So long, shoulder season? New survey shows 85% of Americans are planning to travel

Cancellations, and crowds, and costs – oh my. Americans (re)learned a valuable lesson this summer: Expect the unexpected when traveling.

Last month, we asked more than 1,700 US-based TripIt users about their recent and upcoming travel plans. According to our survey data, nearly all Americans (97%) have traveled in the past six months. Domestic air travel was the top method (82%), followed by a road trip with a private car (59%). More than a third (41%) flew internationally.

And with flying in this season of unprecedented disruption—namely, staffing issues, delays and cancellations, and lost or delayed luggage—comes wisdom: Nearly all travelers (93%) say they will plan their next trip differently.

What does that look like? And what role will other ongoing factors, such as inflation and COVID-19, play in the trip-planning process? Here’s what travelers had to say.

Disruption is the new top concern for American travelers

Our data shows the possibility of flight cancellations, delays or changes is the new top concern for passengers, with 70% saying it will be their biggest worry the next time they travel. That’s up 29% from survey data we released in June.

Meanwhile, travel costs (34%) and the potential need to cancel or change a trip due to COVID-19 (33%) were second and third.

It’s not too hard to see why things have changed: More than half (57%) of those who have flown in the past six months have experienced some form of disruption.

Shoulder season

What were the consequences (if any) of these obstacles? From a financial perspective, only 16% of those who suffered losses received compensation. Of those who were compensated, the majority (33%) received between $101 and $500.

Interestingly, 73% of respondents who experienced a disruption neither received nor sought compensation. And maybe it’s just a result of people not knowing how: The new Department of Transportation airline customer service dashboard aims to help passengers seek some form of compensation when things go wrong.

Disruptions—whether experienced firsthand or read about in media headlines—ultimately forced travelers to plan differently: Almost all respondents (93%) said they changed their behavior while preparing for a trip.

Our data shows:

  • 52% said they now arrive at the airport earlier than usual
  • 45% book travel plans (eg flights, accommodation) with brands/providers they trust
  • 44% Plan ahead for delays (eg, bring snacks and reading materials to the airport)
  • 41% skip checking bags
  • 34% only book direct air travel (using a third-party site).
  • 30% choose flights with long layovers
  • 23% used bag-tracking technology (such as Apple Airtag)

Road trippers are not spared from disruption either. For more than a third (36%) of those who traveled by car in the past six months, hiccups also affected their travel. Among those who experienced disruptions to car travel, 29% paid more for gas than expected, 17% struggled with expected traffic times and 10% said their rental car was not available as expected.

And when it comes to obstacles, the weather can often play a role: our data shows that 12% of travelers were affected by extreme weather in the last six months.

Americans get on with family, friends and fall trips

Despite a season of setbacks, Almost all Americans (99%) plan to travel in the next year. Almost two-thirds (64%) plan to travel with family and/or friends in the next year. More than half (54%) will travel on a fall vacation; 45% will travel for work.

Shoulder season

Speaking of fall trips, our data lends itself to the shoulder season ahead. That said, the usual characteristics of the shoulder season—fewer tourists, more availability—can be hard to find.

In fact, our data shows that by mid-November, 85% of Americans plan to travel. Nearly two-thirds (64%) plan to fly domestically; 42% are planning a road trip; and 32% plan to fly internationally.

Inflation affects Americans’ travel plans

As mentioned above, for one-third of Americans, cost is a major concern when planning a trip. Why? To begin with, inflation plays a significant role: More than half (57%) of Americans say inflation has affected their travel plans In the coming year.

Shoulder season

In addition to affecting travel plans, inflation (52%) is the primary driver for travelers who say they will spend more on travel in the coming year. In addition to inflation, travelers are spending more on travel, citing rising airfares (49%) and gas prices (29%).

More than one-third (36%) said they plan to spend more on travel in the coming year, with 40% spending $1,500 to $5,000 more. Up to 13% expect to spend $10,000 more than usual

Of those who plan to spend less on travel—just 13% of people—the majority (74%) plan to travel less on how they cut costs.

And what about those who say—for now—they plan to spend as usual (51% of travelers)? If the price continue To get up, 78% said they would change their behavior in some way. Many will turn to points and miles as a savings method (36%), but almost as many (35%) will resort to less travel altogether.

Regardless of how much travelers plan to spend, it seems many are expecting prices to drop—especially those planning holiday and winter trips. Less than half of respondents (40%) said they had already booked their vacation and/or winter travel plans. Almost a quarter (24%) said they would book in September; 17% planning to book in October; 6% will be kept until November.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2022, we expect domestic flights to continue to advance with 91% of those planning to travel on domestic flights in the next 12 months. This has been a consistent trend since we first reported it in March of this year. For the first time since the pandemic began, more passengers said they planned to travel domestically by plane than by car.

And when they travel, Americans will be prepared: they’ll come up with a plan, budget accordingly, and keep an eye out for price drops.

Procedure: TripIt surveyed more than 1,700 US-based users to understand their past and upcoming travel plans, as well as their attitudes and behaviors regarding travel barriers and rising costs. The survey was conducted on August 16-22, 2022.

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