Skip to content

Planes, hotels and automobiles: How Americans are traveling during the pandemic

Sept. 23, 2020
5 min read
Planes, hotels and automobiles: How Americans are traveling during the pandemic
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It's been more than six months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the new coronavirus remains a very real threat. Still, travelers are finding ways to get out and explore -- even if it's in radically different ways than they did in a pre-COVID world.

Unsurprisingly, 40% of adults in the U.S. are comfortable taking a driving vacation and visiting a national park or a similar scenic area right now, according to a new poll. Only 19% of people surveyed, however, would feel comfortable on a plane.

But, the survey highlights how Americans are continuing to hit the road and take to the skies -- all with safety in mind.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Planes, trains and hotel stays

Initially, we heard reports that the solitude of a private home rental was preferable to that of a crowded hotel with elevators, escalators and bustling lobbies. Apparently, that's not the case anymore.

According to the results of an exclusive poll conducted by Ipsos on behalf of TPG, 31% of travelers said they'd be comfortable staying at a hotel right now — slightly more than the 22% of travelers who said they'd bed down at a vacation rental property (say, a home booked through Airbnb or VRBO).

And though automobiles are clearly the preferred method of transportation right now, travelers are almost equally comfortable with the idea of both air travel and a train trip.

For travelers who aren't ready to travel just yet — but would take these types of trips under different circumstances — many (between 16% and 22%) said it would take a vaccine or treatment to make them feel comfortable with the idea of a theme park vacation, flight, train ride, hotel stay or vacation rental.

This underscores the incredible shift toward road trips and outdoor getaways in recent months. And for a portion of the population, nothing short of immunity or a viable treatment will get them back to riskier forms of travel.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The findings of this poll, which surveyed over 1,100 adults 18 and older from all 50 U.S. states between Sept. 14 to 15, suggest traveler sentiment has been shaped by past experiences. According to the survey, 39% of travelers have already stayed at a hotel since April. If the experience was positive, it would explain why consumer confidence is rebounding faster with hotels than vacation rentals. Far fewer travelers have traveled to theme parks or taken a train ride (17% and 10%, respectively), which could account for the lower confidence travelers have expressed with these types of trips.

And roughly a quarter of travelers also said vacation rentals (26%) and train trips (25%) weren't trips they'd normally take — so it makes sense they wouldn't be particularly eager to try them during a pandemic.

Related: Nearly a third of the country is ready to travel this summer — a TPG special report

Ultimately, the findings are consistent with what travelers said back in May, when TPG issued a report on how the global health crisis was influencing traveler opinion. Even then, with the pandemic still in its relative infancy, travelers felt more comfortable at hotels and resorts than at home rentals (28% versus 19%) and preferred domestic flights to trains or public transportation (20% versus 13%).

Staying safe while traveling

Whether you're flying to a hotel or driving to a vacation rental this year or next, travelers should still remember there are important safety measures you can and should take — regardless of the type of trip — to minimize your risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Experts continue to urge travelers to be mindful of how small (or large) and well-ventilated a space is; the duration of your exposure to others; and how much you’re interacting with high-touch surfaces. And, of course, you want to steer clear of crowds.

Related: TPG’s safe travel guide: How to minimize risk on your summer vacation

That's why road trips to wide-open spaces such as parklands continue to be some of the most popular forms of vacationing during the pandemic. And though hoteliers have gone to great lengths to keep their properties safe and clean (think: the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which has an on-site doctor and complimentary COVID-19 tests) vacation rentals typically have a much lower volume of travelers than hotels.

No matter what your next trip looks like, you'll want to be sure to pack a mask and possibly a face shield; be prepared with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes; have a back-up plan in case your plane, train or park is overcrowded; and, no matter where you are, be mindful of staying at least six feet away from others.

Featured image by (Photo by jtrend/Twenty20)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more