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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips.

What a year, what a year. It seem almost every facet of life (including the simple act of purchasing toilet paper) was disrupted in 2020, and travel was no exception. But in a year of radical change, we’ve learned quite a bit about what we value, what we miss most and what the future of travel might look like. Here are some lessons we learned this year that could make travel in 2021 better than ever.

RELATED: 8 essential tips for your National Parks trip

Some social distancing policies actually make for a better experience

Yeah, we sneaked in a Vegas road trip this summer and, you know what, we liked some of the safety measures put in place, including a much more relaxing pool scene thanks to capacity limits. At the Wynn, for example, we had to put our name on a wait list, but once in we were treated to a half capacity pool day that included far less noise and far more elbow room for cocktail sipping. Ditto airline changes where some carriers have gone as far as taking out the middle seat (something we know won’t last) while others switched to boarding the plane from back to front (um, duh). If the future of travel includes more elbow room, we say bring it!

Flexibility is everything

If Covid taught us anything about travel, it’s that we need to be ready for whatever life throws at us, and this is where flexible flights and hotels with free cancellation come in. CheapTickets now lets you filter hotel search results by properties offering free cancellation (note some hotels require you to cancel more than 24 hours before check-in), plus you can click a box to filter your flight results by airlines offering “no change fees” (note that policies vary by airline).

Cleanliness matters

In the “before” times, we may have been willing to spend the night in a storied old motel with a sexy neon sign beckoning us with a blinking “Vacancy” message outside. But now that we know what invisible evils lurk on floors and surfaces, we’ve become a little more careful about where we lay our heads. Fortunately, CheapTickets makes it easy to find properties adhering to higher standards of cleanliness: Just tick the “Enhanced cleaning” filter when searching hotels and rest easy.

Vacation rentals offer a respite away from the crowds

“Social distancing” became the million dollar phrase in 2020. And while rules of “six feet apart” caused many of us to stay a world apart from the trips we wanted to take, the new guidelines also helped us discover that vacation rentals offer much more than just a home away from home. Rental homes also let us explore the world without the close encounters hotels require in their shared lobbies, elevators and check-in desks. And we can keep them as clean as we want them to be; better yet, some are even great for working remotely.

You don’t have to go far from home for an incredible trip

No matter where you live, chances are there’s a lake, a winding river, an urban park, a forest preserve, a snow-capped mountain, or an ocean within reach. And chances are that in 2020 you rediscovered the splendors of the place you call home. Whether that meant booking a downtown hotel at a rock-bottom rate, wandering an alleyway covered in murals or spending a couple days at a vacation rental a mere hour away, we’ve all now realized that pandemic or not, everyone’s own backyard is a pretty special place.

The romance of the road is alive and well

Not everybody loves a road trip. For some of us, they conjure childhood memories of being crammed into the backseat with our mortal enemy (i.e. sibling) coupled with claustrophobic cries of “are we there yet.” But in a year when air travel was limited, those of who did pile into our cars discovered the open highway was our ticket to jaw-dropping scenic byways, untrampled trails carved within precious National Parks, kitschy roadside diners with al fresco dining and, let’s be real, a freedom we didn’t think possible in 2020. Here’s to more road trips in 2021 and—hopefully—cheap gas prices! Not sure where to go? Find some inspiring road trip ideas here.

Traveling virtually can be unexpectedly exciting and real

Many of us experienced virtual travel for the first time this year, since we didn’t have much chance at the real thing. Between museum tours, international cooking classes, city excursions and even theme park rides, it seems there wasn’t an immersive experience you couldn’t have on-screen. Even major events like concerts and comedy shows went virtual, and we love them all for keeping us entertained while at home. You can check out some of the past year’s major highlights here.

Tagged: Cheap Tips, COVID-19, Flights, Tips & advice

Note: CheapTickets compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Jason Heidemann and Martina Sheehan

Jason Heidemann and Martina Sheehan

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