After curtailing vacations during the pandemic, a new AARP survey finds Americans are beginning to feel more comfortable about traveling. The hopeful return to the road this year is fueled, in part, by the strong buying power and pent-up demand of travelers 50-plus.
In 2021, more than half (51%) of older travelers say they took fewer trips than anticipated. While 54% of 50-plus Americans planned to travel last year, 67% anticipate doing so in 2022 — taking an average of at least four trips this year.
A big factor at play for travelers, understandably, is safety.
Over two-thirds say they are concerned about the spread of COVID-19. Still, 77% feel it is safe to vacation this year compared to only 40% last year. Women are feeling a bit more cautious: 65% expect travel in 2022 to look different than before the pandemic, compared to 60% of men who say the same. For domestic travel, men are more likely to be planning trips than women (37% vs. 31%), while women are still in the travel idea phase (51% vs. 47%).
Older travelers are more likely to keep their travel within the U.S., avoid crowded destinations, and take more road trips than usual. About 43% of people 50 and over are planning to travel both domestically and abroad this year, just slightly below plans for 2020 prior to the pandemic.
Time to Splurge
Since COVID-19 put the kibosh on travel for much of the past two years, many Americans have saved up money and vacation days that they are now eager to use. This is translating into bigger budgets for trips in the year ahead. Two out of three travelers age 50 and over expect to spend more on travel in 2022 than in 2021.
Before the pandemic, Americans age 50-plus planned to spend $7,314 annually, on average, for travel. This year, older adults typically say they are ready to shell out $8,369. For those 70-plus, it may be as high as over $11,500 — with some extra money going toward travel insurance and flexible/cancellable tickets. However, AARP discovered a significant gap by age: Americans under age 50 are more budget minded and expect to spend closer to $5,000 on trips in 2022.
International trip planning has not yet been a return to prepandemic levels. Just 17% of travelers age 50-plus have booked international travel for 2022, while 34% are planning and 49% are considering travel abroad.
Having Fun Closer to Home
Some Americans are still not ready to travel at all. This year just 2% of older adults say they are set against travel, down from 8% who felt that way in 2021. The top reasons remain the same as in last year’s survey: safety concerns about transportation, safety concerns if a destination is a COVID-19 hotspot, and fear of becoming ill or infecting others.
What might ease travel worries while COVID-19 remains present? Those who are hesitant to return to travel in 2022 say having fully refundable tickets, knowing the COVID safety protocols for transportation and accommodation providers, and the majority of the population vaccinated.
AARP’s 2022 Travel Trends study includes two surveys on travelers and nontravelers conducted in November 2021. The 15-minute online survey of travelers included 2,008 adults 18 and older who had taken at least one trip within the past two years 50 miles or more away from home, with at least a two-night stay. The 10-minute online survey of nontravelers included a sample of 1,003 Americans with no plans for personal travel in 2022. Final data have been weighted to U.S. Census for analysis by age group.
Levy, Vicki. 2022 Travel Trends Survey. Washington, DC: AARP Research, March 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00513.001