Many Americans are preparing to splash out on a summer vacation

Apr 21, 2021

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For many people, it’s been more than a year since their last vacation.

But with vaccines now available to all adults, and the promise from President Joe Biden that all Americans will be able to safely celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, it’s gearing up to be a big year for summer travel.

In fact, half of adults in the U.S. (50%) say they’ll likely take at least one summer vacation between June and September this year, according to a new study by TPG and Healthline Media (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).

That number rises to 54% among adults who are already vaccinated.

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The survey of 2,575 adults in the U.S., which was conducted by YouGov between April 7 and 9, suggests that money may once again be the single biggest factor affecting travelers’ vacation plans.

Approximately 70% of Americans who are earning upward of $80,000 per year are at least somewhat likely to take a vacation this year, surpassing families with children under 18 (65%) and even millennials between the ages of 25 and 40 (59%).

People who are at least somewhat likely to take a summer vacation this year may be planning to splash out on bigger trips. Roughly 43% said they’d spend more than $1,000 on a trip this summer, and 20% said their vacation budget could exceed $2,000.

We’ve long suspected that people will take bigger, longer and more expensive trips when they finally decide to hit the road again. After putting travel plans on hold for a year or more, many people are sitting on a stockpile of points, miles and travel vouchers. Others are simply hoping to make up for lost time with blowout adventures that will eclipse the pandemic.

But for some travelers, spending more on their first summer vacation since the onset of the coronavirus crisis may also be about securing additional peace of mind.

It can be more expensive to book truly flexible, refundable vacation plans. And some travelers may be budgeting for a pricey cancel-for-any-reason travel insurance policy.

For others, a bigger vacation budget may be a strategic way to travel more safely and have a more exclusive experience when the time comes.

Steve Swasey, vice president of communications at Healthline, told TPG that many upgrades might confer a safer travel experience.

“If you can afford a first-class seat, go for it. You not only have more room during the flight, but you’re also able to get off the plane sooner, which reduces exposure to others,” Swasey said.

And if you’ve ever considered paying up to access an airport lounge (or applying for a premium credit card with this perk), now could be the time, as “lounges give you more space to separate from others,” he added.

Travelers may also consider splurging on a private villa or vacation home, opting for a car service instead of taking public transportation and other enhancements for a trip that will feel both luxurious and safe.

But Swasey says travelers shouldn’t break the bank or “wreck [the] … yearly budget by overspending on vacation.”

Flying in economy is safe, he says, as long as everyone abides by safety guidelines and wears a mask (or two). You should also keep your air vent open above you and consider packing a small battery-powered fan to prop up in front of you for even better air circulation.

Whether you’re staying in a mainstream hotel or riding the airport shuttle, be sure to follow all the best practices for staying safe and protecting others, including doubling up on masks and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the economic depression and widespread job loss triggered by the pandemic is also factoring into people’s travel plans. Of the people surveyed who said they’re unlikely to take a vacation this summer, 41% said affordability was the biggest factor.

Though deals may be harder to find than some travelers might expect (due largely to reduced capacity and increased demand for certain types of trips), they are out there — especially if you know where to look.

As travel makes its long-awaited comeback, the same types of trips will continue to be extremely popular.

Nearly half (49%) of the people who said they’re likely to go on vacation this summer said they’re interested in taking a road trip. Trips to national and state parks (39%), beach getaways (38%), outdoor events (28%) and camping (23%) will also be popular with vacationers this summer.

So, for travelers hoping for a bargain, the more affordable fares and rates may be found for trips to big cities, tickets to indoor events and similar activities. For travelers willing to fly abroad (15%) or cruise (9%) the savings — or, at least, the incentives — may be even more significant.

No matter what kind of trip you’re dreaming of taking this summer, you should look for value-added deals and bonuses, which may be easier to come by than bargain-basement prices. A cruise itinerary may not be steeply discounted, for example, but your reservation may come with an onboard credit and other perks.

And whether vacationers are headed to the beach this summer or thinking further ahead to a trip over the holidays or even next year, we know health and safety will continue to stay at the top of their mind — only 15% of potential travelers said they’d prefer fewer or no COVID-19 precautions.

Social distancing measures, mask mandates and strict cleaning protocols are all important precautions for most potential travelers (48% or more). And we know that many people think proof of vaccination may be an important safety measure as summer travel ramps up.

“The most important aspect of traveling is to always stay safe and healthy. No one wants their vacation to be spoiled by being ill,” says Laurie Dewan, Healthline Media’s vice president of brand, insights and communications. “Even if you’re vaccinated, it’s still a good idea to wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands frequently. This is good advice for staying healthy even if we’re not in a pandemic.”

Featured photo by @marcobertoliphotography/Twenty20

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