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Bubbling Up

A new travel trend is taking hold, and it's flexible, affordable and fun.

Bubble Tours

Hiking the ancient Lycian Way, Turkey.

(Photo: Kenan Olgun / Getty images)

Perhaps you’ve seen the term “bubble tours” floated around while dreaming of future vacations. If you’re scratching your head, wondering what that means – traveling IN a bubble? Sleeping IN a bubble? That bubble boy episode from “Seinfeld”? – take heart. You’re not alone.

With health concerns front and center on travelers’ minds, travel providers have been pivoting and tweaking itineraries, eager to give travelers peace of mind while satiating their wanderlust. In doing so, private “bubble” tours have become the hot new travel trend, where people can travel in safe – and small – bubbles of friends and family members they know and trust.

“We’re seeing an incredible shift,” said Allison Villasenor, managing director of product and innovation for travel at AAA Northeast. “Many travelers think they just have to pick a vacation off-the-shelf. But your group can really pick and choose your experiences, hotel styles, create an experience that’s true to your wants and needs, and it’s affordable. That’s the golden ticket here.”

Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, please see official websites before visiting to check for restrictions or closures.

Bubble Tours

Cooking takoyaki in Japan.

(Photo:Calvin Chan Wai Meng / getty images)

Spilling the Bubble Tea

Many suppliers, including Adventures by Disney, Trafalgar and In-trepid Travel, have started offering bubble tours. While AAA Northeast has offered private tours through its Club Adventures small group provider, it recently joined forces with Intrepid Travel to offer bubble tours in locations all over the globe.

“We can now offer the big wide world in a whole new way,” said Villasenor.

With just a group of six, travelers can choose from 1,000 itineraries worldwide. New this year are trips to Greenland, polar cruises to Antarctica, and curated tours tailored to families and younger travelers, nature lovers, foodies and history buffs.

A family with teenagers might enjoy the Costa Rica family holiday, where you’ll spend days exploring volcanoes, spying monkeys in a beachside jungle and whitewater rafting. Food-lovers can explore tours suited to their palates, like making octopus-filled takoyaki on a real food tour of Japan or savoring the fresh seafood dishes of Peru.

Bubble Tours

A carriage ride through Colonial Williamsburg.

(Photo:L. Toshio Kishiyama / getty images)

Active travelers can explore Turkey by hiking, biking and kayaking through Istanbul, while history buffs can discover Colonial Williamsburg, Va., via horse-drawn carriages.

People may equate private travel with a lofty price tag, but Villasenor says that isn’t the case.

“You might think, ‘Wow, eight of us going to Paris and Amsterdam? That’s for the Kardashians, not for us,’” she said, but increased demands have made bubble tours a cost-friendly and easy way to travel.

Check out the new Bubble Tour offering from Club Adventures and plan your adventure today at ClubAdventures.com.

“I am definitely seeing more interest in booking tours that are private or traveling in a bubble with family groups. Most of the interest seems to be staying in the United States. We have some great itineraries in our Club Adventures American Experiences tours, where travelers can move in their own bubble with accommodations, car rentals and some optional tours that can be pre-booked.” — Judy Cedrone, a AAA Northeast travel advisor who works in the Franklin, Mass., branch.

Bubble Tours

A Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica.

(Photo:Ana Encinas / Getty images)

Bursting the Wanderlust Bubble

After 2020, folks are ready to travel – or at least ready to start planning their next trip.

Half of American travelers polled in a recent Destination Analysts study said they are excited about travel in the near term.

  • 55% are in a ready-to-travel state of mind.

Travelers are willing to continue trying different styles of travel in 2021.

  • 58% are willing to travel with a bubble of friends or family.
  • 58% are open to renting a private home or villa.
  • 45% are willing to visit a place for more than two weeks.

– According to Strategic Vision’s 2021 Pulse of the Industry survey.

“Who won 2020? Anyone in the business of creating ‘private’ vacation experiences.” — Peter J. Bates, president of Strategic Vision

Discover even more travel-related content at AAA.com/Travel.

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