Holiday travel: discover what's motivating travelers—despite the pandemic

By UserTesting | November 9, 2020

Welcome to UserTesting HITs, an ongoing series that shares human insight trends (HITs) uncovered from studies conducted by the UserTesting team. We hope you find these insights interesting and that they inspire you to conduct similar studies of your own! In this study, you'll learn what's motivating people to travel this holiday season—despite the pandemic—and how organizations in the travel industry can better prepare to provide great travel experiences.

What we did

As the holiday season quickly approaches, some travelers are choosing to fly to their holiday destinations amid the tensions and uncertainties of ever-changing infection rates and restrictions. To better understand what factors and considerations holiday travelers are weighing alongside COVID-19 risks, we spoke to travelers in the US and the UK who've flown minimally since March 2020 and also plan to travel by air this holiday season.

What we learned

How people are adapting to pandemic travel

  • Purchasing COVID-19 travel insurance: Many travelers noted that they seldom considered travel insurance prior to the pandemic, but the uncertainty associated with making future travel plans is prompting many to do so now.
  • Price isn't the only deciding factor: While price is still a factor for airline and hotel/vacation rental bookings, many travelers are also making decisions based on sanitization practices, refund and cancellation policies, and recent customer reviews.
  • Booking closer to travel dates: With pandemic developments changing daily, some travelers don't feel comfortable booking trips too far in advance Additionally, they're checking travel guidelines and rules much more frequently.
  • Minimizing exposure to others: To ensure departure and that they won't get stuck at their destination, some travelers are significantly limiting their exposure to others prior to, and during holiday travel.
  • Destination research: Travelers are looking for more detailed information about their destination prior to travel, including infection rates, the state of national healthcare (if traveling internationally), COVID-19 guidelines, COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, and return procedures.

Hear people talk about holiday travel concerns and considerations

Family is the most important factor for holiday travel

Travelers who plan to stay with family over the holidays are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their families and themselves.

  • Having honest conversations with family, pre-travel: Travelers want to gauge how comfortable family members are with hosting guests—particularly those traveling by air.
  • Some travelers are opting to self-quarantine at a hotel prior to visiting family.
  • Though many travelers are motivated to see aging family members, they're carefully weighing the risks of exposing elderly family.

Other deciding factors for holiday travel

  • Infection rates—both at the destination and hometown
  • Access to healthcare: What happens if I got sick at my destination?
  • Traveler safety: How are airlines, hotels, vacation rentals, and other travel-related businesses keeping travelers safe?
  • Likelihood of trip cancellation due to COVID-19

My family's safety comes first and is most important to me because we have worked hard for five months [to stay safe] so I don't want to ruin this on a two-week holiday." - UK traveler

What's motivating holiday travel—despite COVID-19 risks?

Travelers noted that they're eager to see family or are taking a much-needed holiday since most did not get to travel during the summer months. Many who are traveling to vacation destinations are either unconcerned about COVID-19, motivated to adapt to this “new normal” despite the risks, or simply want to scratch a travel itch.

My in-laws are getting older and we fear we won't have too many more years to celebrate holidays with them." - US traveler

The fact that COVID-19 is still around means even more reasons to deserve a getaway, so I thought it would be a good way of adjusting to the new normal." - UK traveler

Share your insights with us! 

Have you conducted a similar study? Did these findings inspire you to run some experiments of your own? Insights are always best when shared, so share your biggest "a-ha" moments with us on Twitter with #RealHumanInsight.

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About the author(s)

With UserTesting’s on-demand platform, you uncover ‘the why’ behind customer interactions. In just a few hours, you can capture the critical human insights you need to confidently deliver what your customers want and expect.