The 2021 holiday travel season is already looking different from the 2020 season, with Americans coming back together to celebrate after what was largely a year apart. And for many, that means travel. To assess how consumers are regarding this season, RetailMeNot teamed up with top travel dealmaker Priceline to publish a joint study on 2021 holiday travel and spending trends, plans for gifting travel and the most popular destinations this season.
Americans Are Booking and Gifting Travel This Year
Our own survey data reveals an appetite for travel after a year of staying home and opening gifts on Zoom — 36% of our survey respondents said they will be using more of their holiday budgets on travel and hosting this year.
But with COVID-19 restrictions and concerns still relevant in holiday travel plans, we asked consumers about their holiday travel plans, spending and timing. We found that:
- Roughly 51% of consumers plan to travel this holiday season to visit family or to take a vacation.
- 41% plan to travel for a vacation over the holidays this year.
- Travel makes a popular gift this year, with roughly 40% of consumers saying they plan to give the gift of travel. Of those travel-gifters, one in four will gift a hotel or rental home voucher, and 20% will gift flight tickets.
- 74% of shoppers plan to do some last-minute shopping this year — and among these last-minute shoppers, 28% say they’ll be shopping flight tickets or hotel rooms at the last minute. In addition to being a savvy savings move, shopping for travel at the last minute is a smart gifting move this year, too. Because the gift of travel doesn’t rely on shipping, shoppers won’t have to worry about this season’s likely delivery delays.
The Top Holiday Travel Destinations for 2021
To get a read on consumer travel trends for 2021, Priceline dug into their data (for travel dates from Dec. 17 through Jan. 1) to uncover the most popular U.S. destinations for holiday travelers, as well as the most affordable for those still deciding where to go.
Major cities dominate the most-popular slots, but some smaller cities are hotspots for affordability. And Priceline’s data also reveals that some of the most affordable cities to fly into aren’t always the most affordable if you need to book hotels. For example, while major gateway cities (like New York) might be more affordable to fly into, it’s smaller metro areas that have the more affordable hotel options. When planning your travel, be sure to look into not just the flight, but the cost of booking every aspect of your trip, from the room to the rental car. Booking your trip as a vacation package is a great way to save — you can save an average of $240 when bundling your hotel and flight bookings together, per Priceline’s data.
Priceline also shared some intel on where people are traveling for New Year’s Eve. The Top 3 destinations for the past few New Year’s Eves (2019 and 2020) and for the upcoming one are Las Vegas, New York and Orlando.
40% Of Consumers Will Give Themselves The Gift of Vacation This Season
The holiday season is a flurry of travel that encompasses visits to loved ones and vacations, as well as a host of conveyance methods.
According to RetailMeNot survey data, among those traveling this year, most (75%) will be traveling by car, 41% will travel by plane and 16% will travel by bus or train.
Christmas and Hanukkah are the biggest travel hotspots this year, with 54% saying they’ll travel for those holidays. Just under half (49%) said they planned to travel for Thanksgiving. And 37% say they plan to travel for New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile, 41% say they’ll travel over the holiday time period, but not for holiday-related reasons — they’re just going on vacation.
Travelers Plan to Take Longer Trips This Season
According to Priceline data, Americans are taking their time this year when it comes to holiday trips: 65% say they’ll travel longer than usual this season.
These are the top reasons for doing so:
- To spend additional time with family and friends: 31%.
- I have PTO/vacation to use before the end of the year: 20%.
- To save money on holiday travel by traveling during off-peak times: 17%.
- To avoid crowds due to COVID-19 concerns: 14%.
- I work remotely and have a flexible schedule: 13%.
- I’m traveling internationally: 11%.
So exactly how long are Americans planning to travel? Most will travel less than a week, but more than one-fourth will be on the road for more than a week:
- 70% are traveling less than 1 week.
- 26% are traveling more than 1 week.
- 8% are traveling more than 2 weeks.
- 4% are not planning to travel this holiday season.
More Than Half of Holiday Travelers Will Book a Hotel for Privacy
While piling into the family home with spouses, children and various other overnight guests might be a tradition (or expectation) for many, 36% say they’re booking a hotel or rental home this holiday season. The top reason for doing so? Privacy. That’s according to Priceline data from the company’s survey:
- 45% plan to stay in a hotel/rental home because the prices were attractive/affordable.
- 51% plan to stay in a hotel/rental home because they prefer the privacy of a hotel room.
- 25% plan to stay in a hotel/rental home because they are vacationing for an extended period of time.
- 17% are not comfortable staying with family or friends like they usually do.
The 35-44-age bracket is the most likely to stay in a hotel (47%). Another factor that increases the likelihood of foregoing the air mattress for the comforts of a hotel? Having young kids. Parents with children under the age of 18 (46%) are more likely to book a hotel than those without children under 18 (22%).
Plus, for a limited time, get this special offer from Priceline:
$25 off $200 Express Deal and select Pay Now Hotels with promo code RETAILMENOT. Valid on 3-star hotels and greater. Travel any time. You need to be signed in to redeem this coupon. Not combinable with any other offers. Good through Dec. 9 at 3 a.m. ET.
Our insights come from the following sources:
- Priceline’s proprietary data on top travel destinations for travel between Dec. 17, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2022.
- Priceline online survey conducted within the United States between Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, 2021 among adults (aged 18 and over). N=2,023. Survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Priceline via its Harris On Demand omnibus product.
- Ziff Media Group, Q3 Consumer Shopping: Holiday Shopping, General Population, 2021. N = 1082 US Adults 18+ planning to shop uring the 2021 holiday season. Data collected between July 23, 2021 – July 26, 2021.
- Ziff Media Group, Q4 2021 Holiday Pulse Survey, General Population, 2021. N = 1108 US Adults 18+ planning to shop during the 2021 holiday season. Data collected between Oct. 25 – 26, 2021.