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2 big ways Americans’ travel habits changed during the pandemic

Oct. 11, 2021
5 min read
2 big ways Americans’ travel habits changed during the pandemic
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In the early days, pundits theorized that the coronavirus pandemic would mark the end of many things: New York City, buffets and business travel.

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As we now see, none of those things turned out to be true in the long term. Still, the travel industry has changed -- as has traveler behavior.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve noticed two major trends that point to how the pandemic has forced consumers to rethink how they vacation -- which also debunk some commonly held beliefs people have about travel during the pandemic. More importantly, these trends show that the way we travel has changed as a result of the pandemic -- and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

People are staying closer to home

One thing I expected when travel was more widely accessible this summer was that Americans would book trips to far-flung locations, simply because they could.

Don’t get me wrong: People did fly to the Maldives and take yachts to Fiji. However, more travelers are still choosing to stay closer to home. Despite the fact that many countries are open to vaccinated Americans (and some that are even open to unvaccinated travelers) some people really feel more comfortable exploring places they can drive to, or destinations they can explore during a weekend road trip.

According to a recent study from Longwoods International, 29% of Americans said they would plan travel in the U.S. instead of abroad in the next months as a result of the delta variant.

A recent survey of adults in the U.S. conducted by YouGov on behalf of TPG this summer also indicated that people — particularly those who are fully vaccinated — are less comfortable with certain activities in light of the delta variant, including taking either international or domestic flights.

Americans are staying close to home for several reasons: cost, vaccination status and not wanting to be on an airplane for long periods of time. Several TPG readers have said that with all the United States has to offer, they see no need to fly around the world to travel right now.

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“[I’m] traveling more domestically across the [U.S.],” said TPG reader Chris Miller. “Despite a love for international travel and exploring new cultures, there are a lot of hidden gems in the states that we often under-value.”

Travelers will accept rules and regulations

We’re moving closer to a world where it will be extremely difficult -- if not impossible, in some places -- to travel if you’re unvaccinated.

A handful of countries have already required vaccines to travel, including the U.S., which is requiring foreigners to show proof of vaccination to enter the country. But there are even stricter mandates, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement that all passengers 12 and older must be fully vaccinated if traveling by rail or air.

“If you haven’t gotten your shots yet but want to travel this winter, let’s be clear. There will only be a few extremely narrow exceptions like a valid medical condition,” Trudeau said. “For the vast vast majority of people, the rules are very simple to travel. You’ve got to be vaccinated.”

What’s interesting, aside from the actual mandate, is that there is very little wiggle room to challenge the rule. That’s the point, and Trudeau stated as much in the announcement. Canada, it appears, is dangling the privilege of air and rail travel like a carrot, hoping to snare some of those who, for whatever reason, have delayed getting vaccinated.

Earlier this summer, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did something similar when he banned unvaccinated people from indoor dining and other activities. Daily vaccinations in New York City doubled the first day the mandate went into place, as I reported over the summer.

What that demonstrates is that most travelers are willing to follow the rules if it means they can travel and resume their favorite, daily activities.

Sure, some travelers don’t like being told what to do. Especially on vacation, travelers don’t like being told they have restrictions or are being required to comply with specific rules. We saw earlier this year harrowing stories of flight attendants and other travel professionals being subjected to violence that prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to crack down on unruly passengers. (For what it’s worth, rates of rowdy passengers aboard commercial flights have dropped by 50% since early 2021).

However, focusing solely on the bad actors doesn’t tell the entire story. That’s because people are traveling, domestically and internationally, and to do so requires a certain level of compliance. In fact, according to a survey from the Associated Press, more than half of Americans support mask mandates for travel and requiring vaccines for air travel.

Ultimately, travel is back: People are both flying again as well as staying in hotels in the U.S. and abroad. But travel habits have undoubtedly changed. As the pandemic stretches on, it's clear that many travelers still want to stay close to home and will eagerly accept more rules and regulations if it means getting back on the road.

Featured image by Bloomberg via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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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
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Recommended Credit

740-850
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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.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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 unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023