As the holidays near with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, many Americans are wondering how to travel, if at all, for annual visits with family or friends. While some travel has resumed with provisions like mask regulations and socially distanced seating, plenty of refusals to comply have been caught on camera and widely circulated, making it unclear how comfortable people are with travel while the coronavirus threat remains.
We ran two surveys of 1,500 Americans apiece to better understand what precautions they plan to take while traveling and how seriously they plan to quarantine or have visitors quarantine on arrival. Here were our main takeaways:
- 1 in 4 say they canceled planned travel this year due to COVID-19
- 25% feel safe to travel using precautions
- 7.5% say they plan to travel with no COVID-19 precautions whatsoever
- 1 in 5 say they don’t feel it’s necessary for travelers to quarantine upon arrival
About 25% Plan to Go Ahead With Travel Using COVID-19 Precautions
Our first survey asked what precautions people planned to take, if any, while traveling or hosting travelers over the holidays. Most of those going ahead with travel (22%) said they planned to observe mask guidelines and social distancing regulations. Another 3% said they planned on utilizing the above tactics as well as quarantining upon arrival.
Surprisingly, about 7% said they planned to travel without any precautions whatsoever — an intention that can get travelers kicked off flights or even banned from major airlines entirely. Those passengers who plan to ignore COVID-19 guidelines until they step on the plane represent the greatest risk to other flyers, especially on highly trafficked trips where in-flight social distancing is impossible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how heavily air is filtered on airplanes. However, transportation to and from airports, as well as getting from the curb to gate, are much greater opportunities for germ transmission between travelers.
Nearly 1 in 5 Believe Quarantining on Arrival Is Unnecessary
Our second survey question asked whether travelers planned to quarantine (or have visitors quarantine) upon arrival, and if so, to what extent. About two-thirds said they were not planning to travel or have visitors for reasons related and unrelated to COVID-19. Of the remaining third with plans to travel, 18% said they had no intention of quarantining or having visitors quarantine.
This is another area in which travelers may find their intentions don’t align with government requirements. Many states have strict quarantine restrictions or require travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test within a certain period following arrival. Penalties for violating these restrictions can include fines as high as $25,000 or time in prison.
Of those respondents planning to quarantine, very few (2%) planned to do so in a hotel or rental. Most (14%) planned to quarantine for two weeks in their hosts’ homes.
Over 25% Have Cancelled Holiday Travel Due to COVID-19
In both surveys, just over 25% of respondents said they canceled holiday travel entirely due to the complications associated with COVID-19 travel.
A 2019 study by OnePoll and Motel 6 found that, on average, Americans can stand 3 hours and 54 minutes spent with family over the holidays before needing a moment to themselves. It should come as no surprise, then, that so many aren’t eager to tack an additional two weeks of quarantine at their hosts’ home onto their annual holiday visits.
The alternative, however, can be just as stressful — financially instead of emotionally. The same survey found that 47% of respondents still preferred to stay with family over making hotel accommodations, despite the potential for emotional stress, because it’s cheaper or more convenient than the expense of a hotel. If the cost of a few days or a long weekend in a hotel is already prohibitively expensive for so many, then an added two-week quarantine requirement certainly puts the potential for a hotel stay out of reach.
If you do still plan to travel for the holidays, lower your risk of pandemic exposure by sticking to private car trips with few stops, if possible. If you must travel by plane or train, be sure to wear a CDC-compliant face mask, maintain your distance from others, and wash your hands frequently.
If you decide that traveling isn’t worth the risk this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate. Plan a cozy staycation alone or with the family — you can even connect with the people you would normally see over the holidays without getting physically close. Remember, no celebration is worth risking your physical or financial health. Staying safe will ensure you and your family are healthy for many holidays to come!
This study was conducted for Money Crashers using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. The survey was conducted in October 2020.