Vacasa’s 2020 holiday travel trends & destination best bets

Published November 2020


Are people traveling for the holidays this year? What are our safest options? And where can we still book a vacation rental? We have answers to all that, and more.

It’s hard to imagine the holidays without the festivities that typically mark our calendars or the large gatherings that may not be possible this year. So what are people planning? With the season fast approaching, time is winding down to make decisions on whether or not to safely travel, how to celebrate, and if that includes or forgoes family traditions.

We teamed up with Allison+Partners and surveyed more than a thousand Americans above the age of 18 to get insight into what’s in store for the 2020 holiday travel season. And for the 2 in 5 who plan to pack up and head to a vacation destination, we have a few getaway ideas that still have availability and offer socially distanced activities for both snowy and sunny celebrations. Just remember to review current Health Canada recommendations, and keep in mind that road trips, preparing your own meals, and staying in vacation rentals with your household can offer you some lower-risk travel options. Here’s to a safe and happy holiday.

Let’s start with the facts . . .

man unloading his trunk after he arrived at his vacation rental

‘Tis the season to road trip

  • On average, most U.S. consumers—or 43% of those surveyed—will be traveling for 4–6 hours to get to their holiday destination, with more than three quarters planning to travel by car.
  • While more than half of U.S. consumers plan to travel to their hometown for the holidays (or that of a significant other or a friend), 2 in 5 plan to travel to a vacation destination.
  • More than 80% of those traveling over the holidays plan to meet family and/or friends at their destination.
  • Waterfront destinations reign supreme even in winter, with more than 45% of those vacationing looking for a beach house or condo rental over the holidays, and 34% seeking lake or waterfront accommodations.
group of four friends hang out in living area of vacation cabin

Craving the gift of quality time

  • Consumers’ top reasons for traveling for the holidays this year are: to spend quality time with friends and family (52%); rest and relaxation (38%); and to have an adventure or discover a new place (29%). A quarter say their biggest motivator is that they have been unable to see their family and friends recently due to the pandemic.
  • If there is a COVID-19 spike in or near the area they are traveling to for the holidays, nearly three quarters of people say they will change their travel plans. Only 14% say they will keep plans as is, even if a spike occurs.
chef gabriel's family dishes up their holiday inspired meal

Keeping holiday spirits bright

  • Many Americans’ holiday spirit seems to have stayed strong, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus this year: 66% say they will definitely be decorating for the holidays, and 56% say that they’ll even be giving more gifts this year compared to the 2019 holidays.
  • While almost 40% of U.S. consumers have had to adjust their holiday traditions due to COVID-19, 35% say that the holidays are more important now than ever.

Popular destinations you can still book for the 2020 holiday season

If you’re looking for a destination that will imbue your winter with a dash of holiday spirit, we have nine spots to put on your radar. We used Vacasa data to evaluate occupancy of our U.S. markets during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. Then, rather than point you toward the highest-occupancy destinations where Vacasa vacation rentals may be hard to come by, we had our travel experts curate this list of popular locations where you’re likely to find availability over the holidays.

Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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