Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), in collaboration with Expedia.com, today released the 2021 Travel Trends Report, which analyzes extensive travel data from Expedia and ARC to uncover key search and booking trends for travelers.
Top insights in the report include money-saving strategies for purchasing travel, evolving traveler priorities, and trending destinations in key global markets.
Average ticket prices are historically low for U.S. travelers, but seasonality, advance purchase and departure timing still impact pricing.
For U.S. travelers, average ticket prices for domestic flights hit their lowest level of the year in late April and have since begun to rebound. From May to October, prices were 25-35% lower year over year and followed the usual seasonality curve.
Average ticket prices for international flights briefly spiked in April before normalizing to 2019 levels in mid-June and finally settling 30-35% lower year over year during the fall months.
Travelers saved on airfare by booking on a Sunday and departing on a Thursday or Friday.
According to ARC’s global airline sales data, U.S. travelers who booked flights on Sunday saved on both domestic and international airfares. Additional savings were gained by departing on a Friday for domestic trips, or on a Thursday for international trips — when fares are typically lower.
Flexibility has become a top priority, with most travelers purchasing flights less than a month out.
In 2019, the average U.S. traveler booked flights around 35 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window lengthened to 46 days. Travelers are now purchasing flights just 29 days out. This is the first time in years that the average advance purchase window has dropped below the 30-day mark.
Expedia.com lodging data shows that, in 2020, U.S. travelers booked refundable rates 10% more often compared to 2019. That flexibility is also more affordable: According to Expedia.com, average daily rates for refundable bookings were 20% cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
Domestic destinations with outdoor activities are trending in 2020.
Lake Havasu, Arizona; New Bern, North Carolina; and The Hamptons, New York top Expedia’s list of 2020 trending destinations seeing the best year-over-year growth, based on lodging demand.
Beaches and vacation cities are among Expedia’s most-searched destinations for 2021.
Beach resorts such as Cancun, Mexico (#1); Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico (#2); and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (#5) are among the most popular Expedia.com searches for 2021, along with vacation cities such as Las Vegas (#3), Orlando (#4) and Miami (#8).
“What we learned by looking at traveler behaviors in a year as unusual as 2020 is that travel will always be an integral part of our lives,” says Christie Hudson, Senior PR Manager for Expedia brand. “Travelers responded to the uncertainty and restrictions by finding ways to safely explore closer to home, and the result is a bigger emphasis on flexibility and a list of trending destinations that are inspiring and attainable for the year ahead.”
“It’s no secret that air travel changed this year in ways we have never seen before, but people are still flying, and they will continue to fly. We are keeping a close eye on these changes to help travelers get the most from their journeys,” said Chuck Thackston, Managing Director of Data Science and Research for ARC. “Expedia and ARC are teaming up again to get to the bottom of what’s truly changed and equip travelers with new trip-planning insights to use when they do fly again.”