Last year’s COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on American life. 26 percent of Americans opted to not travel for the holidays due to it. More than 2 out 5 Americans (43%) plan to spend $1,814 on holiday travel this year. According to NerdWallet research, this amounts to close to 110 millions travelers spending almost […]

Last year’s COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on American life. 26 percent of Americans opted to not travel for the holidays due to it. More than 2 out 5 Americans (43%) plan to spend $1,814 on holiday travel this year. According to NerdWallet research, this amounts to close to 110 millions travelers spending almost $200 billion annually on holiday travel expenses.

NerdWallet conducted a survey online of over 2,000 Americans, asking 780 about their holiday plans. We also asked our respondents how they save money on holiday travel and whether they charge travel expenses to their credit cards.

Key findings

  • Nearly 3 out 10 Americans (29%) said they wouldn’t travel in 2020. However, the survey found that nearly 3 out of 10 Americans plan to spend money during 2021 holidays.

  • According to the survey, $1,471 is the average amount Americans plan to charge for holiday travel expenses in 2021. This is more than $116 trillion in holiday travel credit card spending this year.

  • According to the survey, 9 out of 10 holidaymakers (89%) plan to cut back on travel expenses for holiday trips.

  • Approximately 25% of holiday-travellers (24%) said they use a different mode of transport to travel to their destination for holidays because of COVID-19.

  • The survey revealed that more than three quarters of Americans aren’t sure if they will spend money on hotels/flights this holiday season (77%). This is true for more than half the Americans who say they don’t intend to spend money on hotels/flights this holiday season (57 %).

COVID has ruined so many holidays, special events. Americans want a holiday season that feels the same as it used to. For many Americans, this means going to see family and friends. It is tempting to spend every penny, but it is important to set a budget and stick to it. It is possible to have a memorable holiday without having to spend the new year on it span>

Tourism to the holidays is back on track after 2020

Many Americans have had to cancel their travel plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the survey, more than 25% of Americans (26%) said they planned to travel in 2020, but were unable to due to the pandemic. Some of the people who skipped travel last holiday season are going out this year.

Nearly 3 out 10 Americans (29%) who did not travel in 2020’s holiday season said they planned to do so during 2021. We’ll refer to holiday travelers .”</span as those who plan on spending money on flights or hotels during the holiday season.

The majority of holiday travelers use credit cards

More than 71% of holiday-goers (71%) said they would pay at least part of their travel expenses using a credit card. The average credit card charge is $1,471 This is close to 80 million Americans who spend $116 billion each year on credit cards for hotel/motel and holiday flights.

We recommend that you avoid credit card debt, unless you are in a real emergency.

Sara Rathner, NerdWallet Travel Expert

Travel charges are not synonymous with holiday debt. 21% of holiday travelers who plan to charge travel expenses on their credit cards (21%) claim that they will pay the balance off in the first statement. This means that they don’t owe interest and can enjoy the potential rewards of credit cards and protection against theft.

Some travelers will carry balances for at least a short time.

These holiday travelers who charge these expenses to their credit cards believe it will take them on average 2.8 months to pay off the balances. According to NerdWallet analysis, this would result in holiday travelers paying $40 per month in interest, which is close to $3.2 trillion.

We recommend that you avoid credit card debt, unless you are in a real emergency. Rathner states that credit card debt can add to the cost of everything and quickly spiral out of control. It can be difficult to justify spending $40 more on holidays. But what if your car has a breakdown in January? Do you end up with more debt than you have to pay for holiday bills? You’re better equipped to handle unexpected costs .”

Holiday travellers taking steps to save

70% of Americans travel for holidays. However, they save for their trips well in advance. 22 percent of Americans travel for holidays for less than five weeks. On average, holiday travelers save 9.4 weeks. If they travel for holiday, an average of $1814 per week, they will need to save $200 per week. This is in addition to what they may be saving on other holiday expenses.

Despite this, 89 percent of holiday-goers are making efforts to save money on travel expenses. These are the top money-saving tips. The top money-saving methods?

COVID-19 has an impact on travel for another holiday season

Although Americans are more likely to travel for holidays this year (43% will spend money on hotels or flights, compared with 19% in 2020), the COVID-19 pandemic continues and has a negative impact on travel. 24 percent of holiday-goers (24%) claim they are using different transportation methods than usual because of COVID-19. 22% also say the same about the type and choice of lodging they’re choosing this year.

Due to COVID-19, some people don’t travel or aren’t certain about traveling.

38 percent of Americans aren’t planning to travel for the holidays in 2018, and many cite COVID-19. 57% of those who say they don’t plan on spending money on hotels/flights in the holiday season 2021 have at least partially cited COVID-19. Concern about variants is the most common COVID-related reason (34%).

Another 19% are still undecided about whether they will spend their holiday money on hotels/flights. More than three quarters of those who are unsure about holiday travel (77%) claim their reasons are due to COVID-19. The top COVID-related reason is concern about variants (52 span>

“Whether you feel comfortable traveling this holiday season will depend on the situation of your family and the circumstances of the people you visit. Rathner believes there are many reasons to remain close to your home. It’s high time to have those difficult conversations about whether travel is feasible for you. span> Safety and health are the most important span

Travel tips for this holiday season

You should save money for travel well in advance. Saving as much as you can is the best way to save. Holidays are expensive because of the cost of gifts, travel, decorations, and other expenses. Saving early can help you avoid high interest debt.

You must pay off all credit card debt promptly. Although interest charges on credit cards may not seem important if you only have a small balance for a few month, credit card debt has a high average rate of interest and can be easy to let linger while making minimum monthly payments. You should work to get rid of the debt before you extend your 2021 spending into 2022.

Make holiday travel plans flexible. This is especially important given the new COVID-19 variants that are available and changing travel restrictions. Check out the airline cancellation and change policies if you are booking holiday travel. You should also consider travel insurance. However, it is a good idea to know the details of each policy before you buy it.

Rathner states that “sadly, we are still having to make many difficult decisions about holiday travel like we did in 2020.” “If you want this year’s celebrations to make up for last year’s holiday-by-video-call, just be mindful of your spending. This year, taking care of yourself means not only following COVID precautions but also protecting your finances .”


The Harris Poll conducted this survey online in the United States for NerdWallet between Sept. 13-15th, 2021 among 2,026 U.S. adults aged 18 and over. 780 of them plan to spend money on hotel stays/flights during the holiday season 2021. The online survey does not use a probability sample, so it is impossible to estimate the theoretical sampling error. Lauren Nash, [email protected] can provide more information about the survey methodology including weighting variables, subgroup sample sizes and other details.

For the purposes of this study, the 2021 holiday season can be defined as from Nov. 18, 2021 to Jan. 5, 20,22.

We used U.S. Census estimates and survey responses in order to calculate the total American population that plans to travel to Europe this holiday season. This includes the total travel expense and credit card charges.

To calculate credit card interest, we used the Federal Reserve of St. Louis’ most recent average annual percentage rates data (17.13% as of August 20,21).

Maximizing your Rewards

A travel credit card should be able to prioritize what is most important to you. These are our top picks for the best travel cards in 2023, as well as those that work best for: