Illinois Tourism & Travel

Crazy About Travel

Travel experts: CT residents are visting family and taking ‘splurge’ vacations

Even though the Omicron variant has reared its ugly head, most travel experts believe that vacation planning will be strong through the holidays, following a trend that’s been happening since summer when vaccines were distributed and people felt safer leaving their homes and cities again.
Ryan Tenny, senior manager of customer experience & terminal services at Bradley International Airport, noted that after the initial impact of the pandemic, overall passenger traffic has steadily increased and continues to close the gap on reaching pre-pandemic passenger traffic levels.
“In recent weeks, our passenger traffic remains down approximately 15 percent in comparison to pre-pandemic levels, but has more than doubled since this same period last year,” he said. “Also interesting is the slight shift in the type of passenger as we have seen an increase in leisure travelers and a decrease in business travel.”
The entire aviation industry — airports, airlines, and aviation business partners — have embraced a new travel environment to ensure the safety of the traveling public, Tenny added.
“Specifically at Bradley, we have a comprehensive safety program in place, and we have added several new nonstop destinations to our route network thus making it even easier to reach popular destinations,” he said.

Tweed International Airport in New Haven recently added a whole new airline, Avelo, with flights to Florida destinations.
Fran Mayko, public affairs officer at AAA Northeast, which covers Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven Counties with 500,000 people in Connecticut among its 6 million members in the region, shared that travel bookings for the end of 2021 are exceeding 2019 sales, which was a record year.

A flight from Bradley Airport to Chicago in May, on what a flight attendant said was one of the most crowded flights in two months.

A flight from Bradley Airport to Chicago in May, on what a flight attendant said was one of the most crowded flights in two months.

Joe Amarante / Hearst Connecticut Media /

Just last month, AAA reported the volume of Thanksgiving travel — considered a huge travel holiday in this country — was 5 percent shy of 2019, and that provides an important barometer because it sets the stage for the rest of the year and the first quarter of the new year.
“Travelers appear to have greater confidence because the vaccines and boosters are readily available; many people have been inoculated, and many international borders are reopening,” Mayko said. “Despite the pandemic, staffing shortages, and the new Omicrom [varient], people who travel now will find hotels and restaurants at many destinations are not as busy as they normally would be. That means less people, less waits, more room availability, more excursions, more incentives such as hotel room upgrades and extended stays.”
Nancy Yale, manager of Cruise and World Travel in Fairfield, is happy that travel is heading in a positive direction, with lots of last-minute tickets being sold for the holidays and already strong interest in February and April when students are off from school.
“Places are still less crowded than they were pre-pandemic, and pricing has held, so there are few bargains as people start to enjoy a little travel freedom,” she said. “Everyone has had cabin fever for so long. Being vaccinated has given travelers a more comfortable feeling when traveling.”
Allison Umbricht, owner of Fairfield’s Trips of a Lifetime, noted the travel trend she’s seeing most involves family.
“Family reunions are really popular since families have gone long periods without seeing each other,” she said. “Also ‘splurge’ travel is on the increase. Travelers haven’t taken trips in a while so they are willing to spend more money to have a great experience. People are tired of being stuck at home and want to get back to traveling.”

The entire travel process has reinvented itself to make people more comfortable. Airlines, hotels and restaurants have gone above and beyond routine safety protocols to woo back customers.
“There are new air infiltration systems in planes and strict cleaning protocols in hotels and restaurants,” Mayko said. “As people generally read about these new standards, they become less threatened by the pandemic.”
Since all luxury cruise ships now require everyone onboard to be vaccinated and tested prior to embarking, they have been selling well, and river cruises have been popular as well since they are small and require vaccinations.
“Many ask about what happens if they can’t come home if they are away and test positive for the virus,” Yale said. “There is a new type of insurance/membership that is available to purchase where if you test positive prior to returning home, a medical jet picks you up and takes you home without the need to quarantine.”
Connecticut residents are traveling all over, with Yale noting U.S. ski destinations have been popular this winter, while the Caribbean, Hawaii and Italy are all top places people are visiting. Another is East Africa, since she explained safaris are very safe, as the game drives are in open vehicles, all meals are eaten outdoors and are in individual accommodation fancy tents or bungalows.
The top destinations for passengers departing from Bradley this year have all been in the Florida market, with its non-stop routes to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach.
AAA Northeast travel bookings show people gravitating to warm-weather destinations, as well as the outdoors. That’s why Florida, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona and National Parks have topped the list in 2021.      
If you’re traveling out of the country, be aware that the U.S. now requires all travelers entering back to present a negative COVID test within one day of traveling. This applies to vaccinated travelers and all U.S. citizens as well.