It’s been over one year since Americans were told to cancel their travel plans due to the coronavirus pandemic, and there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel for those pining for a getaway. With vaccinations mounting in the U.S. just in time for warm weather, many will be venturing out further than their backyards for the busy summer travel season.
And there are some clear trends in Americans’ unfurling vacation plans this Memorial Day through Labor Day, with travelers flocking to hotspots ranging from affordable outdoor locales to theme parks, and other similar entertainment venues making their comeback. Part of the reason is likely the pandemic’s ongoing flight deals, which experts say should continue to live on for the foreseeable future—even as more Americans become inoculated.
“While travel demand and prices are rebounding rapidly, there are still deals available,” says Priceline CEO Brett Keller. “Domestic airfares are running roughly 10 percent lower this summer than 2019 prices.”
Whether you want to avoid the crowds or are fully-vaccinated and looking to join your fellow travelers in beloved summertime destinations, remember to respect local ordinances still in place, like mask mandates or requirements for testing upon arrival. Here’s where Americans are actually heading this summer, according to flight search and booking data from Priceline, Orbitz, and Skyscanner.
A popular travel spot throughout the pandemic for its warm weather and outdoor activities, Florida continues to trend in flight bookings this summer, as a domestic vacation that feels further flung. Orlando is Priceline’s top-booked and top-searched destination for 2021 summer travel, and Skyscanner ranks the Disney World air hub its sixth most-searched destination so far for summer 2021 travel dates. And those escaping to Florida outside the theme parks are also in good company: Key West, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale are among the top flights searches for Americans based in the northeast, according to Orbitz, and Fort Meyers, Key West, Fort Walton Beach, and Sarasota are among the site’s top ten searched domestic destinations for July 2021. Airfare savings might have something to do with it: The state’s five largest air hubs have an average round-trip flight price between $232 and $262 for the super-hot summer months, according to Priceline.
If you’re dreaming of piña coladas in cobblestoned Old San Juan, you’re far from alone. Puerto Rico is the third most-booked destination for summer 2021, according to Priceline, with Orbitz naming it the most popular search destination for those living on the East Coast. Skyscanner data shows that interest in San Juan has spiked compared to 2019, moving the island from the 28th-most booked U.S. summer destination to the 9th overall for summer 2021.
Another domestic U.S. destination that seems to be surging due to its far-off feel, two of Hawaii’s tropical islands are among Priceline’s 15 most booked destinations for summer 2021, with Oahu and Maui ranking 5th and 14th, respectively. Skyscanner data shows Honolulu has jumped up four spots from its 2019 rank as the 12th most-searched summer destination, now holding at the 8th most popular for 2021. The state has been a popular travel destination throughout the pandemic despite its strict COVID-19 protocols, with a requirement for a negative PCR test from approved health labs upon arrival (however, Maui recently announced a rollback in testing requirements for vaccinated travelers, and other islands could do the same).
Ready to get back to entertainment and fine dining in Sin City? Travel deals to Las Vegas from major air travel hubs have plenty of travelers opting to kick off their return to travel in Las Vegas, the second most-booked summer destination on Priceline this year and the second-most searched Memorial Day weekend destination on Skyscanner. Orbitz data shows that the best Vegas deals are from Atlanta and Dallas, and average fares from across the U.S. are $208, according to Skyscanner. Orbitz data signals that large cities are trending cheaper overall amid the pandemic, at around 20 percent lower than their summer 2019 fares.
With many international destinations closed to Americans or logistically difficult to visit amid the pandemic, Mexico is sure to continue its popularity as a close-to-home international getaway. Popular resort towns like Cabo San Lucas and Cancun are projected to remain popular for travelers from the West Coast throughout summer, according to Orbitz, and Cancun ranks as the sixth most popular summer destination on Priceline. The Yucatan hotspot of Cancun was Skyscanner’s 11th most searched summer destination in 2019, and has jumped up to the second most-searched summer destination for 2021.
Not ready for big resorts teeming with tourists, and considering the great outdoors instead? You might find a lot of other travelers taking to the same lesser-known state and national park areas. For example, Fargo, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are trending well over their 2019 visitor numbers, according to Orbitz. Fargo is the top most-booked destination on Orbitz for July 2021, and Sioux Falls trails only slightly in fifth place for the month’s bookings. Skyscanner rankings show both cities have jumped more than 100 spots each in their overall rank as summer destinations, to the 272nd and 295th most-booked destinations this summer.
Montana and Wyoming
Similar bucket-list-worthy outdoor destinations, like Yellowstone-adjacent Wyoming and Glacier-nestled Montana, are also still surging in visitors as a year inside has motivated so many to get back to nature. As Americans continue to be barred from travel into Canada, northern border states like Montana are high in popularity, and Wyoming’s Jackson Hole is the number 12 most-booked destination on Orbitz for July 2021.
Despite the overall trend toward domestic trips this summer, one standout international destination shows that Americans are also eager to jump back into bucket-list trip planning. Egypt, which remains open to Americans with a negative coronavirus test result, is the number 10 most-booked Memorial Day departure overall in the U.S. this year, according to Skyscanner. Trending among families (or, group bookings of at least three passengers), Cairo has ascended 15 spots in Skyscanner’s summer-booking rankings since 2019, and is slated to officially open its long-awaited new Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza this June after more than a year of delays.
The capital of Alaska may have lost its cruise season twice over due to COVID-19, but Anchorage’s hiking trails, craft breweries, Alaska Native museum exhibits at its namesake museum, and close proximity to Denali National Park are making it the 10th most booked destination on Priceline this summer.
After a hard year stuck at home, affordable summer beach destinations continue top Americans’ favorite getaways, and prime among them is a classic: Myrtle Beach is the 7th most-popular flight destination on Orbitz for July 2021, and the 15th most-searched summer destination on Priceline. Its boardwalk and endless stretch of sandy beaches have jumped 30 spots in popularity since summer 2019, according to Skyscanner, making the beach city the site’s 66th most searched summer destination for 2021.
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