We all remember the summer of 2020.
Many cities and states were in lockdown during a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country. We were forced to give up weddings, vacations, socializing, and many of the activities that we consider quintessential to an American summer.
But now, COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in the U.S. According to the New York Times, cases have fallen nearly 50% compared to the 7-day average during last summer’s peak. President Joe Biden has announced plans to return American life to some sort of normalcy by July 4.
But we’re still in a pandemic. What does normalcy look like this year? Is this summer really going to be “normal?”
We surveyed 1,000 Americans to learn more about their plans for this summer, how they compare to last summer, and how the pandemic has changed their social habits.
Here’s a quick overview of what we found:
- Nearly 90% of Americans have a vacation booked this summer, and 74.5% say they’re traveling more this year than they did in an average year before COVID.
- Most people are still keeping their vacations local, though. More than 90% said they were traveling within their region, and more than half don’t plan to leave their home state.
- Americans will be flocking to the beach this year. 51.1% of people say beaches are in the top 3 activities they missed last year. Also popular this summer are BBQs with family and friends, and live concerts.
- While most people are flying more than they did in 2020, driving is still the most popular way to travel. 48.5% of people say they’re driving more this year than last year, and 47% say they’re driving more than they did in an average summer before COVID.
- Almost 60% of Americans plan to spend more than $2,000 on vacations this summer, which is higher than the average Americans spend annually on summer vacations.
- Despite their spending, many people are favoring shorter trips this weekend. Most are planning week-long (41.7%) or weekend (32.3%) vacations.
- Nearly 60% of respondents said they’ll only be traveling with their immediate family this summer. 20.1% plan to travel with friends.
- Unsurprisingly, COVID is still shaping the way Americans think about social interactions. 78.7% of respondents said they prefer gathering in small numbers, and 45% of those say that’s because of the pandemic. 64.3% of respondents said the pandemic shifted their preferences about their social lives.
RELATED: Read more about how to be a good neighbor as the pandemic draws to a close.
People Are Traveling More This Summer than they Did Even Before COVID
Unsurprisingly, the summer of 2020 didn’t go as anyone planned.
According to our survey:
This summer, though, it seems like people might be making up for lost time. 88.3% of survey respondents say they’re going on one trip this summer, and 69.6% say they’re taking two or more 2021 summer vacations.
Nearly three quarters of people (74.5%) said they’re planning to travel more this summer than they did even in an average, pre-COVID summer. Only 11.7% of people don’t plan to travel this summer.
Most People Are Still Keeping Their Vacations Local
Despite their eagerness to make up for lost vacations, most Americans still aren’t willing to travel too far.
51.6% of people are traveling within their state, and 39.4% are traveling within their region.
Still, though, 43.7% of people say they plan to travel domestically, but outside of their home region, and more than a quarter of Americans — 25.9% — say they have an international trip planned this summer, despite many of the world’s borders still being closed.
Americans Will Be Flocking to the Beach this Summer
Outdoor destinations are still extremely popular — 57% of survey respondents said they planned to travel to nature-focused destinations like National or State parks, mountain regions, lakes, and beaches.
In fact, beaches were the top activity people said they missed last summer. 44.9% said they missed going to the beach last year and are excited to go this year. 37.1% said they most missed BBQs, and 35.3% said concerts.
Strangely, sports came in at the bottom of that list — only 15.3% of respondents said they missed attending live sporting events, and only 13% said they missing playing sports themselves. Similarly, only 13.5% of people said they’re looking forward to playing sports this summer, and only 10.1% said they’re looking forward to going to live sports events.
More People Are Flying, But Road Trips Remain Popular
Air travel overall still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. But some airports, especially those near tourist destinations, are reporting even more traffic than before the pandemic.
38.1% of survey respondents said they plan to travel more by plane this year than they did in an average year before the pandemic. 24.8% said they’re flying the same amount, and 23.3% said they’re flying less.
While flying is becoming popular again, though, driving remains the most popular method of traveling for trips and vacations right now. Nearly half of all respondents (47.1%) said they’re driving more this summer than they would in an average summer before the pandemic. 40.3% said they’re driving the same amount, and just 10.3% said they plan to drive less.
Americans Are Spending Slightly More than Average on Vacations This Summer
According to Business Insider, the average American spent $1,979 annually on summer vacations before the pandemic. Our survey showed that this year, they’re planning to spend a little bit more than that.
40.7% reported that they plan to spend less than $2,000 on summer activities. The largest share of Americans (29.7% of respondents) said they plan to spend between $2,000 and $4,999 this summer, while 18.6% said they’re planning to spend $5,000-$10,000, and 11% said they’re spending more than $10,000.
Week-long Trips Are the Most Popular Vacations in 2021
Despite not having traveled in a while, the majority of Americans are planning short trips this summer. 74% say their summer trips in 2021 will all last only a week or less, though one week is the most popular length of time for a vacation this summer.
While standard vacation benefits award workers two weeks off in the U.S., only 13.9% of respondents said they’re planning multi-week trips this summer. Are they just saving up vacation time for later in the year? Time will tell.
Most People Are Traveling with Family
Now that Americans are traveling again, who’s sitting next to them on that flight or working the GPS for a road trip?
Sometimes friends, but mostly their immediate family, our study shows.
While 20.1% of respondents said they plan to travel with friends this summer (7.3% with one friend, 6.4% with two friends, and 6.4% with a group of three or more friends), most are traveling with their immediate family or significant other. 27.1% said they were traveling just with a significant other, while 32.6%, the largest group of respondents, said they were traveling with their immediate family.
Around 10% of respondents are planning a solo trip this summer, and surprisingly, only 6.6% plan to travel with their extended family, like grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins.
COVID Is Still a Major Concern when it Comes to Social Gatherings
Maybe the least surprising thing we found from our survey is that COVID is still very much shaping the way Americans view travel and social situations.
78.7% of survey respondents said they prefer gathering in small numbers, with nearly half of those saying they prefer small gatherings only outdoors. Of those who prefer smaller gatherings, 45% said they have that preference because of the pandemic. In fact, 64.3% of respondents said the pandemic has shifted their preferences about social gatherings.
To gather this data, we surveyed 1,000 Americans on May 7, 2021, using Pollfish.com.
Respondents were an even split, 50% male and 50% female.
- 16.7% of them were 16-17 years old.
- 16.9% were 18-24 years old.
- 16.6% were 25-34 years old.
- 16.6% were 35-44 years old.
- 16.6% were 45-54 years old.
- 16.6% were over 54 years old.
Respondents were all American and came from 47 states and the District of Columbia.