Is the digital nomad life more hype than reality? Does gender dictate the preferred mode of travel for solo adventurers? Will a requirement to use a digital health passport make or break a traveler’s decision to take a trip?
We know the answers to these questions are defining current travel trends, but we wanted to better understand how. Last month, we asked more than 1,500 U.S.-based travelers about their travel plans to find out who’s getting back out on the road and in the skies—82% said they’d already traveled in the last three months and 98% plan to in the year ahead (including those who’ve already traveled).
We also asked how travelers feel about their recent trips; the reasons why people are traveling; as well as their levels of comfort and what their concerns are with travel (like the, eh-hem, uptick in unruly passengers), and more.
Here’s what they had to say.
Travelers are back in the skies; millennials and Gen Xers lead the return
Did our summer travel forecast accurately predict Americans’ return to travel? That’s what our latest data suggests. According to a survey we conducted last month, the majority of respondents (82%) said they’ve already traveled in the last three months. Fifty-two percent of travelers said they have already taken a domestic flight; 73% have taken a road trip with a personal car; 39% have taken a road trip with a rented car; and 13% have flown on an international flight.
Of those who have traveled in the last three months, millennials and Gen Xers have returned to travel at consistently higher rates than boomers:
- 53% of millennials and 55% of Gen Xers have already flown on a domestic flight, compared with 48% of boomers
- 71% of millennials and nearly 77% of Gen Xers have already taken a road trip with a personal car, compared with 65% of boomers
- 32% of millennials and 32% of Gen Xers have already taken a road trip with a rented car, compared with 21% of boomers
- 16% of millennials and 14% of Gen Xers have already flown internationally, compared with 9% of boomers
Vacation—all Americans ever wanted
For Americans planning to travel in the next year, an overwhelming majority (87%) plan to take a vacation—up 10% from survey data we released in May. A business trip (52%) and a trip to visit family and/or friends (42%) rounded out the top three reasons for traveling.
The top reasons for taking a trip have remained mostly consistent with the survey data we released back in March. At that time, of the 94% of respondents that said they plan to travel in 2021, taking a vacation was also the most popular reason to travel (73%), followed by a trip to visit family and/or friends (53%), and a business trip (43%).
What’s causing the flip-flop in the number two and three spots? We think business travelers have a more clear picture of their upcoming business travel needs—and the travel policies their employers will have in place through the end of the year. It’s also likely that, since March, many people have been able to reunite with loved ones and are now setting their sights on vacations.
Looking ahead to the holiday season, of those that plan to travel in the year ahead, 22% plan to travel for Thanksgiving and 31% plan to travel for the winter holidays.
Millennials plan to get away, but bring work along
Digging into generational differences, Gen Xers are leading the way with vacation planning—89% plan to take a vacation this year. Meanwhile, millennials are the most likely to plan a trip involving remote work, with 24% saying they’d take a workcation in the next year. That’s also higher than the general population, where only 14% intend to take a trip working remotely in a new location.
Consistent with data released in May, 32% of travelers plan to take a trip they had to reschedule due to COVID-19. And of the travelers rescheduling cruises, some millennials (2%) and Gen Xers (10%) plan to, but the biggest cruise goers will be boomers (16%).
Female solo travelers prefer the company of others (both in transit and at their destination)
When looking at those travelers planning solo trips, there are minor differences between generations and genders:
- Gen Xers (24%) are slightly more likely than millennials (21%) and boomers (20%) to take a trip by themselves in the next year
- Men (22%) are slightly more likely than women (20%) to plan a solo trip in the next year
We also see differences in how women and men intend to travel—and where they plan to stay—on a solo trip. Our survey data showed women are more likely to fly for a solo trip (69% of women versus 57% of men) while men are more likely to take a road trip with a personal car (63% of men vs 43% of women).
Female solo travelers also plan to journey where they’ll find safety in numbers. Our survey data showed men were more than twice as likely (19%) to camp or stay in a cabin on a solo trip than women (nearly 9%) and women are slightly more likely to stay with family and friends than men (25% versus 23%).
This isn’t to say women don’t like camping. They are just more likely to do it while on vacation (with others) than they are to do it on a solo trip (11% versus 9%), while men are more likely to camp solo than on vacation with others (19% versus 11%).
Flight comfort is up; familiar concerns return; travelers are happy post trip
Overall, travelers’ comfort level with flying increased; those comfortable flying in current conditions increased nearly 79% since May (no, that’s not a typo!). And while remaining a top need, airline safety measures’ importance dropped 29% (thank you, vaccines).
Meanwhile, flight readiness levels have continued to accelerate. Travelers’ readiness for a domestic flight by September increased to 80%—an 8% increase from what travelers told us in May.
International travel readiness by September also increased, with 43% of travelers saying they’d be ready to take an international flight by then. And it’s by spring 2022 that we see widespread (75%) international traveler readiness.
As for concerns? Well, there are some familiar ones back on the radar: overcrowding and long lines (39%) were the new top concern(s) for travelers. Unruly passengers (29%) and the costs associated with travel (24%) also appeared in the top five concerns travelers have right now. Meanwhile, nearly all COVID-19 concerns, such as staying up to date on travel restrictions, uncertainty regarding vaccination rules, and booking a COVID-19 test, decreased.
Despite remaining concerns, travelers generally felt positive about their recent travel experiences. We asked travelers how they felt at different stages of their journey—before, during, and after their trips—and survey data showed travelers were primarily excited (36%), happy (36%), and calm (29%) throughout. Millennials and Gen Xers expressed an overall feeling of excitement on their trips, while boomers generally felt calm.
And while some people felt nervous before and during, very few felt upset or regretful after their trip.
Travelers are willing to do what it takes to fly
When we asked travelers this time around to tell us if they would use a digital health passport and how they felt about it (love, like, dislike, hate), 84% said they would use one, regardless if they loved the idea (49%), liked the idea (18%), or disliked the idea (16%). A portion of travelers (16% of respondents) said they hated the idea of a digital health passport and would not use one.
With more than three-quarters of Americans having traveled in the last three months and sentiment towards recent trips overwhelmingly positive, summer travel saw a sustained return in (almost) all its forms.
And yet, the travel landscape continues to change due to COVID-19. We encourage all travelers to remain vigilant and aware of changing travel risks and requirements to make getting back to traveling as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Methodology: TripIt surveyed more than 1,500 U.S.-based users to understand their 2021 travel plans. The survey took place in July 2021. For the purpose of this research, TripIt defined generations as follows: millennials (1981-1996); Generation X (1965-1980); and baby boomers (1946-1964).