No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023

Post originally Published December 29, 2023 || Last Updated December 30, 2023

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No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023

One of the most dreaded aspects of travel these days is the barrage of extra fees for everything under the sun. From checked bags to seat assignments, it seems the airlines will find any excuse to nickel and dime travelers. The sad truth is that while airfare prices have decreased over the last decade, the airlines have more than made up the difference by aggressively unbundling services that used to be included.
According to a study by IdeaWorks, ancillary revenue for airlines reached an astounding $92.9 billion worldwide in 2018. That's more than double the $42.6 billion airlines collected just seven years earlier in 2011. The bulk of these fees come from add-ons that inflate the final price - extras like checked baggage, premium seat assignments, onboard food and drinks, and travel insurance or trip protection.

As Torsten Jacobi wrote after getting slapped with a $25 fee to print his boarding pass at an airport kiosk, "Where does it end? The airlines act like the fees are normal but if you're not prepared it can ruin your travel budget."

Frequent flyer Sherry B. recalls her family of five taking a cross-country trip and being charged over $500 roundtrip in baggage fees alone. "We felt nickeled and dimed the whole time," she said. "It really left a bad taste in our mouth."

Business flyer James C. shares his frustration with the trend, saying "I used to be able to upgrade my seat the day of the flight for $50-100. Now airlines want $200-300 for the same exact thing. It's price gouging, plain and simple."

While ancillary fees account for only 10-15% of total revenue at most full-service airlines, they represent a much heftier 25-30% at ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit and Frontier. That's why it's extra important to read the fine print before booking basic economy fares on these bare bones airlines.

What else is in this post?

  1. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Extra Fees for Everything
  2. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Overcrowded Destinations
  3. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Influencer Takeovers
  4. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - FOMO-Inducing Social Media
  5. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Overtourism
  6. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Cookie-Cutter Hotels
  7. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Unsustainable Cruising
  8. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Airbnb Domination
  9. No Thanks! 10 Terrible Travel Trends We Hope to Leave in 2023 - Throwback Travel Videos

As the world continues to open up after the pandemic, a major downside is increasingly crowded destinations. Popular tourist sites and cities that were nearly empty in 2020-2021 are now being flooded with visitors again. While it's understandable that people have pent-up demand to travel, overtourism is back in full force.

Venice is one city that has long suffered from being loved too much. An estimated 20 million tourists descend on the Italian jewel each year, even though its population is just 50,000. Swarms of visitors clog the narrow alleys and pour off cruise ships by the thousands. "Venice is being killed by mass tourism," laments Marco Gasparinetti of the citizen's group Gruppo 25 Aprile. "It has been invaded by hordes of tourists as if they were ants."

Barcelona drew over 30 million visitors in 2019 before the pandemic, more than seven times its population. The constant crowds led activist Ada Colau to be elected mayor on a platform of controlling tourism. She has enacted measures like cracking down on unlicensed rentals and limiting cruise ships. But advocates say much more is needed to give Barcelona back to the locals.

Perhaps no site exemplifies overtourism more than Machu Picchu. More than 1.5 million people visited the iconic Inca citadel in 2018, even with limits of 2,500 daily visitors. Calls to further restrict access have faced resistance from the travel industry and local businesses. But Peru's culture minister Rogers Valencia insists Machu Picchu's sustainability is at stake: "We have to preserve for future generations."

Overtourism is not just an issue in Europe or at famous UNESCO sites. Zion National Park in Utah hosted nearly 4.5 million visitors in 2018 despite proposals to restrict total visitors to around 2.5 million. Hordes of Instagrammers clog trails and cause interminable traffic jams in nearby Springdale.

Social media influencer Danielle Davis admits even she was shocked by the crowds at Zion: "I knew it would be popular, but I started to get anxiety from feeling herded along with hundreds of other people. It just wasn't an immersive nature experience."

The age of social media has given rise to a new breed of internet celebrity - the influencer. Travel influencers sharing gorgeous photos in exotic locales can provide inspiration, but some destinations are starting to feel overrun.

Torsten Jacobi, founder of travel hacking site Mighty Travels, has seen the rise of influencer marketing firsthand. “Some influencers wield enormous clout and their endorsements can put overlooked places on the map - literally overnight,” he says. However, he notes the impact is not always positive: “A small village in Bali or beach in Mexico may become swarmed once it gets tagged as the ‘hot new’ destination.”

While visitor influxes boost local businesses initially, the crowds often trample the very charms that put a place on the influencer radar to begin with. Hidden beaches become packed, authentic restaurants turn into tourist traps, and serene villages transform into chaotic boomtowns. “The heart and soul gets drained away and soon influencers are off chasing the next undiscovered gem,” Jacobi laments, “Leaving local residents to deal with the aftermath.”

Fitness influencer Lauren Giraldo recalls when Tulum, Mexico was mostly a sleepy beach town off the tourist radar. “I went a few years ago and fell in love with its chilled out boho vibe,” she says. However, once Tulum got catapulted into influencer stardom, the crowds became unbearable. “It was impossible to find an authentic local restaurant that wasn’t overrun with loud drunk tourists or full-on influencer crews shooting.”

Jacobi understands the allure of sharing unique travel experiences with followers. However, he advocates using influence responsibly: “Posting shots in a generic resort lobby tells followers nothing. Show the culture and people that make a place special - not just the selfies and sunsets.” He also suggests being mindful of tagging specific businesses: “Spreading the love helps prevent any one spot from getting mobbed.”

The dark side of social media is how it cultivates FOMO - the fear of missing out. Travel influencers and hashtag feeds exclusively showing perfect vacations can make us feel our mundane lives pale in comparison. Pictures of crystal blue waters and sunset dinners on white sand beaches depict an unrealistic standard for tropical bliss. We're conditioned to think we're somehow missing out if our holidays don't match the glamorous (and carefully curated) content we consume online.

This insidious FOMO effect is exactly what makes influencer marketing so powerful. Brands leverage our envy by sending free gear or opulent press trips to influencers, who then make their followers crave similar experiences. The genius is that influencers appear as "real people" sharing their adventures, not walking billboards like celebrities once were. But make no mistake - those supposedly spontaneous photos are calculated promotions driving sales through FOMO.
Traveler Missy A. confesses she used to suffer from chronic FOMO due to influencer content: "No matter how great of a trip I had just taken, I'd feel bummed or inadequate scrolling through feeds of people at even cooler places and hotels. It made me constantly wanting more and never feeling satisfied."

She finally decided to unfollow accounts causing FOMO and curate feeds showing real people, not just staged glamour shots. "Now I plan my own trips based on my interests, not chasing what's trendy or FOMO-inducing. I realized most of what I envied on social media was fake anyway - totally unrealistic for normal travel budgets and posing instead of genuine fun."

Veteran traveler Carlos R. takes a balanced view: "Of course we all want to go on dream vacations like those we see online. But I take it as inspiration, not pressure. Any trip should be about the experience itself, not the bragging rights." Rather than feel inadequate, Carlos finds social media gives him useful tips: "I've discovered amazing restaurants and small inns through bloggers sharing authentic local finds - not just generic big chain hotels."

Overtourism is a growing phenomenon that is seriously impacting popular destinations worldwide. Simply put, too many tourists are loving certain places to death. While visitors bring needed revenue, uncontrolled masses erode infrastructure, transform neighborhoods, and degrade landmarks. Residents from Barcelona to Bali are starting to push back against unsustainable, low-quality tourism.

Gruppo 25 Aprile co-founder Marco Gasparinetti pulls no punches when he proclaims "Venice is being killed by mass tourism." An astounding 20 million visitors cram into the sinking city annually, outnumbering residents 400 to 1. The mayor laments Venice is becoming a giant hotel where Venetians "can only serve meals and clean rooms." Locals have become a minority in their own city.
Protests have erupted demanding restrictions on cruise ships and tourist numbers. But powerful travel industry lobbyists oppose any limits on access. They dismiss locals as wanting to "close Venice to the world." In reality, Venetians just want responsible tourism - visitor quotas, licensed tour guides, and bans on new hotels until infrastructure catches up.

Half a world away in Southeast Asia, Maya Bay on Thailand's Phi Phi Islands looks like paradise in The Beach. But its brush with stardom as a backdrop for the Leonardo DiCaprio film has real-world consequences. Unregulated daily visitor boats full of daytrippers severely damaged the bay's coral reefs. Authorities tried closing Maya Bay entirely to give it a chance to recover. But the tourists keep coming back whenever it reopens, damaging coral and littering a once-pristine paradise.
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not an amusement park. Yet Peru's top tourist attraction sees over a million visitors annually trampling over its fragile ruins. Despite archeologists warning the Inca citadel is at risk, the flood of tourists continues unabated. Clearly more needs to be done before Machu Picchu gets loved into ruin.

The rise of cookie-cutter chain hotels is sapping the character out of many destinations. While brands like Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt provide a consistent experience, their homogenous hotels offer little sense of place. Checking into a Hilton Garden Inn in Houston feels much the same as one in Hobart. And good luck telling all those Sheratons apart.

This copy-and-paste approach treats cities as interchangeable backdrops, not vibrant communities with unique personalities. Corporate chains prioritize efficiency over embracing local flavor. Their imposing high-rises look out of place and isolate guests from authentic culture. As Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels laments, "Cookie-cutter hotels are bubbles that seal you off from the real spirit of a destination."

Why stay in a place only to remain cocooned in a familiar Westernized environment? You could be anywhere on earth sipping an $8 Coke Zero by the hotel pool. Yet just outside likely lies an enthralling city pulsing with life, if only you venture beyond the lobby.
Many travelers yearn for hotels reflecting their surroundings, not imposing on them. Boutique hotels inhabit historic buildings, channeling a neighborhood's heritage. Local restaurants replace generic hotel chains. Area culture and art get showcased, not corporate sanitization.

Software engineer Amanda G. describes her disappointment after booking a big chain: "The neighborhood was amazing but we might as well have been in mall. All we saw were beige hallways." Rather than experiencing the Paris of her dreams, it felt like she "could have been in a suburban office park."

By contrast, Amanda says staying at a small hotel in Amsterdam was like "discovering a whole new world." Its 17th century canal house setting embodied the city's rich character. The owners shared insight on the best local bakeries, parks and cultural events. "They helped open our eyes to what made the city special - not just promote in-hotel services."

Jacobi acknowledges that mega chains have their place, especially for time-crunched business travelers. But he advocates trying independent lodgings when leisure allows, even if sacrificing some amenities. "Cookie-cutter hotels are fine for work trips when you won't leave your room anyway," he reasons. "But why fly across the globe only to never really see it?"

The rapid expansion of the cruise industry has raised serious concerns about sustainability. Experts warn that cruising's environmental impacts are approaching dangerous levels. Yet the cruise lines continue aggressively growing their fleets, dismissing ecological consequences in their pursuit of profits.

Maritime historian Peter Knego has witnessed the evolution of cruising over decades. While early cruise ships carried around 500 guests, today's mega-vessels cram in 5000-6000 passengers. “It’s an insane arms race for bigger and bigger ships every year,” Knego observes. “But the cruise lines rarely consider the environmental cost.”

These mammoth floating resorts burn massive amounts of the dirtiest fossil fuels. According to sustainable travel group TreadRight, a large cruise ship can generate emissions equal to 12,000 cars daily. The associated air pollution contributes to smog, acid rain, and health issues in port communities.

Cruise ships also dump over a billion gallons of sewage into the ocean annually based on industry estimates. Their onboard treatment systems do not remove all contaminants and bacteria before discharging wastes overboard. Nutrient pollution from sewage and greywater disrupts delicate ocean ecosystems.

In addition, the ships release hundreds of thousands of gallons of oily bilge water. This toxic mixture contains oil, grease, cleaning fluids, and other hazardous waste that lines the bottoms of engine rooms. Cruise lines frequently get caught illegally dumping oily bilge to avoid the costs of proper disposal.
Cruise enthusiast Danielle B. was shocked to learn how dirty cruise ships are after assuming their impact would be minor. “I researched how little environmental regulations they have compared to other industries. The more I learned, the more uncomfortable I became taking voyages that hurt the planet so much.”

Maritime historian Peter Knego believes the industry must change course soon. “Cruise lines only care about building ever more extravagant ships to wow customers,” he asserts. “But they are on a collision course with environmental disaster if they don’t address sustainability.”

Knego advocates restricting ships sizes and passengers until emissions and waste can be controlled. He also proposes banning the most polluting bunker fuels. But cruise executives oppose added costs, instead touting small voluntary steps like solar panels and onboard recycling.

The meteoric rise of Airbnb has been a mixed blessing for many popular destinations. While providing abundant lodging options, the unchecked growth of short-term rentals has caused serious headaches from Barcelona to Berlin. Entire neighborhoods are being hollowed out as landlords evict long-term residents in favor of more profitable vacation lets. What visitors experience as convenient accommodation is decimating local communities.
Berlin resident Hans K. has lived in the hip Prenzlauer Berg district for over 20 years. But in the last decade, Airbnbs have pushed out permanent tenants as investors buy up apartment blocks for vacation rentals. "Now we have dark empty buildings outside of the summer months. My street feels like a ghost town in winter," Hans laments.

The hollowing out of neighborhoods also drives up housing costs for remaining residents. Landlords realize they can make far more renting nightly via Airbnb versus yearly leases. Why charge a Berliner €800 a month when scores of tourists will pay €50+ a night? Popular areas become gentrified as rents surge out of reach for average income locals.

Amsterdam is another example of a city struggling to curb Airbnb's impact since the private rentals were fully legalized in 2018. Entire canal-side residential buildings get converted to transient hotels. Rowdy bachelor parties replace quiet neighbors. City leaders blame Airbnb for worsening Amsterdam's housing shortage as homes get diverted towards tourism.

In Barcelona, over 18,000 listings were controlled by just a dozen landlords in 2019. Locals protested that investors were stealing apartments to build illegal Airbnb empires. In response, Barcelona has tightened home sharing laws limiting stays to 60 days annually. Fines now hit hosts renting without proper permits in a desperate bid to open housing back up for citizens.
Airbnb responds that its platform simply empowers locals to earn extra income from underused space. However, watchdogs counter that commercial operators, not average homeowners, dominate Airbnb listings in many cities. For example, a McGill University study found that 16% of hosts control nearly 70% of entire-home Airbnb rentals in Toronto. A lack of oversight allows de facto hotels to operate year-round without regulation.

Shareholder capitalism compels Airbnb to grow relentlessly. But cities are starting to push back. Amsterdam slashed the maximum nights from 60 to just 30 in 2022. Paris requires hosts register primary residences before renting. Barcelona heavily taxes all stays. More cities are banning short-term lets outright in certain areas. Still, reigning in Airbnb after the fact is proving an uphill battle.

No millennial’s childhood road trip was complete without the backseat whine, “Are we there yet?” To pacify restless kids in the pre-iPad era, parents relied on an ace in the hole - the vehicle rear entertainment system. After dutifully watching Shrek 2 for the fifth time, we’d switch to the highlight of any long haul: the throwback travel videos.

These charmingly outdated films showed exotic destinations like Las Vegas or Hawaii in all their outdated glory. Wide-eyed honeymooners gasp at Siegfried & Roy’s big cat extravaganza. Relaxed ladies learn the hula on Waikiki’s beaches in flowery muumuus. We glimpsed a version of Vegas where the entire family could enjoy all-you-can-eat buffets for $2.99 and Sinatra still ruled the showrooms.

Like time capsules, the retro resort films evoked the optimistic golden age of American leisure travel. Affordable airfare and highway expansion opened new horizons for middle class vacationers. They flocked on road trips to marvel at the Grand Canyon or coastal wonders like California’s Hearst Castle.

Today such unabashed enthusiasm seems quaint compared to jaded modern travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path authenticity. But through a child’s eyes, those throwback films made even a boring interstate drive feel like an adventure. Their spirited narrators promised excitement awaited at iconic national parks like Yellowstone, where geysers erupted reliably “on schedule” every hour.
Of course, the videos glossed over simmering social upheaval behind the placid ‘50s and ‘60s suburban dream. Gender roles went unquestioned as wives passively supported their husbands’ bread-winning endeavors. The civil rights movement, second wave feminism, and the turbulence of Vietnam still lay ahead.

But for young viewers, it all looked undeniably appealing - so much possibility! Why wouldn’t every sensible middle class family embark on a road trip to marvel at Old Faithful or ooh and aah at the sparkling Imperial Palace casino? Forget the backseat bickering over whose knees were encroaching on whose side. We were inspired by the travel videos’ infectious optimism, even if our parents were really just trying to shut us up.
Today’s jampacked interstate highways and chain-heavy tourist strips may not inspire such starry-eyed idealism. But even in our hyperconnected world, the open road still represents a conduit to adventure. That yearning for discovery burns within us all. As much as we mock its naïveté, deep down don’t we crave a bit of the wide-eyed wonder those retro travel reels championed?

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