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Americans Care More About Travel Companions Than Their Destination

The past two years of living amid a pandemic have triggered some fairly predictable, along with some entirely unforeseen, changes in the collective mindset of American travelers.

Last summer, Americans were largely taking road trips and traveling close to home, due to the myriad of international entry restrictions and general uncertainty surrounding the changeability of the travel scene.


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This year, as the world more broadly reopens, plenty of people are eager to go abroad again, and travel overall is predicted to approach pre-pandemic levels, but it seems that travelers’ focus in planning their experiences has shifted from what we might expect.

The results of new research by the University of Florida’s Agency at UF, conducted in partnership with Carnival Cruise Line, revealed that travelers are prioritizing WHO they’re vacationing with, rather than WHERE they’re actually headed.

In the social listening study that examined 21.3 million online uses of key travel terms, roughly one in every five mentions of a summer vacation included references to doing everything together and focused on spending quality time with loved ones, whether that’s someone’s partner, family members or friends.

“What we perceived anecdotally has been confirmed by a dive into the language that Americans are using around travel,” said Dr. Rachel Fu, Director of the Eric Friedheim Tourism Institute and Chair of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida. “Americans’ ideal destination for summer travel can now best be summed up as ‘anywhere and everywhere’ with few expressing enthusiasm for specific locations, and instead committing to bringing besties, significant others and family along to… wherever.”

The study said that around one in 10 internet mentions about summer vacations hint at a tropical, beach or sunny destination, but, otherwise, indications as to where, specifically, travelers are headed are scarce. Online travel chatter does, however, point to a desire for trips filled with activities, attractions and multiple stops along the way.

Friends enjoy a glass of wine in Guanajuato
Friends enjoy a glass of wine in Guanajuato. (photo via Guanajuato Tourism)

Some new terminology has also emerged as a product of the pandemic era’s forced lockdown lifestyle. The research said that Americans are now desperate for an “awaycation”, which essentially refers to getting away to just about anywhere, as long as it’s outside of their home.

The wording represents a mental shift away from the comparable term “staycation” (because who can stand to stay put any longer?!), which had been widely used before COVID-19. In fact, the use of that particular label has lessened significantly since 2020, the study said, falling 41 percent year over year.

“Bringing loved ones together for a fun-filled, stress-free vacation is what we do, so we are happy to find that today’s traveler is craving just that,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “On a Carnival cruise, we take care of all of the details—transportation, dining, entertainment, and much more—so that our guests can focus on what’s really important—quality time with those they love. From bucket-list vacations and long weekend getaways to milestone celebrations and multi-generational reunions, our cruises are about creating memorable vacations together.”

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