As domestic travel restrictions and mask guidelines ease up, many consumers are looking forward to travel plans set for Memorial Day weekend and beyond. However, the coronavirus pandemic is still on the minds of many — several of whom are changing the way they plan for their next trip as a result.
In the new Safe Travels survey, MDLIVE, a Miramar, Fla.-based telehealth provider, found that 68% of consumers now prioritize personal and family health over more conventional travel planning considerations, including their destination, activities and travel method. MDLIVE revealed that because of this, 58% of consumers will research at least one health care service ahead of their next vacation.
Personal and family health at the forefront of post-pandemic travel planning
Despite many indicators that the U.S. is reaching the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, the MDLIVE survey showed that half of American consumers are still feeling more stressed or worried about traveling now than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak.
These concerns have impacted how travelers conduct research and plan for future vacations. Even though 85% of would-be vacationers have plans to get vaccinated, if they’ve not already done so, many say they will continue to take additional precautions, such as purchasing travel insurance and visiting less-popular destinations.
Similarly, the Safe Travels report showed that respondents plan on doing the following for their next excursion:
- Wearing a mask when traveling (65%)
- Choosing less-populated destinations or experiences (35%)
- Choosing their destination based on local COVID-19 infection or vaccination rates (27%)
"Consumers have shifted to a pragmatic planning mindset when it comes to traveling and health," said Dr. Cynthia Zelis, MDLIVE’s chief medical officer, in a statement. "Health is no longer an afterthought, but has moved to the front seat of the planning process, perhaps for good."
This observation supports other findings from MDLIVE. For example, about 1 in 4 respondents say that they or a family member have gotten sick enough to require medical attention on a past trip. However, a much greater number share similar concerns for future trips, including:
- Getting sick or needing health care while traveling (60%)
- Finding and quickly accessing the care they need (75%)
- Spending a lot of time in the waiting room in another region, town or city (75%)
Travel first aid essentials see a refresh for 2021
These findings may explain why telehealth is in greater demand for travelers, as 31% of respondents now say they would use telehealth if they or a family member got sick while traveling — compared to less than 20% that would have done so pre-pandemic.
In fact, when asked how important different apps are to their travel plans, some of the top priorities for consumers were:
- Mapping apps (68%)
- Roadside assistance apps (67%)
- Health care apps, such as those for health insurance, pharmacy or telehealth providers (64%)
- Transportation apps, such as ride-sharing and airlines (59%)
The coronavirus pandemic has also driven changes in other aspects of travel planning, particularly the travel first aid kit. Compared to pre-pandemic times, 52% of respondents said they're more likely to pack a family medical travel kit for their next trip.
Many consumers also plan to include the following essentials in their kits:
- Extra masks (96%)
- Over-the-counter medicines, like pain relievers and fever reducers (90%)
- Digital or traditional thermometer (87%)
- Over-the-counter COVID-19 test (71%)
Methodology: MDLIVE gathered data for its Safe Travels survey through a nationally representative online panel from April 30 through May 3, 2021.