Unpacking summer 2021’s top travel trends

Long weekends, family reunions, and vacation re-dos reign supreme this season.

Published May 2021


We’re anticipating a busier-than-ever summer travel season, with many of our top vacation destinations seeing double the reservations for June, July, and August compared to what was booked at this time (pre-pandemic) in 2019. But, in general, how eager are people to hit the road—or get on a plane—during the second summer of the pandemic? Who are they longing to get away with, and why?

Vacasa teamed up with Allison + Partners to survey* 1,000+ Americans over the age of 18 to get a temperature check on the readiness for summer travel in 2021 and which destinations or events people are most likely to make the journey for.

Whether people are packing their bags at the prospect of reuniting with family—or sneaking in a kids-free vacay—the reality is that vacations are going to look different well beyond summer: 57% said the pandemic has forever changed the way they’ll travel. But change can be good when it reminds us what we value most about vacation, right? Oftentimes, it’s the people and time spent together, just as much as the place.

Without further delay, let’s take a tour of how summer travel in 2021 is shaping up.

The travel forecast is sunny, thanks in large part to vaccines

  • 59% of Americans are planning a summer vacation and, within that group, 61% said this will be their first time traveling since the pandemic hit—a dip from the 71% who reported being first-time travelers in the spring.
  • Of those traveling, most (34%) will be spending a long weekend, or three to four days, away from home, followed closely by 32% planning a five- to seven-day getaway.
  • The availability of the COVID-19 vaccine (44%) and the feeling of being cooped up at home for too long (40%) are the top reasons why people are choosing to travel for the first time this summer.
  • But age does make a difference: 66% of Boomers (age 57–75) say that they’ll be traveling for the first time this summer because of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to just 16% of Gen Z (age 18–24) who cite the vaccine as their reason why.
  • Regardless of summer travel plans, 64% of Americans have already gotten, or plan to get, the COVID-19 vaccine before they travel—up from 59% who said the same in our spring survey.

More, though not most, will take to the skies

  • Though 39% of people vacationing this summer have already traveled during the pandemic, nearly a quarter (22%) will be boarding a plane for the first time.
  • Of those who previously traveled during the pandemic, 41% are opting for ground transportation over flying this summer—and that’s particularly true for Boomers, with 60% forgoing air travel.
  • All roads lead to the beach: more than half of all travelers (55%) are planning to spend their summer vacation in the sand, with urban and lake settings being the next most popular settings (26% each). Tip: book early if hotspots like the Florida Panhandle, Charleston, South Carolina, or Washington’s Lake Chelan are on your wish list.

RSVP yes: family reunions, events and vacation do-overs spur travel

  • When asked to select their top two priorities, travelers most often said that the people they’re traveling with (39%) and going to a destination they’re already familiar with (36%) were most important when planning their summer vacation.
  • But don’t doubt the power of social media: more than a quarter (28%) of Gen Zers say finally booking the photo-worthy vacation rental or hotel they’ve had their eye on is most important to them.
  • Family reunions are the most likely group event that will get Americans traveling this summer (32%), followed closely by entertainment-related events (concert, sporting event, etc.) at 30%.
  • Can we get a do over? 37% of travelers are making up for plans that were cancelled last summer by visiting the same destination that they originally intended to visit, or one nearby.

School’s out, and parents need a break

Though parents are no more likely than non-parents to be planning a trip with extended family—and less likely to be planning solo trips or friend getaways—they’re making time to rekindle the romance. That’s right, 45% of parents plan to travel just with their spouse, compared to 30% of non-parents.

*Methodology note: Allison+Partners surveyed 1,001 US consumers over the age of 18. Panel was sourced from Lucid and the survey was hosted in Qualtrics. Fielding took place in April 2021.

Main image courtesy of Fatima Dedrickson.

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