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2021 Travel Trends for American Travelers

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Vacations and traveling were largely put on hold for many Americans in 2020 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With 2020 now in the rear view mirror, many American travelers are optimistic about resuming traveling this year as local COVID numbers drop and vaccine rollouts expand.

But will the travel industry fully rebound to pre-pandemic levels in 2021?

To try and find out, IPX 1031 recently surveyed 2,020 Americans to learn more about their optimism for traveling this year as well as their travel plans, budgets, accommodations, and their willingness to fly among other topics. Let us take a deeper dive into the results of their survey.

2021 Travel Outlook

2021 travel outlook 1When asked about their optimism for traveling in 2021, 48% of respondents said yes, they were optimistic about being able to travel in 2021. Another 25% said they were somewhat optimistic about traveling in 2021 and only 27% said they were not optimistic about traveling this year.

Survey respondents were also asked if travel would ever return to normal without restrictions. 45% of respondents said they were optimistic about a pre-pandemic level of normalcy for traveling in 2021.

2021 Vacation Plans

2021 vacations 1A majority of Americans report having plans to travel in 2021, however many are choosing to wait to travel until they after they receive their COVID-19 vaccine. More than half of those surveyed (58%) say they currently have plans to travel in 2021. 31% said they were not sure about their travel plans at this time and only 11% said they had no plans to travel in 2021. Of those who already have plans to travel this year, one-third of those say they are planning to travel as early as spring break. Another third of travelers said they plan to vacation by the summer.

Of those who are still wary about traveling in 2021, these are the top reasons they gave for not wanting to pack their bags and travel this year:

  1. I do not feel safe traveling yet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (80%)
  2. I do not currently have the budget to travel (44%)
  3. I do not want to travel because of dining/entertainment restrictions in place due to COVID-19 (22%)
  4. I do not want to travel because of travel/flying restrictions due to COVID-19 (18%)
  5. I cannot take the time of off work to travel (9%)

2021 Vacation budgets

2021 vacation budgetsThey survey next asked American travelers whether or not they could currently afford to take a vacation. 70% of those surveyed said they can afford to travel and vacation at the time of the survey with an average travel budget of $2,470. Over a third of those surveyed said they would use a future round of stimulus checks on a vacation if one were to come from the federal government.

2021 Vacation length

2021 vacation lengthThere are many Americans who were unable to travel in 2020, and as a result are eager to travel as soon as they feel it is safe to do so. 29% of those surveyed said they plan to take a longer vacation in 2021 to make up for a lack of vacation in 2020. 43% said their vacation will be about the same as compared to previous years and 28% say they will take a shorter vacation this year.

COVID-19 is still a contributing factor that may threaten to cut vacations time short this year. Safety while traveling remains a top concern for those willing to travel this year. 73% of those surveyed reported being concerned that they will have to cancel or re-book a trip due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. 62% said they will only travel to locations with a low number of COVID-19 cases.

Vacation Homes and Accommodations

2021 vacation homesAccommodations for travelers looked a bit different during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many travelers opting to stay away from busy hotels and instead opting for vacation rentals and even secluded camping destinations for some.

Listed below are the most preferred accommodations for American travelers in 2021:

  1. Hotel (28%)
  2. Staying with family (21%)
  3. Short-term rentals like an Airbnb/VBRO (17%)
  4. Vacation home or timeshare (10%)
  5. Staying at home/staycation (9%)
  6. Camping (7%)
  7. Other (8%)

During the past year vacation home or timeshares have become a preferred way for travelers to vacation with 80% of those surveyed reporting having stayed at a vacation home or timeshare at some point during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Traveling by plane in 2021

2021 flyingThe airline industry has been one of the most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with many travelers choosing not to travel by plane. The survey found that only 25% of respondents reported flying on a plane for personal travel or business in 2020.

However many Americans are more optimistic about plane travel this year and beyond. 48% of those surveyed said they feel that airline travel will be safe again in 2021. 72% said they will feel safer flying after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination. In 2022, 80% of those surveyed said they will feel safe flying again.

For many Americans, they simply will not feel safe traveling until after they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. 54% of those surveyed said they just do not feel safe traveling until they have been vaccinated.

Accommodations for travelers looked a bit different during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many travelers opting to stay away from busy hotels and instead opting for vacation rentals and even secluded camping destinations for some.

While optimism is high for travel this year, there is also a sense of reservation from some about waiting until it is completely safe to do so. Travel plans have the potential to continue to be be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how the case load looks in America. Only time will tell if travel begins to resume to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.


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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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