NEEDHAM, Massachusetts—As the autumn season wanes, all focus shifts to the holidays, and Tripadvisor’s new Winter Travel Index researches where U.S. travelers are heading for the season. The final installment of the Tripadvisor Travel Index for 2021, which is based on first-party site data and consumer sentiment data, reveals that over half (55 percent) of U.S. travelers report that they are planning a trip this winter. This is up from 50 percent from those who traveled in this time in 2020 but still lags behind the 63 percent who hit the road in 2019.
Notably, 24 percent of U.S. travelers are still undecided about winter trips. Only about a third (30 percent) have already booked their trip, but three-quarters (74 percent) of those who haven’t yet are waiting until November or December to do so. The industry may see significantly more travelers hit the road as the coldest season further approaches.
Although the vast majority (94 percent) of travelers will remain domestic, U.S. travelers are looking to broaden their horizons and experience new things this winter, as more than a third (37 percent) are planning to travel somewhere they haven’t been before and over a third (42 percent) have booked a tour or activity.
New York City is on top in the United States for the first time since the start of the pandemic as the most popular destination and home to the most booked experience this winter. The 10 most popular winter destinations for U.S. travelers include:
- New York City, New York
- Orlando, Florida
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Key West, Florida
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Chicago, Illinois
- Anaheim, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Savannah, Georgia
Seaside destinations trending in Tripadvisor’s Fall Travel Index (Myrtle Beach, Ocean City, Honolulu, Virginia Beach) are less popular, as more cities (Los Angeles, Savannah) became popular again, as well as Anaheim, home to Disneyland, surging in popularity. Other changes from this fall include increased interest in traveling overseas, likely a response to the recent openings of many international borders to U.S. travelers. In fact, the majority of the fastest-growing destinations (greatest growth from fall to winter) are international, with Paris, London, and Rome in the top three. The top 10 fastest-growing destinations for U.S. travelers (from fall 2021 to winter 2021) include:
- Paris, France
- London, United Kingdom
- Rome, Italy
- Naples, Italy
- Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands
- Soufriere, St. Lucia
- Freeport, Maine, United States
- St. John’s, Antigua
- San Pedro, Belize
- Tamarindo, Costa Rica
Half (49 percent) of U.S. travelers report feeling excited about holiday trips, more than any other country. Forty-three percent are hopeful and 42 percent are optimistic. These are greater than negative emotions like stress, nervousness, and caution, which were the least common emotions reported.
After a year of missing loved ones, visiting them this season is a priority. The most common destination people want to visit is family and friends’ houses (61 percent), followed by the city (39 percent) and the beach (37 percent). And, most are traveling with their immediate family (50 percent) or significant other (41 percent).
The most popular travel dates for U.S. travelers taking winter trips are December 16, December 30, and November 24, respectively, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The top hotel styles are family and mid-range hotels. Popular hotel amenities include a pool, free breakfast, all-inclusive resorts, beaches, and free cancellation. And 67 percent of travelers booking a trip this winter have already started researching future trips.
Seventy-seven percent of U.S. travelers say they are saving up for holiday travel. The most important factor when choosing a destination this winter is travel cost (39 percent). Thirty-two percent will spend more than last year, and 58 percent will spend the same amount. Gift cards for retail or restaurants are the most popular gifts respondents want to give this year. But almost one-fifth (17 percent) want to give tickets for travel.
Travelers are loving cultural tours for a trip this winter; 4WD, ATV and off-road tours, and museum tickets and passes as these are the top three types of experiences U.S. travelers are booking this winter. As a mix of culture and active adventures, the most-booked experiences for the season range from an ATV waterfall tour in Hawaii to historical classics like the Grand Ole Opry in Tennesee and 9/11 Memorial in New York.