From roadschooling to WFvH (working from vacation home), Americans are finding creative ways to get away this holiday season. Without the physical confines of work or school, travelers are increasingly turning their winter jaunts into longer-term retreats.
TripIt analyzed its US-origin flight and lodging reservation data and found that travelers are extending the duration of their trips and increasingly looking to vacation rentals to bookend this atypical year.
Let’s talk turkey.
Busiest Days to Travel
Those looking to avoid crowds should choose to fly either the Monday prior to the holiday or the day-of Thanksgiving, when fewer travelers take to the skies. The busiest departure days? The Saturday prior to or the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday).
Last year, the busiest departure day was the day before Thanksgiving, while the Saturday prior came in fourth in terms of busiest days — a 30 percent increase, signaling that travelers are starting their holiday earlier.
How Long Are They Staying?
The shift in departure dates (more travelers starting their Thanksgiving holidays earlier) made us wonder whether travelers would be extending their trips after the holiday, as well.
This year, more than 40 percent of Thanksgiving flyers are staying through the weekend, an 11 percent increase over last year. Those staying through the second week of December? Up 50 percent from 2019, while those staying through Dec 25 is up 156 percent from last year. And 3 percent of all Thanksgiving flyers are staying through right through to 2021 — which is a small proportion but considering that just 1 percent of travelers booked that length of stay in 2019, when more travelers were taking to the sky, that increase becomes more impactful.
Those long stays don’t just end come 2021, either: While roughly the same amount of Christmas flyers are staying through NYE, those extending their stays through the first Monday of the new year is up 48 percent. (More on Christmastime travel below.)
Most Popular Destinations
So where are flyers headed? Travelers are continuing to shy away from big metro areas and are instead heading to destinations that allow them to celebrate in the sun or the snow.
Here’s a look at the top 20 Thanksgiving destinations, along with how each city’s respective rank has changed from last year.
While Thanksgiving is usually the most-traveled holiday, it isn’t a long one. In 2019, 66 percent — or two-thirds— of lodging reservations were made for a duration of 0–3 days. This year, however, just 55 percent of lodging reservations are for that duration, a 17 percent year-over-year drop. Conversely, durations of 4–7 days are up 28 percent, while reservations for a week or longer are up 86 percent.
II. Post-Thanksgiving through Christmas
The increase in length of stay during the Thanksgiving holiday made us curious as to whether the same long-trip trend would continue throughout the month of December. We looked at lodging reservations with a check-in date from Nov 27 up to Dec 25 and found that short stays of 3 days or less were down 15 percent from last year, while stays of 4–7 days increased 21 percent year-over-year and stays of more than a week doubled their share year-over-year.
In regard to accommodation types, the biggest shift has been to vacation rentals, which have seen a 27 percent increase in share of lodging reservations when compared to the same travel dates in 2019.
Most Popular Vacation Rental Destinations
So where are travelers setting up their winter vacation homes? Not big cities — last year, New York City claimed the top vacation rental spot, followed by Los Angeles and Honolulu, none of which crack the top 10. This year, the locations that have seen some of the biggest YoY rank increases are winter recreation destinations, such as Park City, UT (+19); Breckenridge, CO (+6); Leavenworth, WA (+21); Mammoth Lakes, CA (+25); Asheville, NC (+36); and Estes Park, CO (+77).
Methodology: TripIt analyzed its US-origin RT flight and US hotel reservations made from Jan 1–Oct 8, 2020, with a travel date between Nov 20, 2020, and Dec 25, 2020, and compared that to an equivalent booking and travel window in 2019.
You already had enough to worry about when you traveled — and that was before COVID-19. If you’re planning on traveling this holiday season (or any time), TripIt is here to equip you with the tools you need to help you make the best decisions for your trip. With your health and safety in mind, we’ve created new health and safety resources — and enhanced some of your most-trusted features — so you’re better prepared for each step of your journey.
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