Holiday travel statistics roundup post

Carla Vianna
Carla Vianna
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Holiday travel statistics roundup post

This year, millions of Americans will hit the roads and skies like never before. After two years of pandemic-related restrictions and holidays spent far from friends and family, American travelers are excited to travel again in 2022.

The time is now for tour operators and attractions to prepare for the 2022 holiday season. In this post, you’ll discover all of the holiday travel statistics you need to know.

What percentage of people travel during the holidays?

Most Common Ways To Travel During The Holiday

Most Common Holiday Travel Accommodations

Which Demographics Are Most Likely To Travel During The Holidays?

How Much Do People Typically Spend On Holiday Travel?

Top US holiday travel destinations

Top Holiday Travel Trends in 2022

What percentage of people travel during the holidays? 

Over 110 million Americans traveled for the holidays in 2021, representing about a third of the population. On the other hand, only about 80 million will embark on a holiday trip in 2020.

In 2021, 29% of Americans reported they were likely to travel for Thanksgiving, while 33% said the same about Christmas.

What are the busiest holiday travel days?

Thanksgiving Day has historically been the busiest travel day in November. But when it comes to traveling by air, bus, or rail, Wednesday is busier than Thursday.

Most people chose to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving weekend in 2019 and 2020. Most returned the following Sunday. When it comes to Christmas, December 23 is often the busiest travel day.

How much does travel increase during the holidays? 

Long-distance travel surges during the Thanksgiving holiday, even more so than in the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Specifically, the number of trips 50 miles or more away increases by 54% during Thanksgiving.

During Christmas and New Year’s holidays, long-distance trips increase by 23%.

About 90% of holiday travel happens via car. In fact, only 5% to 6% of holiday trips are by air.

Holiday travel by the numbers in 2021

Holiday travel by the numbers in 2020

Holiday travel by the numbers in 2019

Most Common Ways To Travel During The Holiday 

Although crowded airports get a lot of attention over the holidays, most holiday travel happens on the highway. Most Americans travel by car during the holidays:

What percentage of people travel by car during the holidays? 

About 92% of Americans traveled by car during the holidays in 2021, in line with historical figures. 

What percentage of people travel by air during the holidays? 

About 5.8% of people traveled by air in 2021. Air travel during the year-end holidays was nearly triple the 2020 total; an estimated 6.4 million people took to the skies.

What percentage of people travel by bus/train during the holidays? 

About 3% to 6% will take a train or bus during the holidays.

Most Common Holiday Travel Accommodations

Where do travelers stay during holiday travel?

Percentage of people who stay at hotels and the average cost

About 22% to 23% of holiday travelers planned to stay in a hotel for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. This year, a hotel room will cost $189 on average during the Thanksgiving holiday and $218 a night during Christmas.

Percentage of people who stay at Airbnbs or VRBOs

Overall, 72% of American travelers choose hotels over vacation rentals at any time of the year. However, reservations for short-term rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo for holiday travel in 2021 were up 377% compared to 2020 (and 91% over 2019).

Percentage of people who stay with friends or family 

About 68% of travelers planned to stay with family or friends over Thanksgiving last year. Similarly, over Christmas, 66% of travelers choose the same.

Which Demographics Are Most Likely To Travel During The Holidays?

Baby Boomers and Millennials are at the forefront of the travel industry’s rebound. Both generations are dominating leisure travel in the U.S.

Boomers plan to spend at least $4,000 on travel, more than any other generation.

Meanwhile, Millennial households are leading in terms of the number of trips planned. Millennials want to take an average of 4.4 trips, compared to an average of 3.8 trips for Boomers.

Gen Zs are just as eager to travel as Millenials, with plans to take an average of 4.1 trips. 

Gen Xers, on the other hand, plan to take an average of 3.3 trips.

How Much Do People Typically Spend On Holiday Travel? 

On average, travelers expect to spend just over $1,800 in total for their holiday trips in 2021. Meanwhile, 44% of Americans planned to spend $500 or less on Thanksgiving travel.

Here are the average vacation costs for a domestic four-night trip:

  • Transportation: $224
  • Accommodation: $150
  • Food/Alcohol: $155
  • Entertainment: $52

This year, people who are flying to their destination are expected to spend a lot more than usual. That’s because prices for flights over Thanksgiving and Christmas are expected to reach a peak last seen five years ago.

A domestic round-trip flight during Thanksgiving will cost an average of $350. Domestic flights over Christmas are expected to cost $463, up 31% from pre-pandemic prices.

Top US holiday travel destinations

Where are people traveling this year? From theme parks to big cities, these are the most popular places for holiday travel in the U.S.

Top holiday travel destinations expected in 2022

We’re expecting a busy holiday season this year: More than half of Americans plan to travel for one or both of the holidays this year. About 70% have plans to visit friends and family, and many are staying within the U.S.

  • New York, NY
  • Orlando, FL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Chicago, IL
  • Denver, CO
  • Dallas, TX
  • Tampa, Fl
  • Washington D.C.

Top holiday travel destinations in 2021

Theme-park meccas like Orlando and Anaheim were among the most popular picks for holiday travel in 2021. These were the top holiday travel destinations:

  • Orlando, FL
  • Anaheim, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • New York, NY & Kahului, Maui, HI (tie)
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Miami, FL
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Tampa, FL
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Diego, CA

Top holiday travel destinations in 2020

​​Only one in four Americans intended to travel for the holidays in 2020. For those that did hit the road, these were the trending destinations:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Denver, CO
  • Dallas, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • Columbus, OH
  • Cincinnati, OH
  • Detroit, MI
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Nashville, TN
  • Cleveland, OH

Top holiday travel destinations in 2019 

Warm weather destinations, as well as iconic cities, topped the list of most popular holiday destinations in 2019:

  • Orlando, FL
  • Anaheim, CA
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Kahului, Maui, HI
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Lauderdale, FL
  • New York, NY
  • Miami, FL
  • Tampa, FL
  • Phoenix, AZ

Soaring airfares threaten to slow down the travel rebound. Despite it all, Americans remain committed to traveling this holiday season.

Americans are eager to travel again

In the spring, 73% of American travelers said they intended to take a vacation in the next six months. Most travelers are no longer viewing Covid-19 as an impediment to their trips. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after are expected to be very busy.

But they’re staying domestic

According to Hopper, about half of all Christmas bookings made so far are domestic trips. As for Thanksgiving, nearly 60% of all trips are domestic.

Travelers are increasingly using OTAs

One in every four travelers (73%) visits an Online Travel Agency like Expedia, Tripadvisor, or Travelocity regularly when researching or booking a trip. The main reason travelers use OTAs is to compare prices and availability across providers.

Flights and hotel rooms are more expensive

Holiday travelers can expect a pricey travel bill this year. During Thanksgiving, hotels are expected to cost $189 a night on average, up from $167 in 2021. Meanwhile, for Christmas, hotels are going for an average of $218 a night, a 32% increase from 2021.

Flights are also increasingly more expensive. A round-trip ticket during Thanksgiving is costing an average of $350, more than 20% over 2019’s average. Over Christmas, domestic flights rise to $463, which is 31% higher than pre-pandemic prices.

Cruises are in

More than half of leisure travelers are at least somewhat interested in taking a cruise during the next 12 months. Millennials, specifically, expressed the highest interest.

***

With these 2022 holiday statistics in hand, you can start prepping your tourism business for the upcoming season.

Sources:

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Writer Carla Vianna

Carla Vianna

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