Study: 72% of Americans State COVID-19 Has Drastically Changed Their Holiday Travel Plans

2020 has been the most challenging in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Americans celebrate the holidays and is changing things such as vacations and how we spend their time. A recent study commissioned by ScoreSense shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans see the pandemic drastically changing holiday plans and who we will visit this year.

Key Findings

  • 67% of all consumers had to cancel plans to see family for the holidays this year.
  • Half of consumers (including 60% of men and 63% of those in Gen Z) had other plans that were canceled outside of family plans.
  • 29% of businesses are still planning a holiday party, and 78% of consumers plan to attend those parties. Men and members of Gen X are most likely to attend.
  • 39% of all consumers, including 53% of Millennials and 45% of all men, work from home during the pandemic.
  • 57% of consumers working from home who accrue paid time off are using their paid time off the same as before the pandemic.

Two-Thirds of Americans Have Had to Cancel Plans to Visit Family During the Holiday

Our recent survey of nearly 1,000 US consumers reveals that the vast majority have had to change plans to visit family. This trend is not related to one generation; a nearly equal (>70%) percent of both Millennials and Baby Boomers have canceled plans. Women are more likely to have canceled plans (73% of women compared with 62% of men). Students, retired people, and parents with children under 18 are more likely to have canceled plans. Canceled plans have been less about lockdown travel restrictions, and most about who would be in attendance (50% because of high-risk family members, 53% because of the older generation’s age, etc.)

Virtual Meetings (Such as Zoom) Are Not Taking the Place of Holidays Visits

Zoom has become the default technology for virtual meetings during the pandemic. Despite how common it has become, only 36% of all consumers and 50% of Millennials are attending a virtual meeting to celebrate the holidays with family members. A not-insignificant 21% of Baby Boomers, despite their usual tendency to avoid technology, are planning to attend a virtual meeting with family.

Many Businesses Are Still Planning a Holiday Party, Despite Limitations on Meeting in Groups

29% of businesses are still planning a holiday party. 39% of men and 32% of those employed full-time have been invited to these holiday parties. Of them, 78% overall, 87% of men, and 84% of full-time employees plan to attend.

Nearly 40% Work from Home During the Pandemic

39% of all consumers, including 53% of Millennials and 45% of men, are working from home during the pandemic. 61% working from home accrue paid time off (primarily 69%  of those who are married and 74% of men). Of those accruing paid time off, 73% of all consumers (and 80% of men) say they are accruing more paid time off during the pandemic. Accruing more time off does not necessarily mean it can be used. Only 35% of those accruing paid time off have been able to use their PTO. On the other hand, 46% of men, 49% of women, and 58% of full-time employees have not even tried to use their PTO.

Most consumers (57%) report their PTO usage is the same as before the pandemic. Men are twice as likely to state an increase in usage than women, and 40% of Millennials (the highest percentage among the generations) have seen an increase.

More Than Half Are Still Considering Vacation Travel in 2021

Gen Z and Millennials are most likely to take a vacation next year. 60% of men, 62% who are married and 68% of full-time employees are considering traveling for vacation. 45% of all consumers still must use their PTO if they travel, even if they are working while traveling. Even part-time employees would have to use PTO when working while traveling. Overall, 61% working full-time and 57% working part-time must use PTO to work while traveling.

Most Consumers Will Drive to Their Vacation Destination

70% of consumers are considering driving on vacation. By contrast, only 38% are considering traveling by air. 23% are taking a staycation, and 41% (and 50% of Baby Boomers) are traveling only locally. 11% of all consumers (especially 24% of part-time employees and 16% from Gen Z) are considering taking an RV on vacation this year.  

Given the high number of consumers driving, 47% are planning to say with friends or family. 46% are staying at a hotel or motel. A much smaller percentage are considering going to a resort.


Overall, the pandemic has changed travel plans to a dramatic extent. Plans are being changed due to age and other factors, accrued paid time off is increasing but is not able to be used, and people working from home have to use their PTO even when working from their travel destination. Americans are dealing with restrictions and rules that are causing a great deal of distress this holiday season.


This study was conducted for ScoreSense by the research company PeopleFish. Surveys were collected in November 2020 among a sample of 987 consumers in the United States aged 18+. The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.1% at the 95% confidence level.

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