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Travel Study Reveals What People Plan for Holidays and Early 2022

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Dec. 23 2021, Updated 1:13 p.m. ET

The holidays are here and people are hitting the road. A travel study fromGetYourGuidereveals an insightful look into the way people are traveling this year and the plans they’re making through 2022. With the pandemic throwing everything into disarray in 2020, it will be interesting to see how 2021 stacked up against pre-pandemic years for travel and holiday events: are we on the road back to normal? 

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Making Plans Early

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One thing people did this year was to make plans early. Often times, savvy travelers know that last-minute deals can mean saving a pretty penny, but this year’s travelers are tired of uncertainty and ready to plan ahead. 

By the time the study was published on December 7, over half of respondents (58%) had already booked their travel tickets.  

top places are Canada, Florida, California, NY, Texas

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Experiences vs Presents

Dude Ranchers

One other trend has become apparent: people have done some soul-searching in 2021 and they’d rather have experiences than presents. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) prefer experience gifts over physical presents, with favorites including travel, outdoor adventures, food tours and wine or beer tastings.

Some of the most beloved American experiences people choose for their loved ones include:

  • Dude Ranches: These visitor-centered ranches offer a variety of activities from horseback riding and herding cattle to art and spa experiences.
  • Wine tasting: California is the heart of US wine country, and a weekend in Sonoma Valley going vineyard hopping is the perfect gift for some.
  • Theme parks: This is a gift that usually appeals to the younger set, but Disney is for grownups too – and theme park tickets are a common stocking stuffer.
  • Travel: There’s nothing better for someone who’s been stressed and overworked to be handed an envelope with details of a hotel stay and weekend away from it all, and if you combine it with one of the above experiences you have the recipe for magic.
  • Outdoor adventures: Aside from Dude Ranches, the US has an endless variety of terrains and natural wonders to explore. From the Grand Canyon to river rafting in the Appalachian mountains to sailing in the keys and everything in between – the gift of an outdoor adventure may be the present you’ve been searching for.
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Even after the holidays, people plan to keep traveling. 60% of respondents had plans to travel outside of Christmas, which means that the industry won’t be slowing down any time soon. 

However, despite the fact that travel seems to be recovering even as Omicron spreads, people are being a little more cautious with their money in 2021. According to the results of the survey, 24% of respondents planning to spend less $1,000 on travel and 26% planning to spend between $1,000 – $3,000 on travel in 2022. 

The Travel Challenge of 2021

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In 2020, more than half of those surveyed (52%) were unable to travel home for the holidays. By contrast in 2021 – by the beginning of December, more than half of those who responded (58%) had already booked travel home. 

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But just because people are full of hope doesn’t mean things are going smoothly. Traveling in the end of 2021 has become fraught as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading like viral wildfire. Delays in airports were already high because of a surge in travelers, but now that many entertainment venues and events are being forced to close down due to COVID infections, holiday plans are suddenly in doubt. 

2020 has definitely taught us something though: be aware and be flexible. A majority of respondents (81%) were willing to change their travel plans based on COVID-19 safety recommendations and the state of things. In addition, nearly two-thirds (64%) have a backup plan in case their holiday plans get cancelled due to Omicron and COVID-19. 

Although the near future may be uncertain, people are clearly tired of staying home and ready to get back out and explore. With 2022 just days away, it’s time to make your plans for the perfect place to re-center and get ready for another year and whatever it might bring. Sit down with a budget, make a list of your wishes and wants, and start comparing to what’s out there. 

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