Travelers Are Itching to Get out There—and Are Planning Longer Trips Than Ever

A new survey from Skyscanner gives insight into 2021 travel trends

Couple enjoying the empty Pantheon in Rome, wearing protective face masks during COVID-19 pandemic
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

The new normal when it comes to travel is that, well, nothing is normal or predictable with COVID-19. But with increased vaccine rollouts, the news seems to be looking up. Vaccinated Americans can travel to Europe this summer, and the CDC’s updated guidelines give the green light to vaccinated people hanging in small groups, sans masks.

And now, not surprising given the bevy of good news, newly released data from Skyscanner confirms what we already knew: everyone’s ready for outside to open up again.

The Horizon Report survey of more than 5,000 people worldwide reveals travel confidence is seeing an uptick and slowly rebounding to pre-pandemic numbers. May and June will see heavy travel, and the average traveler is booking 64 days in advance, which is a major departure from the last-minute bookings over the past year.

“Where the pandemic drove people to wait and book their travel very close to their departure date due to uncertainty, we are now seeing this regulate and trend towards a more ‘normal’ timeframe,” Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert at Skyscanner, said in a statement.

Travelers are clearly itching to make up for lost time and take advantage of their paid time off, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they’re planning an extended vacation of at least 14 days.

Predicting a hot or trendy destination can be tough, especially as restrictions are changing, but “we will see destinations rise and fall in popularity depending on how easy and affordable they are to reach via corridors, and when testing and quarantine is minimal," said Martin Nolan, an expert on global traveler rights.

Thirty percent of survey participants plan to avoid major cities or crowds on their next vacation. Trending destinations for U.S. travelers included Cairo, Istanbul, and San Juan, while Denver and Miami were the only stateside cities to make the top 10. Not surprisingly, Orlando remains a popular family destination for 2021, and seaside getaways were top of mind, too, with cities like Myrtle Beach and Casablanca rounding out the list.

And one final note of the survey is travelers are willing to pay extra for flights. Though they’re paying less on airfare, mostly due to lower fares and short-haul flights, they’re actually choosing fares that average 20 percent higher than the lowest available rates. More than a quarter of those surveyed said they wanted to “splurge” for better flexibility, direct flights, and more.

“U.S. travelers are taking advantage of lower prices by upgrading their fares, as a splurge after a year of no travel or to increase convenience and confidence in booking a trip,” Crossey told TripSavvy.

This sort of revenge travel has people ready to book, even though the State Department added more than 100 countries to the “Level 4: Do Not Travel” list just over a week ago. Still, Crossey advises optimism while still being informed.

"People want to get away safely and within the rules, and we expect that as we see more travel become possible, travelers will embrace whatever is safe and straightforward in order to enjoy some time away," he said.