Large areas such as national parks and beaches are still popular for long vacation weekends.
Thomas Barwick | Stone | Getty Images
A spike in Covid-19 infections due to the Delta variant may slow recovery from the pandemic, but Labor Day travelers looking for a hurray last summer – and with the shadow of possible future bans on their mind – are eager to to be on the way.
Recent studies have shown that this is happening despite ongoing concerns about Covid-19 and related restrictions like mask and vaccination requirements for travel destinations and venues.
Up to that point, 75% of people surveyed by travel website The Vacationer and SurveyMonkey on August 1 said the coronavirus remains a “minor” or “major” problem, according to co-founder Eric Jones. However, Jones said he thinks Labor Day travel is on the rise “because people want to make sure they get something”.
“There is talk of new quarantine rules or bans … so some fear they will not be able to travel again,” added Jones, finding in an earlier poll this summer.
The Vacationer found that 25% of Americans are planning so-called revenge trips. “That means they travel more than usual just because they were bottled at home,” Jones said. “Well, I suspect this is one of the last Labor Day opportunities you have this summer.”
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In fact, The Vacationer’s latest survey found that more than 53% of 571 respondents are planning a work holiday trip, with 4.03% using public transit, 12.08% flying, and 36.95% driving a car. The result – extrapolated to the US population as a whole – would mean that 137 million American adults will travel that weekend, according to the website, an increase from July 4th and more than 10% more than the total number of weekends on Easter and on Memorial Day together.
For its part, Tripadvisor found that only 31% of Americans surveyed plan to travel this weekend, which is in line with 2020 (32%) and even 2019 (35%) levels.
Elizabeth Monahan, senior communications manager and US travel expert on site, said that “this is pretty consistent when it comes to a long weekend.” Tripadvisor found that 86% of travelers will stay in the US, with 45% traveling locally by car or train and 41% using domestic flights. Only 14% plan to travel abroad.
Among the age cohorts, Millennials are the most willing to travel with 38%, followed by Generation X with 32% and Generation Z with 31%. Older Americans are far less inclined to travel this week, with only 13% of baby boomers traveling.
Millennials, who are often thought to be in their 30s and 40s now, are more likely to be parents of children who went to school at home in the last year – perhaps Monahan explains the population’s eagerness to leave the home.
“This group in particular really missed some of the great memories that travel and experience different parts of the world with those who are closest to you can make,” she said.
It’s not just surveys that show an increasing interest in Labor Day travel, but also in hard sales data. TripIt, from Concur’s data analysis, showed domestic flight, car rentals, accommodations and vacation rentals bookings were 53%, 75%, 62% and 46% respectively, compared to Labor Day 2019 only 33% of 2019 levels; Bookings from car rental companies and accommodation have also increased significantly since the end of May.
Jen Moyse, TripIt’s senior director of product, said the analytical results were not a “big surprise”.
“What we’ve seen in our previous studies is that people are more comfortable traveling and that is reflected in the bookings,” she said. “As soon as the vaccines came out, we saw the level of comfort increase.”
In terms of spending, 39.4% of respondents said they wouldn’t spend cash on travel this weekend, The Vacationer found. But of those who take a trip, the majority of travelers are spending less than $ 500 at 37.13%, while 12.08% will spend $ 501 to $ 1,000, according to The Vacationer’s survey. Meanwhile, about 11.38% will spend $ 1,001 or more. That means almost one in four adults will be spending more than $ 500 this weekend.
TripIt found that travelers stay longer, with accommodation reservations increasing by a factor of 10 since 2019 for both 8-13 day trips and trips longer than 14 days. Moyse also attributes this to business travelers who just want to stay away longer when they decide to travel. “When I get out, I’ll travel as I mean,” she said.
The more flexibility the various hospitality sectors can offer guests, the more businesses these providers will win.
Senior Communications Manager at Tripadvisor
According to Tripadvisor, flexibility remains important for travelers; Filters like Free Cancellation, Pay at Stay, and Travel Safe are some of the most clicked filters on the page.
“The biggest benefit people are looking for is cleanliness, but flexibility is also a priority right now,” said Monahan. “The more flexibility the various hospitality sectors can offer guests, the more business these providers will win.”
Later that year they also booked weekend Labor Day flights, with TripIt seeing 51% of reservations in July, compared to just 18% in 2020. Tripadvisor has also seen a trend towards last minute bookings. The website found that 70% of trips booked in the first week of August were for trips within three weeks.
TripIt’s Moyse attributed this behavior to people knowing that conditions change day by day.
“Some of this has to do with looking at the current conditions and thinking, ‘Am I ready to go? What will it be like in this destination?'” Moyse said, citing Hawaii, which eased entry restrictions in July just got to tighten them again.
EMS FORSTER PRODUCTIONS | DigitalVision | Getty Images
Three in four of The Vacationer’s respondents said Covid-19 was a “slight” or “big” problem for Labor Day. Almost half fear that they (46.06%) or a family member or friend (46.76%) could get Covid, and 37.83% fear that they could unwittingly spread it. Mask (28.55%) and test or vaccine requirements (20.32%) were also of concern, regardless of whether respondents were for or against such mandates. Only 16.99% had no concerns at all.
Moyse at TripIt said, “There’s still some nervousness there [and] they are still cautious. “
However, this may be due to the surprising rise of the delta variant. “Once the Delta variant has been with us for a while, it’s possible we will see other responses from people,” she added.
“But right now, people are learning how to mask, they’re learning to take precautions, they’re learning to plan ahead, and that’s some of the advice we’ve given a lot,” added Moyse. “Think about how you can plan your trip a little differently than in 2019.”
Top 15 Labor Day Destinations on Tripadvisor for 2021
- Ocean City, Maryland
- Orlando Florida
- Las Vegas
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- new York
- Cancun, Mexico
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Key West, Florida
- Panama City Beach, Florida
- Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Gatlinburg, Tennessee
- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
In fact, Tripadvisor found that beaches and national parks – mostly outdoor areas that became popular amid pandemic lockdowns last year – remain the most sought-after attractions in August.
“When people want to get out and travel, they want to be sure to do so in places like the outdoors or on beaches or while hiking – we’re even seeing a lot of interest in camping,” Monahan said. “Places where you can enjoy beautiful views but also practice social distancing have remained a really strong trend, and we’re now seeing that for Labor Day weekend as well.”
The trend is reflected in how Tripadvisor’s top Labor Day travel destinations compare to those in 2019, when more urban spots were popular. This year, Ocean City, Maryland ranked first, pushing former No. 1 destination Las Vegas to third, and 10 of the top 15 travel destinations are warm weather or seaside destinations. Two years ago, on the other hand, 10 out of 15 top positions were large cities.
That said, don’t expect the city to stay out forever.
“We’re seeing some places like New York and even Chicago popping up again,” Monahan said.
The Big Apple, # 2 in 2019, held its fifth place this year, and the Windy City, once the sixth most popular, retains some attraction at 14th place.