Earlier this year, CivicScience measured general travel sentiments as news of the novel coronavirus was just breaking around the world. At the time, Americans were still somewhat comfortable with the prospect of taking business trips and pleasure travel. However, six months of lockdown orders, quarantine mandates, and rising case levels – coupled with new requirements for facial coverings and possibly needing to provide personal health data when traveling – have left fewer people keen on the idea of planning fall travel.

Summer Covidcations?

Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has vastly derailed Americans’ annual travel plans. In April, more than 41% of people reported canceling their trips or were choosing not to make any summer travel plans due to COVID-19. And, while news of beaches packed with ‘coronaway’ parties and travelers willing to risk contraction in exchange for a fun weekend made national headlines, the majority of Americans (55%) stayed home.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest group to report recent travel were college-age students and younger adults. Fifty-two percent of people aged 18-24 have experienced some form of travel during the coronavirus, possibly to those packed beaches and lake parties.

Travel Intent Falls

Despite COVID-19 concerns, people are currently still traveling to some degree. The question is, will they continue to do so as temperatures cool and more outdoor activities become impractical? With all this in mind, CivicScience studied Americans’ outlooks on the possibilities of fall travel

Fall is usually the time of year when people take trips to enjoy autumnal activities like visiting farms and festivals, or drinking cider by bonfires while picking the perfect pumpkins. 2020 will be a bit different with fewer people feeling even somewhat optimistic about those annual foliage trips. Overall, only 23% of U.S. adults reported their hopes for fall travel being unaffected by the coronavirus. 

Looking ahead, 22% of people remain unsure about solidifying their travel plans. And while a combined 17% of folks say they will be traveling for pleasure in the fall, more than half of Americans (57%) are not planning autumn travel for any reason.

A deeper dive shows that those who have already traveled by airplane during the coronavirus pandemic are the most likely to be wanderlust-inclined in the months ahead.

To that end, adults who have already purchased some type of fall airfare or accommodations — or intend to make travel-related purchases — report their prior travel experiences being the least affected by COVID-19 at 36%. 

That said, the prospect of fall travel for non-essential reasons isn’t opening many pocketbooks any time soon. Even those who historically consider recreational travel to be an important part of their lives have mixed feelings about the prospect of leaving for a fall trip. 

Methods of Travel / Accommodations

For one thing, Americans aren’t committing to future travel purchases at the moment. Only 7% of U.S. adults have already secured some type of ticket, with the same amount considering it. More starkly, over three-quarters of respondents haven’t purchased tickets, with 64% of those surveyed indicating they won’t be traveling this fall. 

The data remains pretty consistent across generations. When crossed with age, CivicScience finds that adults ages 25-34 are both the most likely to have made fall-related travel purchases (23%), as well as equally just as likely to be undecided (23%). On top of wide-ranging uncertainty across all age groups, the majorities for each generation seem unlikely to plan any kind of future travel. 

That being said, the majority of those who are planning autumn travel live in suburban areas (20%), with individuals who reside in rural areas only slightly less likely at 19%. Surprisingly, both suburban and rural residents are more likely than their city-based counterparts (16%) to be traveling this fall. 

Shifting Intent Based On Incomes

Fifty-five percent of U.S. adults report having traveled at some point over the spring and summer months, with the highest earners being the most likely to vacation or take a trip (52%). 

These high-earning Americans are also committing to fall travel plans at a slightly higher rate than their middle-income counterparts (by a difference of 2%) and are also the most likely to travel for business or reasons unrelated to pleasure (5%). Comparatively fewer people on the lower-income scale plan to travel in the fall, which may be a reflection of ongoing layoffs and wide-raging unemployment rates, leaving households with less discretionary income to spend on travel purchases.

Forecasting A Bleak Winter

All in all, the forecast for the travel industry — and America’s interest in fall getaways — looks pretty bleak as most would-be travelers consider the potential impact of COVID-19 on their intended plans. However, there has been a slight uptick in airline favorability for the most recent weeks reflected in our latest coronavirus check-in on industries. At the moment, 14% of the nearly 17,300 adults surveyed show some level of commitment to future holiday airline travel.

CivicScience will continue to track public sentiment and intent in the weeks ahead as more people begin to weigh options for holiday travel. 

Bonus Insight: On a bright note, while folks may not be fantasizing about fall travel specifically, there does seem to be other types of dreams happening. Stay tuned.