91% of Americans Canceled Travel Plans in 2020, Potentially Saving Nearly $84 Billion
More than 7 in 10 Americans planned to travel in 2020, but about 9 in 10 of those travelers canceled their plans amid the coronavirus pandemic, with fear and travel restrictions likely contributing to their decision.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey on consumer spending, an average domestic vacation with a four-night stay costs $581. This means Americans may have saved nearly $84 billion total in travel expenses this year.
LendingTree researchers analyzed Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data to rank the states where residents canceled vacation plans and determine how much money was potentially saved by each state’s residents. Here’s what we learned.
- 96% of Hawaiian residents who had booked 2020 vacations 100 miles from home canceled their plans — more than in any other state. Just 67% of residents even had a trip planned, perhaps due to the long distances and high costs associated with leaving the Hawaiian Islands.
- The District of Columbia and Vermont rank second and third for the percentage of residents who canceled plans. According to our analysis of the Census Bureau data, 95% of residents in D.C. and in Vermont, respectively, canceled travel plans.
- Kentucky and South Dakota (84%) and Wyoming (86%) were the states where the lowest percentage of residents canceled travel plans, though the vast majority still did so.
- Residents of California, because of the large population, may have saved more than $10 billion in 2020 by canceling planned trips, the most of any state. Wyoming families saved the least, though savings were still more than $146 million.
- The percentage of residents with travel plans varied among the states, but not vastly. Just 63% of Louisiana residents reported having travel plans, while 80% of Washington residents reported the same.
States where Americans are canceling travel plans
Canceled trips may have to do with the travel restrictions set by state governments. If you look at the top five areas where travel plans were nixed — Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts — they each have enforceable restrictions that require returning residents (or incoming travelers) to either:
- Quarantine after visiting or leaving another state with a confirmed surge in positive coronavirus cases
- Submit a negative COVID-19 test result
Hawaii (No. 1 on our list for canceled travel plans) also had major flight reductions in the spring, so residents may have been worried about not having a way back home if they did venture off the islands.
Of the other states rounding out the top 10, New Mexico (No. 6) has a 14-day quarantine rule upon return. Illinois (No. 7) doesn’t have a statewide mandate, but Chicago residents must quarantine upon return. In New Hampshire (No. 10), residents are asked to self-quarantine if they travel beyond New England.
On the flip side, the states in the bottom five when it comes to travel cancellations — Kentucky, South Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Alabama — don’t have statewide travel restrictions. (Kentucky suggests visitors coming from certain states should self-quarantine, but it’s just a recommendation.)
So residents of these states have been pretty much able to go and come as they please without having to plan for a quarantine upon their return. Pennsylvania is the only outlier in the bottom 10 that requires self-quarantine upon arriving home, depending on where you traveled.
Ranking the nearly $84 billion in potential savings by state
Savings by state mostly depends on population size and — more specifically — the raw number of residents who canceled travel plans.
This is why California residents, with more than 18 million canceling their trips, saved more than $10 billion. Meanwhile, Wyoming, with just over 250,000 people canceling trips, saved the least — more than $146 million. Texas and Florida saved $7 billion and $5 billion, respectively.
There’s no question that people have spent a lot less on travel in 2020, said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst for LendingTree. “The good news, though, is that millions of Americans have used that extra cash in their accounts to help knock down their debts,” he said. “That’s a major silver lining in an otherwise dark and gloomy year.”
Canceled travel plans have also changed the way people use credit card travel rewards, he added. “Some folks are simply stockpiling rewards points and miles that they earn through credit card spending and holding onto it until the day comes when they can travel again,” Schulz said. “Others are shifting gears toward cash back, with many even redeeming those travel miles for things like groceries and other basics.”
Unfortunately, at the receiving end of canceled travel are the businesses that are facing tremendous losses — and not just the airlines, cruise lines and hotels. “Shops, restaurants and other businesses that cater to tourists are finding themselves empty because many of those tourists are simply staying home,” Schulz said.
States with highest percentage of planned travel
In all states, the majority of residents had travel plans in 2020 (both canceled and not canceled), and there wasn’t a huge disparity. The difference between the highest percentage of travel and the lowest was just 17 percentage points. Washington state residents had the most aspiring jet-setters at 80%, followed by Montana (79%), Colorado (78%) and Idaho (77%).
The states with the fewest people planning to hit the road were Louisiana (63%), followed by Oklahoma (66%), and then Hawaii, New Jersey and Arkansas (each at 67%).
Despite all the lost travel plans, some Americans are already thinking ahead to post-pandemic plans, according to a previous study from ValuePenguin. It found 1 in 4 people are planning a celebratory trip once the threat of COVID-19 is over. However, 20% of consumers said they’re reallocating their vacation fund toward other expenses.
3 alternative options if COVID-19 crisis ruined your travel plans
Once you square away any refunds or credits that are owed to you for flights, hotels and other travel bookings, you have two main options:
- Find other uses for those credits
- Hang onto them for future travel
Either way, you can still enjoy some downsized fun with your returned travel dollars and restored credit card points balances if you’re comfortable venturing out with some precautions.
Some options include:
- Travel locally: Consider being a tourist in your hometown or a nearby city. “I promise there are interesting places that you’ve yet to explore,” Schulz said. Book a time to visit museums, amusement parks or other attractions that are open to the public. Or, if you’re leery of crowds, hop in the car and find a drive-in concert or cater a safe backyard get-together with your core cohort. Consider using or getting a rewards credit card that offers bonus points on dining or entertainment.
- Become one with nature. Enjoy the outdoors and stay socially distanced — a win-win. “My family has spent more time in state and national parks in the past year than ever before, and it has been a real revelation to us,” Schulz said. If you’re logging a lot of miles on the road and cooking your own meals, try using a cashback card that offers bonus rewards on gas and groceries. If you have any hotel card points, it can help fund overnight stays along your route.
- Save money and rack up travel rewards for a future dream trip. If you’re financially able, consider putting some of that money that you would’ve spent on your big trip this year into a future vacation savings fund, Schulz said. Save up those returned points and miles, too. It will give you something positive to look forward to after a difficult year.
LendingTree researchers analyzed data from Week 15 of the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey — which covered Sept. 16-28, 2020 — to estimate the percentage of residents in every state who canceled their vacation plans. A vacation was defined as a planned overnight trip of more than 100 miles.