Discover survey: Safety, cost key factors for U.S. travelers

After a year stuck at home, a majority of U.S. consumers (70%) say they want to start traveling again, with more than 50% planning one to two vacations in the next six months, according to Discover’s annual travel survey.

Following a stressful and socially distant year, 66% of consumers are planning trips between one-six days in length and report their top reasons for wanting to take a vacation are:

  • To relax, 37%
  • To visit family and friends, 18%
  • To experience a change of scenery, 10%

Of those looking to spend time with family, Boomers lead the charge at 28%, compared to 18% of Gen X, 12% of millennials and 9% of Gen Z. The survey found that 21% of Gen Z respondents are looking for adventure while traveling, compared to 12% of millennials, 10% of Gen X and 7% of Boomers.

When polled in April, 42% of consumers said they already felt comfortable traveling, and 12% said they would feel comfortable traveling when vaccines were widely available to everyone in the U.S.

“It’s clear consumers have a strong desire to travel again as we head into the summer months and the economic recovery continues,” said Jacob Ayoub, VP, consumer and competitive insights, Discover. “We know travel trends and consumer needs are going to continue to shift, but it’s important to note that right now U.S. consumers are considering costs, flexibility, and the spread of COVID-19 while traveling.”

Health and safety top of mind
A total of 80% of consumers say it’s important to find travel accommodations with strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols.

In the next six months, 74% of consumers reported they will continue to prioritize the cleanliness rating of their accommodation when deciding where to stay. Half of consumers also said they’re more likely to splurge on pricey accommodations and travel options if it means they have strict COVID-19 hygiene protocols, and 49% of consumers also say they are more likely to invest in priority travel passes to avoid crowds.

When it comes to wearing masks, nearly two in three consumers say they will continue to wear them while traveling, even after it’s no longer required. Of those wearing masks, 39% say they’ll continue to wear them in public spaces, like a hotel or resort, and 36% say they will wear masks when at a transportation hub, such as an airport or bus station.

Consumers favor cost-effective methods of travel
When deciding where to vacation, consumers report the cost of their destination (87%), and the flexibility of cancellation policies (86%) are the most important factors, outranking the spread of COVID-19 variants (80%) and the number of positive COVID-19 cases (80%) in a destination area.

A total of 62% of consumers say they are hesitant to take modes of transportation where they have to be near others. More than half are planning to drive to their next destination, with just 39% reporting they’ll fly.

For six in 10 respondents, these trips may be closer to home as consumers say they’re more likely to travel locally than take large trips across the country.

Preferred payment method
A total of 55% of consumers cite credit cards as their preferred method of payment while on vacation—a 16 percentage point increase from Discover’s 2019 travel survey.

Additionally, given the pandemic’s impact on travel and the need to avoid touching as many surfaces as possible, 56% of consumers say they will leverage contactless payments more frequently while traveling.

With credit card points and rewards stacking up the past year, about one-third of consumers say they’re planning to redeem their rewards for vacation-related expenses.

The survey was conducted online from April 23-28 by Dynata (formerly Research Now/SSI) on behalf of Discover Financial Services, with a total sample size of 2,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+).