Despite COVID-19 Concerns, Many American Boomers Plan to Travel in 2021: AARP Survey

AARPAARP’s annual travel trends survey found that a new-found optimism for travel in 2021 is beginning to emerge, especially among American Boomers (people ages 56–74) who haven’t given up on their bucket lists and dreams of seeing the world.

According to the survey, just over half of Boomers (54%) plan to travel in 2021, and they are actively selecting destinations, booking accommodations, and scrutinizing COVID-19 safety protocols. A small, but avid group of cruisers (13% of travelling Boomers) plan to take to the seas and waterways, with 82% of those cruising voyages already booked.

COVID-19 Safety Takes Precedence

Public health concerns have surpassed cost as the biggest barrier to travelling. The survey found that 41% of Boomers believe travel during the pandemic is unsafe, and 47% who intend to travel will do so only if a vaccine is available. A strong majority (74%) also said COVID-19 travel restrictions have prevented or will prevent them from taking all the trips they would like to take in 2021.

Still, travel-hungry Boomers are arming themselves with knowledge. They are researching safety protocols, state quarantine regulations, what businesses and sites are open at their intended destination, and how accommodation and transportation providers are responding to safety concerns.

AARP conducted the survey online between 09–21NOV, 2020 among 1,499 American adults aged 23 and older, who have taken at least one trip 80 kilometres or more away from home, with at least a two-night stay, in the past two years.

The American Association of Retired People is a United States–based interest group that focuses on issues affecting those over the age of 50.

Remaining Cautious

Beyond understanding the regulations, Boomer travellers are taking precautions, and seven in 10 know that travel in 2021 will differ from travel in past years. Instead of jetting off to crowded international hotspots, they are more likely to take domestic road trips and visit only with immediate family.

Nearly a quarter of Boomers (23%) who are making travel plans for 2021 did not travel at all in 2020. Many are motivated to travel in 2021 by a desire to reconnect with loved ones: More than half (57%) said that they are planning a trip in 2021 to spend time with friends or family.

Fully refundable tickets/reservations is the most enticing incentive for would-be travellers. When asked what would ease travel concerns, 84% of Boomer travellers chose “fully refundable tickets.” Notably, “mandatory mask wearing” would ease concerns for 79% of Boomer travellers.

Non-Travellers Highlight Safety Concerns

For the first time, AARP included non-travellers in its study to get a sense of when they might return to travelling. These Boomers aren’t opposed to travel — 19% are already watching for travel bargains — but they are acutely attuned to the risks of the pandemic.

Among Boomers who said that they are not planning to travel, 93% said fear of COVID-19 was the reason, and 84% said any future travel would be dependent on a vaccine. About half said they didn’t know when they would resume traveling.

Travel Savings Grow

Unlike younger generations, Boomers may be stockpiling money earmarked for travel, keeping it handy for use at the right time. Younger generations were more likely to have spent unused 2020 travel funds on home improvements or restaurant food delivery and take out, but Boomers (58%) were more likely to have set aside unused travel funds for future getaways. Even a majority (57%) of non-travelling Boomers said they would save money for a trip after the pandemic.

Boomers also anticipate outspending younger generations. They expect to spend US$6,691 on average for 2021, while Gen X travelers expect to spend about $5,000 and millennials $4,000.

Anna Kroupina


Anna's day starts at 5:30 a.m. each morning to scour daily travel news headlines to find the most relevant stories for Canadian travel advisors. She contributes to writing the daily news and covers events. The Alberta Rockies, Hawaii and France's Provence region are among her favourite destinations. She's a proud cat mom and a terrible snowboarder.

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