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54% of Americans Didn’t Take a Summer Vacation, Though 73% of Consumers Originally Had Travel Plans

54% of Americans Didn’t Take a Summer Vacation, Though 73% of Consumers Originally Had Travel Plans

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Even though summer didn't go as expected for some, more than half of respondents tell ValuePenguin that they have fall or winter travel plans.
A family sad their summer vacation was canceled.
A family sad their summer vacation was canceled. Source: Getty Images

While nearly three-quarters of Americans had plans to travel this summer, far fewer followed through. Just 46% of respondents say they went away this summer, according to the latest ValuePenguin survey of nearly 1,600 consumers — this is down from the 73% in April who said they intended to travel.

Reasons behind the summer travel opt-outs vary, with air travel woes like delays and cancellations likely a factor. In fact, 48% think airports are operating worse now than before the pandemic. Others may have lingering fears about COVID-19, or ultimately pulled back because of higher airline fares.

Find out more about the state of summer 2022 air travel, along with tips on how to cope with travel delays, lost luggage and more.

Key findings

  • More than half of Americans (54%) didn’t take a summer vacation this year. That’s a stark difference from the 73% who told ValuePenguin in April that they had summer travel plans.
  • But there’s still time for vacation, as 54% of Americans say they have fall and/or winter travel plans. That’s highest among six-figure earners (69%) and Gen Zers (63%).
  • Some who traveled this summer encountered headaches. About 1 in 5 summer travelers (19%) say they missed an important event or occasion due to flight delays or cancellations, while a similar percentage (17%) experienced lost or misplaced luggage.
  • The majority of consumers think the flying experience has worsened since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly half (48%) note that airports are busier and less efficient — which surges to 67% among baby boomers. In addition, 30% say they don’t feel safe flying given health concerns like COVID-19 and monkeypox.
  • Travelers are open to applying for TSA PreCheck to reduce long lines at the airport. More than two-thirds of Americans say they’re either willing to apply (26%) or are considering doing so (42%).

More than half of Americans didn’t take a summer vacation

The majority of Americans (54%) stayed put during the summer months this year, deciding not to take a vacation.

This is a graph about summer vacation

Given which groups reported the highest rates of not taking a summer vacation, health concerns and economic challenges may have been why. For instance, 65% of baby boomers (ages 57 to 76) didn’t travel, compared with 42% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 25). Meanwhile, 69% of those earning less than $35,000 annually stayed home, versus just 36% of those making $100,000 or more.

This is a stark difference from a ValuePenguin survey fielded in April, in which 73% expected to travel this summer. Among parents with children younger than 18 in particular, 84% intended to travel, but only 57% did.

"While that’s a staggering number of people who opted out of summer travel plans, it’s not entirely surprising given the recent challenges facing travelers," says Sophia Mendel, ValuePenguin travel expert. "From lingering COVID-19 concerns and the monkeypox outbreak to rising costs resulting from inflation and unprecedented airline flight delays and cancellations, any number of factors could be playing a role in canceled summer travel plans."

Looking ahead, 54% have travel plans this fall and winter

Even though summer travel plans didn't go as expected for some, 54% of respondents say they have fall or winter plans. However, it was the groups who traveled most during the summer that were also most likely to have late-year travel plans:

  • High earners (69%)
  • Gen Zers (63%)
  • Parents of young children (56%)

"I don’t think it’s unusual for people to plan travel during the fall and winter months, especially around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas," Mendel says. "However, it’s possible that people are relying on those travel plans more than usual this year to make up for the summer trips they missed out on."

About 20% of summer travelers missed an important event due to flight delays and cancellations

Nearly 1 in 5 (19%) consumers overall — and particularly one-third of Gen Zers — say that airline issues caused them to miss an important event or occasion this summer. Perhaps hearing anecdotes like this from friends or flight delay horror stories on the news may have influenced some would-be travelers to postpone their plans.

Another common travel headache? Lost luggage. Overall, 17% of summer travelers say they experienced problems with their checked baggage, with their airline either getting it late or losing it altogether.

This is a graph about luggage

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint data shows that every day in July and August 2022 — except for July 4 — had more passengers than on the same dates in 2021. But at the same time that demand is up, flight routes have been cut and there’s a shrinking number of pilots, as well as airline and airport worker shortages across the globe.

A spokesperson for the TSA told ValuePenguin via email that the TSA has been trying to meet the demand by providing overtime and bonuses, managing the national deployment force for assistance where it’s needed and collaborating with airport and airline partners on scheduling resources appropriate to the flight schedules.

The pandemic effect: Most think flying has gotten worse

With 48% of travelers agreeing that air travel post-pandemic is a worse experience than before, frustrations are flying high. According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data, 23.3% of flights were delayed in June, while 3.1% of flights were canceled. (Data for July and August isn’t yet available.)

What’s more, airline fares were up 27.7% year over year as of July 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.

This is a graph about pandemic flying

By generation, baby boomers are most likely to say flying has gotten worse, with more than two-thirds responding as such.

"Baby boomers may have elevated COVID-19 concerns when traveling this year and may be more prone to noticing the state of airports than travelers who are less concerned," Mendel says.

Regardless of perception, Mendel chalks up most airline struggles to heightened travel demand and worker shortages, which have resulted in longer lines and more airport congestion.

Besides feeling that flying conditions have worsened, 30% of respondents say they don’t feel safe flying given the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the newer monkeypox outbreak. And, among those traveling, 32% have continued to mask up — with 42% of Gen Zers leading the way.

This is a graph about flying and health concerns

Some turn to TSA PreCheck to avoid long lines

Although TSA PreCheck can’t spare you from lost luggage or delays, it can get you through security faster. That explains why more than two-thirds of Americans say they’re either willing to make the investment (26%) or are considering doing so (42%).

According to TSA data from July, 95% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes.

"TSA Precheck is 100% worth it for anyone who travels by air," Mendel says. "It makes the airport experience much quicker and less stressful, which is especially valuable during these chaotic times."

Majority of consumers aren’t loyal to a specific airline

Despite the challenges of air travel these days, the majority of Americans (60%) say they don’t necessarily stick with the same carrier. What’s more, nearly half (47%) of those who aren’t loyal say they purchase flights based on cost.

Of the 40% of Americans who say they do consistently fly with a preferred airline, most say it’s because they’re satisfied with the airline’s available flights and times (44%) or because they’re a member of the airline’s loyalty program (41%).

The survey also found that higher incomes correlate with those most likely to be airline-loyal.

Dealing with travel woes: 4 tips

With the prospect of frustrating flight delays, missed events and lost luggage, these strategies can help you prevent or deal with airline travel struggles:

  • Improve your luggage arrival odds. While the best way to avoid lost bags when traveling is to carry on whenever possible, that’s not always an option, according to Mendel. "I would recommend purchasing a small and relatively inexpensive tracker to stick in your suitcase so you can keep tabs on your bags throughout the entire travel process," she says. In addition, many travel credit cards offer some amount of travel insurance, including compensation for lost or delayed luggage, when you pay for your trip using your card. "This can end up saving you massive amounts of money, should you need it," Mendel adds.
  • Minimize flight delay and cancellation stress. "My best advice for avoiding complications from delayed or canceled flights is to try to book direct flights whenever possible — that way, you won’t have to worry about missing a connection," Mendel says. Beyond that, do your best to pad your schedule with extra time if you’re flying to an event, so you have time to make other arrangements if you’re delayed or canceled. "If your flight does get canceled, head to your airline’s customer service desk to figure out getting on the next available flight," she also notes.
  • Look for travel reward credit cards with benefits. Travel credit cards can make the travel process run more smoothly. For instance, some provide you with a credit for TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Other perks may include airport lounge access — "these things can improve your travel experience from start to finish," Mendel says.
  • Consider insuring your trip. Given the struggles facing the travel industry, according to Mendel, it’s always valuable to have travel insurance. Many credit cards offer trip protections, from rental car insurance to trip cancellation and interruption insurance. "Be sure to check ahead of time to see what’s included and make sure to pay for your entire trip using your card," Mendel says. You might also want to look into a third-party travel insurance policy for additional coverage, especially if you’re taking a big, expensive trip.

Methodology

ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,578 U.S. consumers ages 18 to 76 from Aug. 12-18, 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