Summer travel plans are big on safety and savings

The coronavirus pandemic is shaping summer travel preferences in a way that emphasizes safety and savings.

While fewer people are booking flights right now due to safety concerns, many plan to travel by car this summer. “Domestic travel, particularly car trips, will be the most popular form of leisure travel this year,” said eMarketer senior analyst Jasmine Enberg. 

Hotel bookings see growing strength

Many of those car trips will include lodging in hotels, where bookings have rebounded more quickly than flights on Affirm since mid-April. In fact, cart size growth for hotel bookings has already exceeded last year’s levels, suggesting that travelers may be shifting budgets from airfare to pricier accommodations or longer stays.

Booking windows have begun to realign with 2019 levels. As of late May, the average window on Affirm was 58 days—a 29% increase from last year. Travelers, including those booking flights or buying vacation packages, are targeting mid-July or later as a good time for a trip, as restrictions ease in many states.

The expected car-travel surge is consistent with the results of our recent summer spending survey. Nearly 20% of respondents said they were more open to long car rides and day trips this summer than last. Among people who plan to take a trip for the July 4 holiday, half said they would travel by car.

Savings may yield future travel spending

Economic disruptions are changing consumer behavior, including travel planning. Spending habits have shifted as many schools and businesses remain closed, leading consumers to tighten their belts and increase savings. The personal savings rate in the U.S. hit 33%—a historic high—in April.

Just over half of respondents in our survey (53%) said they had to cancel travel plans this summer—due to job loss, canceled events, health concerns, or other factors. And 40% of that group said they saved the money they would have otherwise spent, possibly for future travel.

Saving money is an increasing priority for travelers who are planning to fly. During May, 35% of flight sales with Affirm included basic economy fares, up from 10% during January and February.

“We’ve seen the momentum around savings firsthand at Affirm,” said Chief Commercial Officer Silvija Martincevic. Since January, customers beta-testing our new Affirm Savings account grew their total deposits balance by an average of 60% each month.

Read the full results of our survey to learn more about how consumers plan to spend on travel, experiences, and apparel this summer.

To learn how Affirm can increase cart sizes and sales for your travel business, visit our site.

NOTE: The online survey was conducted by Affirm/Qualtrics among a demographically representative sample of 1,800 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 55 on June 4, 2020.