As the autumn season is sadly winding dawn, leaves are slowly beginning to fall and all focus shifts to the holidays, Tripadvisor’s new Winter Travel Index divulges where Americans are heading for the next 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 more than half (55%) of Americans report that they are planning to travel this winter. This is up from 50% who traveled in this season in 2020, but still lags behind the 63% who hit the road in 2019.
Notably, 24% of Americans are still undecided about winter travel. Only about a third (30%) have already booked their trip, but nearly three-quarters (74%) of those who haven’t yet are waiting until November or December to do so, so we may end up seeing significantly more travelers hit the road as the coldest season further approaches.
Although the vast majority (94%) of travelers will remain domestic, Americans are looking to broaden their horizons and experience new things this winter, as more than a third (37%) are planning to travel somewhere they haven’t been before and over a third (42%) have booked a tour or activity.
New York City is back on top in the U.S. for the first time since the start of pandemic as the No. 1 most popular destination and home to the No. 1 most-booked experience this winter. With the iconic Rockefeller Center and holiday displays, it’s no surprise this city is topping travelers’ winter wish lists.
10 most popular winter destinations for Americans
- New York City
- Las Vegas
- Key West, FL
- Miami Beach
- Los Angeles
- Savannah, GA
Seaside destinations trending in Tripadvisor’s Fall Travel Index (Myrtle Beach, SC; Ocean City, MD; Honolulu, Virginia Beach) are out, as more cities (Los Angeles, Savannah) popped back into the mix, 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 Americans. In fact, the majority of the fastest-growing destinations (greatest growth from fall to winter) are international, with the icons Paris, London and Rome rounding out the top three.
Fastest growing destinations for Americans (from fall 2021 to winter 2021)
- Naples, Italy
- Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands
Almost half (49%) of Americans report feeling excited about holiday travel, more than any other country, 43% feel hopeful and 42% feel optimistic. These trump negative emotions like stressed, nervous and cautious, 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%), followed by the city (39%) and the beach (37%). And, most are traveling with their immediate family (50%) or significant other (41%).
What else is trending this winter?
- The most popular travel dates for Americans heading off on winter trips are Dec. 16, Dec. 30, and Nov. 24, respectively, just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Top hotel styles: family and mid-range hotels.
- Popular hotel amenities: pool, free breakfast, all-inclusive, beach and free cancellation.
- 67% of travelers booking a trip this winter have already started researching.
- 77% of Americans say they are saving up for holiday travel.
- The most important factor when choosing a destination this winter: travel cost (39%).
- 32% will spend more than last year, 58% 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%) want to give tickets for travel.
Trending activities this season
Travelers are loving cultural tours, 4WD, ATV & off-road tours, and museum tickets & passes, as these are the top three types of experiences Americans are booking this winter. A mix of rich 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 and 9/11 Memorial.
Top 10 Most-Booked Experiences
- New York in One Day Guided Sightseeing Tour—New York City
- Night Manta Ray Adventure—Island of Hawaii, HI
- Kauai ATV Waterfall Tour—Kauai, HI
- Turtle Canyon Catamaran Snorkel Cruise—Oahu, HI
- Grand Canyon West Rim Bus Tour & Hoover Dam Photo Stop with optional Skywalk—Las Vegas
- 9/11 Memorial Museum Admission Ticket—New York City
- Charleston’s Old South Carriage Historic Horse & Carriage Tour—Charleston, SC
- Key West Sunset Sail with Full Bar, Live Music & Hors D’oeuvres—Key West, FL
- Full-Day Iconic Sights of LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Beaches and More—Los Angeles
- Grand Ole Opry House Guided Backstage Tour in Nashville—Nashville