This holiday travel season is shaping up to be wildly different than anything we've seen before. And that may be a good thing.

By Paul Brady
November 11, 2020
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The frantic days leading up to Thanksgiving probably won’t be the busiest travel days of the year in 2020. But that won’t stop travelers from turning late November and December trips into longer — hopefully more relaxing — trips away from home. Those are just a few of the surprising insights on the country’s holiday travel plans, thanks to a study of booking data from TripIt, the travel-planning app from Concur.

“Without the physical confines of work or school, travelers are increasingly turning their winter jaunts into longer-term retreats,” says TripIt spokesperson Kelly Soderlund, in a post detailing the findings. “Travelers are extending the duration of their trips and increasingly looking to vacation rentals,” rather than hotels, Soderlund adds.

To make the predictions, TripIt analyzed domestic flight and hotel bookings made through Oct. 8, for trips planned Nov. 20 through Dec. 25.

Credit: Courtesy of TripIt

The data revealed that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year at airports, will still be a popular departure time. But so too will the Saturday and Monday before Thanksgiving, which falls on Nov. 26 this year. Interest in flying the weekend before the holiday — and thus turning the holiday into a week-long celebration — was up more than 30 percent compared to 2019.

Credit: Courtesy of TripIt

Those Thanksgiving trips also seem to be kicking off more, longer holidays for travelers: TripIt says many people planning to depart before the November holiday won’t head home until the middle of December. Some intrepid folks are even leaving before Thanksgiving and returning home after Christmas; interest in spending the whole holiday season away from home is up an eye-popping 156 percent compared to last year, TripIt says.

Credit: Courtesy of TripIt

Warm-weather destinations where sunshine is pretty much guaranteed seemed top of mind for Thanksgiving travelers: Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, and Tampa are all among the top 10. But when it comes to post-Thanksgiving getaways, travelers are considering pretty much everywhere — as long as there are spacious vacation rentals to choose from. That means popular winter-weather spots like Breckenridge, Colo.; Leavenworth, Wash.; and Park City, Utah have surged in popularity, while traditional escapes like Hawaii, Palm Springs, Calif., and Sedona, Ariz. are also top of mind.

Credit: Courtesy of TripIt

TripIt says vacation rentals are a big reason why these destinations are trending: “The biggest shift has been to vacation rentals, which have seen a 27 percent increase in share of lodging reservations when compared to the same travel dates in 2019,” Soderlund says.

Whatever length of trip holiday travelers choose, there’s plenty to keep track of during a holiday season that’s sure to be like no other because of the pandemic. TripIt has recently added functionality to help, adding hospital and clinic locations to its lineup of features.