Destination Cost More Important Than COVID-19 Statistics in Travel Planning

Destination Cost More Important Than COVID-19 Statistics in Travel Planning

However, the health crisis continues to influence nearly every aspect of the vacation-planning process
Summer roadtrip

As pandemic-era restrictions lift, many U.S. consumers hope to make up for all the time spent at home by planning ambitious post-pandemic vacations.

The latest edition of Discover's annual travel survey revealed that, unsurprisingly, the spread of COVID-19 variants (80%) and the number of positive COVID-19 cases (80%) at a destination play a large part in the decision-making process of would-be travelers.

However, pricing and flexibility still have the final say — destination cost (87%) ranked as the most important factor in post-pandemic vacation planning, followed by flexibility in cancellation policies (86%).

A glimpse at post-pandemic travel planning

With little change in scenery outside of their homes and screens over the past year, it's no wonder that 70% of consumers are ready to travel again. Many consumers had already begun planning for their next trip during the height of the pandemic, and as a result, over 50% of respondents now have one to two vacations scheduled in the next six months.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the logistics of our vacations as well. This time around, about 6 in 10 travelers prefer local trips over cross-country jaunts, while 66% will vacation for longer periods — between one to six days at a time.

Some things haven't changed, though. Boomers (28%) are most looking forward to spending time with their family on their next trip, compared with Gen X (18%), millennials (12%) and Gen Z (9%). Meanwhile, Gen Z (21%) travelers have their sights set on new and exciting adventures, more so than 12% of millennials, 10% of Gen X and 7% of boomers.

Cleanliness remains a priority in transit and at the destination

Amid increasing U.S. vaccination rates and decreasing infection rates, the Discover survey also found that 42% of consumers already feel comfortable traveling. But the fight against COVID-19 is far from over, and many will continue to take extra precautions to ensure their health.

For instance, 62% of respondents are still hesitant in taking transportation with others. This explains why over 1 in 2 travelers plan on driving to their destination, compared with the 39% who say they'll fly.

Travelers have higher expectations for their accommodations as well, as many plan on taking the following actions when booking their trip:

  • Finding travel accommodations with strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols (80%)
  • Prioritizing cleaner accommodations when deciding where to stay (74%)
  • Splurging on pricier accommodations and travel options with strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols (50%)
  • Investing in priority travel passes to avoid crowds (49%)

This greater demand for hygiene even extends to their payment methods: 55% of respondents prefer to use credit cards over other methods while on vacation — a 16% percentage-point increase from Discover's pre-pandemic travel survey in 2019.

And now that many credit card companies have issued cards with touchless payment functionalities, 56% say they will use contactless payments more often while traveling.

Methodology: Between April 23-28, 2021, Dynata conducted an online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+) on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The following breakdown was used for the survey's generational data:

  • Gen Z: 18-22 years old
  • Millennials: 23-38 years old
  • Gen X: 39-54 years old
  • Baby boomers: 55-73 years old