As the U.S. announced it will allow vaccinated foreign travelers to enter the country starting on November 8, travel sites started seeing an excess of bookings. Expedia is reporting over a 20 percent increase in searches for U.S. hotels from both the U.K. and France. Holiday travel for 2021 seems to be trending back to 2019 levels. In 2019, nearly 2 million people flew the day before Thanksgiving, and 1.9 million on Christmas Eve. In 2020, those numbers were 1.1 million and 1.2 million, respectively.
The announcement follows a weekend where American Airlines was forced to cancel more than 1700 domestic and international flights. “In a letter to employees on Saturday, the Fort Worth, Texas-based company said severe winds at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport reduced arrival capacity by more than half. Additional inclement weather means ‘our staffing begins to run tight as crew members end up out of their regular flight sequences,’ the letter said.” As the pandemic began, many airlines were forced to furlough staff. Earlier in October, Southwest Airlines canceled around 2400 flights citing bad weather and air traffic control issues. The airline also announced that they plan to add nearly 5000 workers by the end of the year.
The demand for travel is showing domestic trips are the most popular, likely to visit family for the holidays. Those travelers are also increasing their spending on their travels. Prices for both domestic and international travel are comparable for 2021 after large divides in previous years.
However, travelers are packing their bags for warm, sunny getaways. Travelers this year who are looking for an international destination are heading to Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. Entry requirements for international destinations also vary by location. Some require negative Covid tests, others require proof of vaccination, and there is also a chance additional insurance coverage could need to be purchased.
Behaviors around holiday travel are also shifting as the pandemic still has travelers taking extra precautions. Market research company Morning Consult estimates that 73 percent of travelers will stay with family this holiday season. That is down from 83 percent in 2019, asserting that fears are lessening but not yet gone.
Travelers also need to be prepared to adapt to every-changing situations. From cancelled flights to potential quarantines, adaptability could end up costing travelers more. “The app Hopper estimated that domestic airfare over Christmas would likely match 2019 prices, while international airfare is currently cheaper but likely to increase by December.” As we approach the holidays, people are looking to reclaim some semblance of normalcy. While that may not look like previous years, travel is beginning to reflect 2019 levels as restrictions lessen.