Americans are gearing up to travel this holiday season—the second under the COVID-19 pandemic but the first with vaccines available. According to the 2021 Deloitte Holiday Travel Survey, 42 percent of Americans plan to travel between Thanksgiving and mid-January, taking an average of two trips. High-income Americans (defined as over $100,000 annually) will see even more action, as 53 percent plan to travel and one-third of those who do will take three or more trips.
Since leisure travel began its comeback on the heels of the vaccine rollout in early 2021, it has been clear that there is pent-up demand, but travelers continue to proceed with caution. Some of the reasons why Americans are not traveling include: Concern about health of self, family and those around; waiting to travel post-pandemic; and pandemic restrictions making it difficult to enjoy destinations. That said, those who are traveling said they were regular holiday travelers, seeking rest and relaxation, in need of a post-pandemic getaway, reconnecting with friends, and that their travel party is now fully vaccinated.
According to Deloitte, Americans are largely embracing COVID safety measures while traveling, despite news stories of unruly plane passengers. To note: Two-thirds of travelers say they are more likely to fly if masking is required, while just 10 percent say they are less likely. A slightly smaller share, 58 percent, say they would embrace proof of vaccination to fly—and this figure is even higher for high-income and frequent travelers.
While holiday travel spend will vary, high-income households have high hopes for their holiday trips: 85 percent plan to match or exceed their 2019 budgets, with half expecting to spend more than $5,000 on their longest holiday trip. In all, over half (58 percent) of travelers say they expect to spend about the same on travel as they did in 2019, and one in five will spend significantly more, driven by higher-income households.
When it comes to age, those over 55 years old are trailing across the board as it pertains to travel. These older travelers frequently cite health worries as a reason to stay home or otherwise adjust plans. And regardless of age or income, very few plan to travel abroad: Just 10 percent of all travelers plan to take an international flight. About twice as many travelers plan to road trip (70 percent) versus fly (37 percent), citing enjoyment (38 percent) and convenience (28%) as the top reasons, above health (12 percent).
Six in 10 (60 percent) will take trips involving a stay with friends or family, slightly fewer (54 percent) will stay at a hotel or private rental. Perhaps not surprisingly, the pandemic continues to mint new private rental travelers: 43 percent of those staying in rentals over the holidays have tried this lodging type for the first time during the pandemic. Three in four new private renters expect to continue using rentals for at least half of their trips going forward.
The report is based on a survey of 6,512 Americans fielded September 9-23; among those, 2,759 qualified as travelers and a smaller subset of 1,501 travelers noted they would stay in paid lodging during the holiday season.