Travel trends predict your 2020 itinerary will include a lot of ‘celecations’


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Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick

Last month, I dreaded attending the big destination event that had been on my calendar for months. It was family wedding in Virginia with my parents and brother, and after a painful breakup, my plus-one had turned into a minus-one. While I got out of the weekend alive and well, I did still hope it would be the last ‘celecation’—or celebratory event requiring travel, and, thus, doubling as a vacation—for a while. Yet my 2020 calendar is already filled with destination events including a wedding in Wisconsin, a birthday in Michigan, a birthday in Mexico, and a wedding in New Paltz, New York, or San Francisco, or Maui (the bride-to-be is a Gemini who hasn’t yet decided on a coast, let alone venue).

And this chaos isn’t limited to my personal experience; celecations are definitely on the rise. According to vacation-rental company VRBO‘s 2020 trend report, the term explains the event of families and friends from different places coming together to celebrate special occasions. And among people who traveled recently to celebrate a special occasion, 34 percent attended a birthday, anniversary, or other similar milestone; 31 percent went to a family reunion; and 16 percent went to a wedding. For people like me, who, to put it lightly, don’t love destination travel events to celebrate others because I prefer to have agency over my vacations plans, finances, and allocation of PTO, the ‘celecation’ rebrand is especially helpful.

First, some insight into my grumblings: Attending all of these events—birthday, weddings, bachelorettes, what have you—make me feel as though in order to have friends period, I need to be super-rich. When you add the cost of a plane ticket to attend, say, a wedding that already requires a gift, your bank account SHRIEKS. According to one survey by Compare Cards, the typical destination wedding costs wedding party members an average of $1,580, guests $1,269, and $2,514 for destination weddings outside of the United States. That’s why I totally support you if you have to say no to being a bridesmaid. Like, friendship is cool, but so is staying out of the red financially.

But money woes aside, here’s the sweet silver lining to celecations: people show up. Once we’re in the throes of the destination event, surrounded by friends and loved ones, we usually have a great time and eventually stop grumbling at the travel stressors and bottom-line costs. I have photo booth shots proving I actually had a really, really great time in Virginia. Good times catching up with family friends helped. So did gimlets.

Since celecations, unlike you, are not going anywhere, I say lean in to the trend and budget for as many as you can. Capitalize on being able to visit a new environment, and indulge the good vibes in the air at happy occasions. Have a great time, be transparent and mindful of what you can afford, and set boundaries that make sense. (To that end, I will go to New Paltz or San Francisco, but Maui just isn’t going to work for me, Leah.)

Here are a few calming mantras to help all wedding-guest introverts get you through the big day. Or if it’s your nuptials, let’s unpack a big myth: There’s no such thing as a “chill” wedding.

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