“This is a movement that’s not going away,” said Ira Bloom, President of ÀNI Private Resorts, riffing on the pandemic-prompted popularity of private travel, which Travel Weekly called “one of the travel bright spots” of the global ordeal. Now a hot ticket for those who can afford exclusivity in transportation and accommodation, but with options also available for travelers on a budget, the private travel trend has legs.
And wings. Private aviation soared during 2020, as steady and new customers alike tapped the industry as a utility instead of a luxury, the better to avoid crowded airports and the hundreds of touchpoints of flying commercial. Inspired by unprecedented demand last year and buoyed by the European Union’s plans to open air traffic to vaccinated U.S.-based travelers this summer, Sentient Jet recently launched an international expansion with a new Transatlantic Program offering fixed one-way rates with guaranteed availability to Europe, and then continued the expansion with guaranteed hourly pricing to destinations worldwide, with more accessibility at a competitive, fixed international rate.
Back at sea level, the first major cruise ship open to North Americans embarked on a 7-day cruise in the Caribbean on June 6, but there are many options for private cruising on smaller vessels. The enduring charter outfit The Moorings, for instance, offers an award-winning fleet of more than 400 yachts in over 20 destinations around the world, with options from self-skippering to crewed vessels for private clientele from 2 to 13 passengers. In the Galapagos Islands, the luxury yacht Integrity from leading tour operator INCA offers an Exclusive Use option granting private use of the full yacht for groups of 4 to 10 travelers to safely share adventures. The yacht offers four decades of cruising expertise and highly educated and passionate naturalist guides, with multi-day itineraries to discover the natural wonders and biodiversity that inspired Charles Darwin.
Travelers whose favorite part of boating is pulling up to the dock might consider a private island getaway. Opened in December off the coast of St. John and promptly honored with a 2021 Departures Legend Award, Lovango Resort + Beach Club from Little Gem Resorts is the first new-build resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands in years. Accessible only by watercraft, it’s powered by renewable energy, and offers hiking trails, sandy beaches, and access to the only resort-based private beach club in USVI, as well as a luxurious 5,400-square-foot, three-bedroom villa with patios, private pool, and ocean views.
In efforts to drum up business during the pandemic downturn, many hotels and resorts put together buyout packages offering opportunity for guests to have entire properties to themselves. “Buyouts were very ‘of the moment’ even before COVID,” noted a luxury travel specialist in this piece in the New York Times late last year. “But now even more so, because you can go with friends or an intergenerational group and still feel safe.”
ÀNI Private Resorts, another 2021 Departures Legend Award winner, has made buyouts its business model, with four resorts surrounded by glorious natural settings in Anguilla, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and Thailand designed and programmed to host families and groups of friends for indulgent, memory-making getaways. ÀNI’s new celebration package, created in partnership with Private Jet Services and priced at $170,000, offers travel pods round-trip flights on a private jet, a 7-night stay for up to 12 guests, and exclusive use of ÀNI Anguilla or ÀNI Dominican Republic, with a fully private and staffed resort, daily spa treatments, bespoke gourmet menus and stocked premium-liquor bar. Clientele will also be gifted an intimate beach party with DJ or local live band, a case of chilled vintage Dom Perignon champagne, a full spread of gourmet food offerings, and private fireworks display.
Among travel modes that blossomed during the pandemic were recreational vehicles – aka, RVs. “RV Rental Bookings Skyrocket Ahead of Summer Season,” trumpeted a headline in Departures last spring, noting news from RVshare that the nation’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace was seeing record numbers, including a 650% rise in rental bookings over the previous month. With over 100,000 vehicles in inventory from travel trailers to luxury motorhomes, plus a platform that makes renting safe and easy for owners and clients alike, RVshare has wheels to thrill every traveler who has dreamt of discovering America in private on the road.
Private travelers can also try a cicerone of their own. ToursByLocals works with more than 4,600 guides to offer unique and personalized experiences in over 194 countries, with every tour private and customizable according to the whims and desires of guests. A recent, random glance at offerings in Warsaw, Poland, for instance, found 121 available tours, from a half-day “Warsaw for Early Birds” walking tour to a daylong “Warsaw & Łódz Historical Tour”. With more than 1.5 million travelers served since 2008, ToursByLocals has a guide for every traveler, wherever they’re headed.