Holiday Confidence Report: Traveling for the Holidays During Covid-19

To better understand how people are planning for the holidays this year, Hopper surveyed consumers to ask about their plans, and if/how they hope to travel this holiday season.

Liana Corwin - Sep. 16, 2020

Will Americans Travel this Holiday Season? 

Holiday travel is bound to look a little different this year. While air travel is still down considerably compared to the same time last year, recent data from the TSA found that travel has increased 700% since early days of the pandemic. Though when and why to travel is personal, changing temps and recent trends have many Americans starting to consider their plans for the holiday season - whether that's hitting the road, skies, or just staying home.

To better understand how people are planning for the holidays this year, Hopper surveyed consumers to ask about their plans, and if/how they hope to travel this holiday season. According to Hopper’s new Holiday Travel Confidence Report, 39% of people say they plan to travel during the holidays this year. However, 21% have said they do not plan to travel, though in a typical year they would.

Among those who are planning to travel for the holidays, roughly 50% say they plan to take a flight for Thanksgiving and nearly 75% plan to fly for the December holidays. For those who do plan to book a flight over the holiday season, they may be in luck! Domestic prices for Christmastime flights have dropped 40% compared with 2019, reaching a new low and average of $222 round trip. International prices have also dropped to a new low of $720 round trip, a 22% decrease from 2019 prices. 

While there is still uncertainty around the 2020 holiday season, for those looking to travel home to see family or to simply get away, it could pay to lock in low airfare now before prices change, and while flexible travel policies are still being offered. If you’re looking to travel for the holidays, we recommend monitoring prices now and booking as soon as you see a good deal.

Holiday season may be the first time people travel in months

For many Americans, this holiday season will mark the first time taking a trip away from home in months. In fact, more than half (55%) of people surveyed said the holidays will be their first time traveling since the start of the pandemic!

For many of these travelers, the holidays will also mean boarding their first flight since March. According to our survey, 52% of Americans say they’ll plan to fly for Thanksgiving and 74% plan to fly for the December holidays. 

However, many travelers who typically would travel over the holidays are opting to stay home instead this year, or are looking for alternative travel options. 30% of people surveyed said they plan to stay home for Thanksgiving, and 12% plan to stay home for the December holidays. Some travelers are starting to explore other alternatives such as renting cars or driving their own cars for the holidays.

When will consumers book holiday travel?

While most travelers are still weighing their options for the holidays, 17% said they had already booked their holiday travel plans as of early September, though most people have not yet solidified holiday plans. 50% said they plan to book holiday travel in the next two months (by the end of October), and another 25% said they plan to book this month (September). However, consumers seem less inclined to plan at the last minute this year. Only 7% of travelers expressed that they plan to book last minute holiday travel.

How far from home will Americans go?

For many, the holiday season means visiting family, friends and loved ones far from home. Despite COVID-19, Americans seem willing to travel near and far for the holidays this year. According to our survey, 32% of people would be willing to take a 1-4 hour flight, 25% said they’d take a 4-8 hour flight, and 21% said they would even take an 8+ hour flight for the holidays this year. Fewer respondents seem interested in driving long distances for the holidays. Only 14% said they’d be willing to drive over 4 hours for the holidays this year.

Extending the traditional holiday season

With remote work, school, and more flexible schedules than usual due to COVID-19, the typical holiday season may look a bit different this year. Travelers may consider longer stays over the holiday weeks and mixing work and play to take advantage of work from anywhere policies. Based on our survey, more than half of people surveyed (51%) said they are considering an extended stay during the holidays this year.

If you do plan to travel for the holidays, start preparing in advance!

If you decide to travel for the holidays, keep in mind that it will look different this year. Smart planning can help you pull it off. Remember to be prepared and reference our top safety tips for traveling during COVID-19:

  • Research your destination and watch out for coronavirus hot spots

  • Communicate early and often with whomever you plan to visit, and have a plan b

  • Keep track of the best time to buy airline tickets and book when you can; newfound flexibility means you can change your flights or use a flight credit later as needed. 

  • But remember! Double check airline, hotel, and rental car cancellation and change policies to ensure your desired flexibility is offered on your specific booking


Full Survey Results

Are you planning to travel for the holidays this year?

  • Yes! - (39%)

  • No, I don’t usually travel during the holidays - (39%) 

  • No, but I typically travel during the holidays - (21%) 

Will this be the first time you’ve traveled since the pandemic began?

  • Yes - (55%)

  • No - (44%)

When do you plan to book your holiday travel?

  • I'll book in the next 2 months - (50%)

  • I plan to book this month - (25%)

  • I’ve already booked - (17%)

  • I'll book at the last minute - (7%)

How do you plan to travel for Thanksgiving this year?

  • Flight - (52%)

  • Stay home - (30%)

  • Drive my own car - (15%)

  • Rental Car - (2%)

  • Train - (1%)

How do you plan to travel for the December holidays this year?

  • Flight - (74%)

  • Stay home - (12%)

  • Drive my own car - (10%)

  • Rental Car - (3%)

  • Train - (1%)

How far away from home would you be willing to travel for the holidays this year?

  • 1-4 hour flight - (32%)

  • 4-8 hour flight - (25%)

  • 8+ hour flight - (21%)

  • 4+ hour driving distance - (14%)

  • 0-2 hour driving distance - (3%)

Would you consider an extended stay during the holidays?

  • Yes - (51%)

  • No - (49%)

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