Pack those bags. Nearly half of Americans are planning to travel more in 2022, but many of them will take their remote work with them on vacation, according to a new ValuePenguin survey of more than 1,300 U.S. consumers.
After two years of being cautious and dealing with travel restrictions, people are eager to get away — and some, like a quarter of Gen Zers and millennials, are going big with a major "bucket list" vacation. Overall, the majority of people said they planned to spend over $3,000 on travel this year, including the 46% who have saved up funds and 27% who will be cashing in on their credit cards’ travel rewards. Find out how remote work is impacting travel plans as well as tips on maximizing travel credit cards.
Table of contents
- Key findings
- Americans eager to travel more in 2022
- How remote work factors into travel plans
- Travelers share their 2022 vacation plans
- Vacation spending increases, and most travelers are using savings
- Nearly a third of Americans are shopping for a travel rewards card
- 3 tips for finding your best travel credit card
- Nearly half of Americans (45%) plan to travel more this year than last, in hopes of making up for lost time and seeing loved ones. Americans plan to take an average of three vacations this year, led by Gen Zers and millennials with four trips.
- With pent-up demand following pandemic-related restrictions, many travelers have once-in-a-lifetime trips planned: Nearly a quarter of Gen Zers and millennials with travel plans are taking a "bucket list" vacation, while a third of travelers with incomes above $100,000 are planning an international getaway.
- The rise of remote work makes it easier to get away. About 30% of travelers plan to work remotely during one of their trips; that percentage is even higher among Gen Zers (39%) and millennials (37%). The upside to being a "digital nomad" is that working vacations allow for extra trips, with remote workers planning five getaways as compared to the overall average of three.
- Travelers are ready to spend big, putting their savings to good use: 53% will spend $3,000 or more on travel this year, while only 39% spent that amount last year. Nearly half of travelers (46%) will use money saved up to pay for their trips.
- An eye on credit card rewards: Nearly a third of Americans (31%) will apply for a new travel rewards card this year, including nearly half of Gen Zers (46%). Additionally, 27% will cash in on travel rewards they have already accumulated.
Americans eager to travel more in 2022
Overall, 45% of people are planning more trips this year, including 6 in 10 Gen Zers and 51% of parents with kids under 18.
Being fully vaccinated (54%), wanting to make up for lost time (41%), and going to visit family and friends they haven't seen due to the pandemic (41%) were among the biggest motivators behind 2022 travel plans, according to survey takers. Baby boomers, who may have been more cautious during the pandemic, had the biggest percentage (54%) saying they wanted to reconnect with loved ones.
"There’s no question travel has started to make a comeback as things have begun to return to normal," says Sophia Mendel, credit cards and travel rewards writer at ValuePenguin. "I think there’s a greater sense of security now that more countries are starting to relax COVID-19 restrictions, many people are fully vaccinated and people have honestly just gotten used to living in a post-pandemic world."
Of course, not everyone is ready to travel just yet. The top reasons why some are staying put a bit longer include:
- Worries about COVID-19 variants (51%)
- Saving money for other things (37%)
- Inflation is making travel more expensive (28%)
- Traveling is too complicated these days (14%)
- Just not interested (12%)
But those who are jet-setting or hitting the road are planning an average of three vacations this year, led by Gen Zers and millennials with four trips.
How remote work factors into travel plans
Nearly 3 in 10 people who are planning to travel this year will have Zoom meetings and work calls on the itinerary. Younger Gen Z travelers and parents with young kids (39% for each group) are the most likely to put in some work hours during their vacation.
"Working remotely from unique destinations is becoming more commonplace, especially with millennials and Gen Z, as many offices are still not requiring employees to come into work," says Mendel. The downside, however, is that it can diminish those vacation vibes. For workers trying out the ‘digital nomad’ lifestyle, Mendel recommends setting clear boundaries and finding time to unplug completely so you can enjoy the destination you’re in.
One advantage of working vacations is that people can get away more often. Case in point: Remote workers are planning five trips in 2022 as compared to the overall average of three.
Travelers share their 2022 vacation plans
Family vacations and visiting loved ones will dominate travel plans this year, but many are also planning epic "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences, romantic trips or travel to celebrate a milestone or event.
The groups most likely to be heading out of the country include Gen Z (21%) and those making $100,000+ (33%). About a quarter of Gen Z, as well as millennials, have so-called bucket list trips in the works. And boomers had the highest percentage (17%) gearing up for a previously planned trip that was canceled due to the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the vast majority (65%) of travelers are planning to stay with family and friends.
As for vacation rentals, they are most popular among Gen Zers (42% versus 26% overall). "The concept of vacation rentals, Airbnb and VRBO, etc., is relatively new and may be more interesting or appealing to the younger generation looking to save money and enjoy unique experiences," says Mendel.
Millennials and parents of young kids were the groups most likely to stick with traditional hotels (51% and 48%, respectively) – but also campgrounds (17% each). Whereas Gen X has the highest percentage of travelers hitting the road in RVs (10%). "It’s possible that Gen X has more time on their hands to explore the country at their leisure with family or friends, and RV travel may allow them the flexibility they’re looking for," says Mendel.
As for all-inclusive resorts, 1 in 5 of the highest earners are taking advantage of them, much more so than lower-income groups, a finding that surprises Mendel. "While there are plenty of high-end all-inclusives, there are plenty of affordable ones as well. I would have thought lower earners might appreciate paying a set, relatively low fee up front to enjoy a full vacation and not having to worry about adding up costs," she says.
Vacation spending increases, and most travelers are using savings
Many travelers are willing to splurge this year, with 53% saying they will spend $3,000 or more on travel; whereas only 39% spent that amount last year. The increasing costs of vacationing and inflation may also be a factor in the higher costs.
The good news is that nearly half of travelers (46%) have been saving up to fund their trips.
However, another trend worth highlighting is that 1 in 10 millennial travelers will use a "buy now, pay later" installment plan to pay for their travel. "Because people don’t need to go into the office, they’re likely taking more trips than they would have in the past and need a financial plan to make that happen," says Mendel. "As long as you make your payments on time and avoid accruing debt, BNPL can be a convenient way to finance travel."
Nearly a third of Americans are shopping for a travel rewards card
One popular way to offset the cost of travel is using a rewards credit card, and 31% of consumers said they plan on applying for a new one this year; for Gen Zers, the number climbs to 46%.
"Anyone who travels, regardless of the frequency, can benefit from a travel rewards card," says Mendel. Not only can you rack up points and miles that can result in free flights, upgrades and hotel stays, but many rewards credit cards also come with travel perks, such as free checked bags, travel insurance, airport lounge access, Global Entry or TSA Precheck fee credits and more, she adds.
Take it from the 27% of people who said they are planning to cash in on travel rewards they have already accumulated to help defray their travel costs in 2022 – what Mendel says is a smart move. "To avoid inflation and points devaluations resulting from the pandemic, cashing in the rewards you currently have is a better idea than continuing to hold onto them."
3 tips for finding your best travel credit card
As pandemic restrictions ease and working remotely may continue to be the norm, opening a travel rewards card is one of the smartest things you can do to save money on your next trip, says Mendel. Here are her tips for choosing the best ones for your wallet:
Check your credit score before you apply. When you apply for a card, there’s a hard pull on your credit that results in a temporary credit score drop, so you should try to apply only when you have a strong chance of approval, says Mendel. Travel rewards cards tend to be marketed to those with excellent credit. "I recommend checking your credit score frequently – this does not count as a hard pull and will not negatively affect your credit score."
Choose between a general travel vs. branded card. While a general rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, can offer valuable and flexible rewards you can use with a variety of hotels and airlines, a co-branded hotel or airline card can be useful if you consistently use the same brands, says Mendel. "For example, if you live in Atlanta, which is a Delta hub, you might get more value out of a co-branded Delta credit card rather than a general travel rewards card."
Think about your travel and spending style to maximize earnings. "Choosing the best travel rewards card for you will depend on where you spend the most, how often you travel, whether you’re willing to pay an annual fee, and the types of travel perks you think you’ll use," says Mendel. Pick the card that best aligns with your preferences so you can maximize its value. Bonus tip: If you’re new to travel cards, start with a no-annual-fee card. "This is a great way to try out a travel rewards card without overcommitting yourself," says Mendel.
The bottom line
After two tough years, more Americans are poised for extra traveling in 2022, and remote work options are making it easier to do so. But those "making up for lost time" splurges could wreak havoc on your budget if you’re not careful. Taking the time to research airfare and hotel deals, saving up, and maximizing travel credit card rewards can help you fund those much-needed getaways.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,323 U.S. consumers from Feb. 15-21, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.
We defined generations as the following ages in 2022:
- Generation Z: 18 to 25
- Millennial: 26 to 41
- Generation X: 42 to 56
- Baby boomer: 57 to 76
While the survey also included consumers from the silent generation (those 77 and older), the sample size was too small to include findings related to that group in the generational breakdowns.