The Year in Review

December 17, 2021

Priceline Recaps How Americans Traveled in 2021 and Takes an Early Look at 2022

As Priceline looks ahead to the New Year, it’s clear that Americans are ready to explore in 2022. A new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council echoes this finding and says domestic travel growth is expected to rise even more than it did last year, with an anticipated increase of 22.9 percent in domestic travel spending compared to 2021.¹

Reflecting on the state of travel now and over the past year provides important context around this trend, and looking back one major theme emerges: the western and southeastern U.S. reigned supreme across all types of travel. In particular, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Atlanta, and Orlando were most popular for both hotels and roundtrip flights.

A Snapshot of 2021 Travel Trends:

  • Priceline travelers flew more than 4.5 trillion miles—that’s enough to fly to the moon and back more than 9,400 times. This doesn’t even include The Negotiator’s trip to space!
  • Americans didn’t shy away from traveling over the long summer holiday weekends, as the busiest travel days of the year were the Sunday before Fourth of July and the Friday before Labor Day. 
  • When it came to deals, travelers could visit major cities for significantly less than pre-pandemic rates – saving up to 27 percent! With San Jose, San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, and Seattle having the biggest percentage drops in hotel prices.
  • Las Vegas held strong, remaining the number one destination for both hotels and flights over the last two years. Meanwhile, four hours southwest, Los Angeles regained its spot in the top three for most popular car rentals.
  • Orlando rose to the second most popular hotel destination—the highest ranking for the theme park capital within the last two years. Not only that, but it regained its number one spot as the most popular for roundtrip car rentals, knocking out The Big Apple.
  • New York City returned to its pre-pandemic position as the fifth most popular destination for hotels, and moved up a spot in the rankings to the third most popular destination for flights. 
  • Miami was a city to watch, jumping from number eight to number six in the flight rankings.

A Preview of 2022

When it comes to what travelers can expect in early 2022, the biggest trend is that traveland prices are continuing to heat up. 

Where Are People Going?

While major entertainment meccas Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York hold the top three spots, Chicago, New Orleans, and Nashville join the top 10 list for most popular hotel destinations for early 2022. All three offer lots of family-friendly fun: 

  • In Chicago, you can go ice skating under the city skyline at Millennium Park through March 5th or “step inside” paintings like Starry Night at the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit until February 14th. 
  • New Orleans comes to life in March with Mardi Gras on the 1st, a book festival on the 10th, and, beginning on the 16th, the “Wednesday at the Square” series will host free outdoor concerts featuring local artists playing everything from jazz to funk every Wednesday. 
  • And in Nashville, the landmark Grand Ole Opry has announced dates for January (first up: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons on January 9th).

Where Are The Deals?

For the first quarter of 2022, the average daily cost of hotels is up 18 percent over the same time last year, and average flight tickets are up 32 percent. As prices rise, Priceline has identified destinations across the country where travelers can explore and find great deals. 

As both inflation and the returning demand for leisure travel drive up prices, travelers are looking for products that help them identify and book vacations at affordable rates,” said Brett Keller, Chief Executive Officer. “Priceline was created to do exactly that. We continue to negotiate great rates and roll out new deals and features, such as our VIP Loyalty Program, so our customers can book the trip they want at a price they can afford.”

Southeast beach destinations offer some of the best airfares, with Myrtle Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa all landing within the top 10 most affordable, with average roundtrip fares less than $285. 

Half of the top 10 most affordable destinations for hotels are in the west (Laughlin, NV.; Page, AZ.; Buena Park, CA.; Albuquerque, and Reno, specifically). Across these five cities, the average daily hotel rate comes in under $110 per night. 

Destinations To Watch

Up-and-coming locations gaining in popularity include Florida’s Cape Canaveral—a popular port for cruises and home to the Kennedy Space Center and other space-themed attractions—as well as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which serve as Tennessee’s gateway to the scenic Great Smoky Mountains and will host the “Smoky Mountain Winterfest” with five million holiday lights through February 14th. Travelers can also experience the famous 200-foot tunnel of lights at “Lights Over Gatlinburg” at Gatlinburg Skylift Park through January 29th. Not only are the state’s great outdoors popular for 2022, but so is its cultural hotspot Memphis, which is hosting a crawfish festival and the Beale Street Music Festival at the city’s fairgrounds this spring.

As the New Year arrives—and as the travel industry continues to recover—Priceline is here to help travelers find great deals for their trips. Consumers can save even more during its Season of Savings event. The six-week sale, with deals and discounts on top of everyday savings, runs through January 2, 2022. Visit or download the Priceline App for the latest deals and exclusive discounts on all types of travel.


¹The World Travel & Tourism Council “U.S. Travel & Tourism Rebounds in 2021, May Surpass Pre-Pandemic Levels in 2022” (December 11, 2021) 
Priceline analyzed all hotel, roundtrip rental car, and roundtrip flight bookings for travel from January 1 – December 31, 2021 to determine the findings. 2020 and 2019 comparisons were analyzed with the same travel window for each corresponding year.
Q1 2022 findings were determined by analyzing hotel, rental car, and flight bookings for travel from January 1 – March 31, 2022. 2021, 2020, and 2019 comparisons were analyzed with the same travel window for each corresponding year. 
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