The 2020 Holiday Travel Season

Family & Friends – Joy & Laughter – Jingles All The Way — the holiday season is a time of celebration and it is fast approaching. But it can be an especially challenging time with the coronavirus pandemic tossed into the mix. So, just how are American travelers planning to share their holiday cheer and close out this unprecedented year? As part of our weekly Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Study, Destination Analysts asked American travelers about their potential travel plans for this year’s holiday season.

While over half of Americans traveled during the 2019 holiday season (52.8%), this year only 28.2% say they plan on traveling for holiday festivities, with trips predominantly planned over Thanksgiving (9.2%) and Christmas (14.2%). When it comes to how they will travel to their holiday destination, the majority of those who have holiday travel plans will reach their destination by car (80.1%), while over a third are taking to the skies (35.4%).


Suggesting optimism around travel, those who have tentative holiday travel plans intend to take an average of 2.4 trips this year specifically to celebrate holiday season events, with 13.1 percent who say they will take 5 or more trips.



Although staying safe from COVID-19 is high on the priority list, over half of potential holiday travelers reported that they would not undergo testing prior to their 2020 holiday season travels (51.3%). Meanwhile, a third confirmed that they will undergo testing prior to their planned travel (34.8%).

In addition to less travel this holiday season, there are also signs of less spending. When asked if they expect to spend more, less or the same for holiday travel this year, 43.0% of American travelers plan to spend less on holiday travel than they did in 2019, while 14.9% plan to spend more. However, when it comes to holiday gifts, over half of American travelers expect to spend as much as they did the last year (56.5%). 15.6% say they will, in fact, increase their spending on holiday gifts, while 27.8% foresee spending less on gifts during this holiday season.



Indicating a potential opportunity for the travel industry, nearly half of American travelers reported that they would feel either happy or very happy to receive a travel-related gift this holiday season (47.0%).



As we move into the 2020 holiday season, the fear of contracting coronavirus, preserving the health and safety of loved ones and the unwillingness to venture out during a pandemic are the top reasons keeping travelers at home during the upcoming months. And although there was an uptick in the percent of Americans who are not ready to travel (from 42.2% the weekend of October 9-11 to 44.5% the weekend of October 16-18), there was also an increase in the percent of Americans who are confident that they can travel safely in the current environment (from 29.3% the weekend of October 9-11 to 32.0% the weekend of October 16-18).

Hopes are high that by the 2021 holiday season we can once again hold our loved ones tight, celebrate what we hold dear and together enjoy the spirit of the season.