Survey: 51M Americans have Labor Day travel plans

Despite the Delta variant, one in five Americans say they have plans to travel for Labor Day weekend, according to a ValuePenguin survey of more than 2,000 consumers. Car trips are the most popular transportation option, while Florida is the top destination of choice.

More than one in 10 (11%) of would-be Labor Day vacationers have had to nix their plans due to rising concerns about the Delta variant. That figure includes both those who canceled their trips on their own, as well as others who may have had a travel provider cancel their itinerary or flight.

“While 11% seems like a relatively low number, I fear that number may climb as Labor Day approaches,” said Sophia Mendel, travel writer, ValuePenguin. If Delta keeps gaining traction, she warns, the potential of a last-minute cancellation goes up.

In the meantime, around 51 million Americans (20%) say their travel plans are still on. The most likely groups to have a planned Labor Day trip include six-figure earners (32%), parents with kids under 18 (30%) and Gen Xers (25%)—more so than their counterparts.

Labor Day travel plans
Florida is the top destination for out-of-state travelers, although the majority of Labor Day travelers (56%) are limiting travel to within their home state; 38% are crossing state lines.

For those venturing beyond state borders, the top destinations are:

  • Florida (12%)
  • California (8%)
  • New York (8%)

Though Florida is always a popular summer destination because of its beaches and attractions, it might come as a surprise that it leads this year given the coronavirus surge that’s happening right now.

“I think it’s likely people are choosing to travel to Florida right now because the COVID rules are notoriously relaxed,” said Mendel. “A state with lax COVID restrictions is a bonus for those who want to make sure their travel plans don’t get canceled, even at the risk of possibly contracting and spreading COVID-19.”

The vast majority (70%) are opting to travel in their own vehicles, but for the 23% who have booked airline tickets, it’s important to plan ahead. “Particularly with recent flight cancellations and unruly passenger behavior, you’ll want to plan your trip with some amount of flexibility,” said Mendel. “Show up early at the airport, and prepare for delays and long lines.”

Most travelers have chosen to stay at a hotel or resort (44%), while 38% are staying with family or friends. About one in 10 booked a vacation rental like Airbnb.

Masks and insurance
Just about 40% of travelers say they’ll wear their masks both indoors and outdoors; another 27% say they’ll only cover up indoors. That leaves the rest who say they will only don a mask when required (17%) or not at all (17%).

Gen X and Baby Boomers (24% and 23%, respectively) were more likely to say they won’t be masking up at all as compared to younger generations—millennials (13%) and Gen Z (11%)—who said the same. Notably, the most recent CDC guidelines recommend wearing a mask indoors, even for those who are vaccinated.

Insuring your Labor Day trip with travel insurance is a great move, especially in the wake of rising Delta variant cases, said Mendel. For the 57% of Americans who did just that (with either a separate policy or via their credit cards), they’re protected should they encounter a last-minute cancellation. “Worst case scenario, if your trip gets canceled, you’ll at least get your money back or have credit to use on a future trip,” said Mendel.

As for how travelers are funding their trip, non-rewards credit cards were the most popular choice (43%), followed by 24% who said they used a travel rewards or airline card.

Cost of trip
Just a little over half of consumers have planned a budget-friendly Labor Day getaway of less than $500. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Less than $100: 15%
  • $100 to $499: 36%
  • $500 to $999: 25%
  • $1,000 to $1,999: 12%
  • $2,000 or more: 13%

The demographics most likely to spend big ($2,000 or more) are Gen Z (19%), parents with kids under 18 (15%) and those earning more than $100,000 (24%).