What are you doing this summer?
Despite earlier rumblings about Americans embarking on outings and travel they had postponed due to the pandemic, a new study suggests coronavirus concerns — and historically high inflation — are influencing many people’s vacation planning.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are on the rise again after falling earlier this year, driven by the BA.2 variant and two new subvariants that appear to be even more infectious.
The daily average of new cases hovers at 44,416, up from 25,529 on April 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID tracker, while daily hospitalizations are averaging 1,629.
Meanwhile, government data released earlier this month showed inflation rose to a 40-year high of 8.5% in March and shows scant sign of falling, adding a new challenge for the economy and complicating the Federal Reserve’s efforts to temper prices.
The price of plane tickets rose 10.7% between February and March on a seasonally adjusted basis, the government said, and rose nearly 24% on the year.
‘Revenge travel’ may be short-lived
However, not everyone feels like splurging in the current climate. A poll released Monday by the personal-finance site Bankrate said early exuberance for a summer of “revenge travel” more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic may be subsiding.
The survey of 2,676 U.S. adults, carried out in late March before the latest rise in COVID-19 cases, found that 69% of those planning summer vacations this year are changing their plans.
Among those, 25% say they’re taking fewer trips this summer and/or traveling shorter distances, 23% are doing less expensive activities, and 22% are picking cheaper destinations or lodging.
“‘Monitor COVID cases/hospitalizations where you plan to travel and make concession plans for if you wind up testing positive while traveling.’”
This trend has also borne out anecdotally. “COVID ruined all my plans to travel overseas,” one woman wrote on Twitter.
Dr. Amy Morre, the vice president of global engagement and patient partnerships at the LUNGevity Foundation for cancer research and support, also expressed reservations about travel.
She advised people to “monitor COVID cases/hospitalizations where you plan to travel and make concession plans for if you wind up testing positive while traveling.”
With that said, “after being cooped up for a couple of years because of COVID, people are ready to get back out there this summer,” says Ted Rossman, Bankrate senior industry analyst.
Young people more likely to travel
But that applies more to the younger crowd than to baby boomers, he noted. Some 72% of Generation Z (ages 18 to 25) and 65% of millennials (ages 26 to 41) are planning getaways, compared to 61% of Generation X (ages 42 to 57) and 58% of baby boomers (ages 58 to 76). Older people are also statistically more likely to suffer more severe COVID outcomes.
The top reasons for skipping a vacation: money, cited by 48% of the Bankrate poll respondents, followed COVID concerns (20%). Others cited family obligations, their age, and work commitments.
But even with higher prices for gas and airline tickets, recent AAA travel booking data said reservations for flights, rental cars, cruises and hotels for Memorial Day are up 122% on the year.
“Despite inflation and higher gas prices, people want to travel, and we believe they will find ways to do so without breaking their budget,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel.
Some people, like Ryan Hill, an assistant professor of economics at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, have simply been forced to cancel vacation plans due to the virus itself rather than higher prices.
“Unfortunately we drew the COVID card meaning mild symptoms but it seriously messed up our travel plans,” Hill said.