend in recent months, but my latest clients split their time in Greece between Santa Marina in Mykonos and Canaves Oia Suites in Santorini!”

Grab Your Bestie

Atlanta-based SmartFlyer travel advisor Monica Masila, “I’m doing what I’ve termed a ‘self-care summer sizzle’ with my childhood bestie! We are in Arizona ‘sizzling’ our way through desert hiking, spa and pool time. She lives in Florida and me in Georgia, so we hadn’t seen each other for two years due to COVID. To celebrate our reunion, we even got matching hats, sunnies, bags, t-shirts, and tumblers! While I’m in Arizona, I’m checking out some properties too, because the Scottsdale and Sedona combo has been super popular amongst my clients lately.”

As for me, I’ll be reuniting with my dear friend and SmartFlyer travel advisor Daniela Ratner as she finishes up an Italy trip as I come off a week in Madrid in Mallorca with my mom and sister. We’ll synch up in Palma to see newcomer Can Bordoy before continuing on to site properties across this sought-after Balearic Island including timeless favorites like Belmond La Residencia. On my birthday (this is the theme, after all!), we’ll depart for Marbella to check out Finca Cortesin, Marbella Club, and Puente Romano.

With all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that searches to “find a travel advisor” are up over 50% since January according to Virtuoso. According to a recent survey conducted by IPX 1031, Americans are feeling more optimistic about traveling this year. In January, 48% said they were optimistic about traveling in 2021. In June, that percentage rose to 85%. Along with an increase in travel optimism, IPX 1031’s recent survey also shows an increase in Americans making travel plans this year. According to respondents, 75% plan to travel this year, up from 58% in January. Are you one of the three out of four people considering a trip? There’s no better time to start planning than the present.

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