Skip to Content

How COVID-19 Impacted The Way We Travel in 2020

Share The Article

Last Updated

The year has been unusual in many ways, and our travel behavior and trends did not take any exceptions.

Among the top U.S. travel trends in 2020 were, prioritizing flexibility, health safety, staying close to home, extended vacations, and flying solo.

traveling man leaving airplane wearing mask

Kicked off by the pandemic, 2020 has been a year packed with changes. 

The way we shop, to the way we interact with others, and even to the way we dress our faces, human behavior has changed drastically. The fact that U.S. travel behavior in 2020 was considerably different from years past should come as no surprise.

Traveler Priorities

To gather insight on the effect of the pandemic on travel, Expedia partnered up with Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) to produce a report analyzing traveler trends. 

The report was released earlier this month, and found traveler priorities in 2020 to be:

Health and Safety

Staying safe while traveling and staying in sanitary accommodations were a top priority for travelers.

The report found that 300 thousand properties had added health and cleanliness information, such as enhanced cleaning, social distancing and contactless check-in, on their websites. 

This trend is further demonstrated by the increasing demand for travel insurance on bookings.

Shortened Booking Times

Due to the uncertainty of border policies and guidelines for travel, it appears that travelers are weary of planning their trips too far out in the future.

The report finds that since August, the average booking was made 29 days prior to the date of departure. 

In contrast, the average booking in 2019 was made 35 days before departure, and the average has not been lower than 30 days for years.

Growth in Alternative Accommodations and Activities while Traveling:

The report found that while hotels remained the top form of accommodations, the highest growth rate for accommodations was seen in castles, ranches, cabins, chalets and cottages. 

This is attributed to the fact that travelers opted for unique domestic locations, that were also remote and less populated. Expedia expects this trend to continue in the year ahead. 

The report also notes that travelers chose to book a lot of activities at their destinations, in comparison to years past.


The report found that tickets which were refundable were purchased 10% more than in 2019, highlighting traveler concerns for flexibility. Also, refundable tickets happened to be 20% cheaper this year.

Recent policy changes by US airlines in waiving cancellation fees indicates that they have picked up on this trend.

Top Destinations

Due to border closures affecting international travel most of the year, travelers stayed close to home.

Expedia’s findings for the top five destinations in the U.S. for 2020 were:

  1. Lake Havasu, Arizona
  2. New Bern, North Carolina
  3. The Hamptons, New York
  4. Ocean City, Maryland
  5. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

The top searched trips Expedia reported for 2021 are:

  1. Cancun
  2. Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum
  3. Las Vegas, Nevada
  4. Orlando, Florida
  5. Punta Cana

Airfare Booking Tips

Upon analysis of varying price rates depending on the day you book, Expedia’s report found that the best day of the week to book was Sunday. 

Domestic flights booked on Sunday rather than Monday can expect to save around 15%, and international flights booked on Sunday opposed to Friday can save in excess of 20%.

The report also found that, for the most savings, the best day for departure was Friday for domestic flights, and Thursday for international flights.

American Airlines planes in st ma takes off

Travel Behavior 

In addition to Expedia’s report, Welcome Pickups analyzed travel behavior for travelers from March to September this year.

The findings detected a key change in the duration of the trips which Americans took in 2020. The majority of all travelers analyzed stayed at their destination for more than 7 days at a time. This is a significant increase, as only 7% of travellers took a trip of 7 days or more in 2019. 

jfk airport covid

The report also found that there was a substantial increase in travelers flying alone. Specifically, 44% of US travelers were flying alone this year, compared to 7% in 2019. As solo travel surged in 2020, traveling with friends, family or a significant other all decreased. 

Getting away from city lights and close to nature was a trend in 2020. This year, 23% of all travelers selected the sun and sea as their main interest on their holiday, opposed to 15% in 2019. 

The report also found that interest in visiting museums declined to 7%, from 15% in 2019.

Traveler with suitcase and mask after buying travel insurance that covers covid-19

↓ Join the community ↓

The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A's happening daily! 

Subscribe to our Latest Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path's latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox

Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories

Carlos Rivera

Friday 27th of November 2020

I'm looking to flights for my next Vacation 2021, this article make easier to us to know what we need to do before travel and documents and maybe apps that will be developed for traveling. Thats why i consult to be updated about recent changes, I thanks Mrs Aaisha Ali for this article, very useful. Thanks.

Aaisha Ali

Friday 27th of November 2020

Great to hear Carlos! We do our best to keep you updated on the latest. Wishing you wonderful travels for your 2021 vacation.

Kashlee Kucheran

Friday 27th of November 2020

Thank you so much for being a wonderful reader Carlos, we really appreciate the kind comment :)