Vacasa’s 2021 fall travel trends

Temps may be dropping, but interest in travel isn’t cooling off.

Published September 2021

a group of four friends sits around a wood burning fireplace in a cabin
large stone fireplace with bear decor in cabin in eagle river

Last fall, when travel would have traditionally tapered off post-Labor Day—known as a “shoulder season” in the travel industry—the demand for vacation rentals remained constant. There’s no doubt the pandemic proved how much people value vacations and the ability to safely get away with family and close friends to explore new destinations. So, as we enter the second autumn of the pandemic, Vacasa teamed up with Allison + Partners to survey* 1,000 Americans over the age of 18 and see what travel trends we could harvest from the findings.

With 53% of Americans planning to take a trip this fall, we’re finding that people are still feeling relatively safe about travel—and that aligns with what we raked in from our own data, too.

As of last month, Vacasa’s booking window—or how far in advance guests are making reservations—for stays in September and October was roughly 45% longer compared to 2020 and even 5% longer compared to 2019. The advance planning indicates that, as of now, people continue to feel more confident in travel than they had in 2020.

Still, many of the most popular Vacasa destinations for September and October suggest that travelers continue to seek out places with ample outdoor activities and room to physically distance, including Outer Banks, North Carolina; Moab, Utah; and markets surrounding Acadia National Park in Maine.

With that in mind, let’s dig into the cornucopia of fall travel findings.

patio furniture sits on deck of vacation home with mountain views in estes park

The Travelers

  • More than half (53%) of Americans are planning to travel this fall, which is just slightly lower than summer 2021—when 59% of Americans were planning a vacation or getaway. Not much of a shoulder season after all! However, two groups are more likely to hit the road:
  • Those who are vaccinated, or plan to be before they travel, are more likely to say they are planning to travel (56%).
  • Work-cations are fully charged for fall: respondents who work remotely or in a hybrid format are the most likely to plan to travel (75% and 71%, respectively).

Back to school means parents get a break too, right? While 48% of parents are planning to travel with their kids, a near-even 46% are planning a vacation with their spouse only.

wraparound deck with red painted railings with forest views in wisconsin

The Trips

  • More than 2 in 5 fall travelers—42%, to be exact—will be taking 3- or 4-day vacations. That’s a sizable jump from our summer survey, in which only 34% reported planning long-weekend getaways.
  • Most people would opt to stay grounded if they were to travel this fall, with more than half of U.S. consumers preferring to take a road trip (53%), followed by a domestic trip within the U.S. (42%) and a camping trip (23%). Insider tip: Vacasa has great escapes near National Parks.
  • Who’s taking to the skies? 61% of Gen Zers and 59% of Millennials report they’ll be taking their first plane ride of the pandemic this fall, compared to just 31% of Boomers planning to board a flight for the first time.
  • More than half (53%) of travelers are planning to take a trip this season that was postponed from earlier in the year—however, it varies by generation. 71% of Gen Zers are planning makeup trips, while 63% of Boomers are making fresh travel plans.
great room of cabin in blue ridge, georgia with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and a stone fireplace

The Factors

  • What caused the delay? Of those who had to postpone trips from earlier in 2021, 48% cited COVID-19-related travel restrictions and/or requirements, followed by their comfort level with traveling at the time (38%). However, a quarter of travelers postponed their trip because of the availability, or lack thereof, of accommodations.
  • It’s no surprise then that 32% of travelers say that finding budget-friendly accommodations is a top priority when planning their upcoming trip—more so than any other factor listed.
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: regardless of current travel plans, 41% of Americans would most likely travel for a family event (birthday, reunion, etc.), with 35% of consumers saying that a family reunion would most inspire them to travel—an increase from a similar survey fielded in summer 2021.
  • In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, 32% of travelers say that new COVID-19 variants will factor into their upcoming travel plans, along with the number of restrictions in their desired destination (29%) and COVID-19 vaccine requirements

Top fall destinations

sunset ocean views from outer banks vacation home
Outer Banks, North Carolina
delicate arch in arches national park
Moab, Utah
a lighthouse in acadia sits on the cliffs overlooking the ocean
Acadia National Park, Maine

*Allison+Partners Research + Insights surveyed 1,001 individuals over the age of 18 in the United States. The survey was fielded using the Qualtrics Insight Platform and panel was sourced from Lucid. Fielding was executed in August 2021.

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