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Here's how the pandemic transformed travel in 2020

Here's how the pandemic transformed travel in 2020

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A lone, masked pedestrian looks toward a deserted International Drive on Thursday afternoon.

A lone, masked pedestrian looks toward a deserted International Drive on Thursday afternoon. Most stores are shuttered, at least temporarily, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

As 2020 comes to a close, Priceline has looked at research for a retrospective on how travel was transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

After looking at the year in review, Priceline’s data revealed that 2020 was certainly the year of the last-minute vacation with same-day car rentals skyrocketing, hotel booking windows shrinking and flight miles decreasing.

Rental car data showed that travelers were renting a car on the same day or the day prior to when they were traveling and booking one-way rentals more frequently than other years. The top five destinations for one-way bookings were Orlando, Florida, to Tampa, Florida; Miami to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Los Angeles to San Francisco and Orlando to Fort Lauderdale.

Flight booking windows also declined as advanced planning took a backseat to last-minute escapes. Priceline’s data found that more than 76 percent of flight bookings were made within a week (seven days) of the departure date in 2020.

Travelers were also taking shorter flights. The average distance traveled for round-trip itineraries decreased by 20 percent in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 – 1,307 miles versus 1,654.

Travel to Orlando was definitely popular. The most booked flight destinations in 2020 were Newark, New Jersey, to Orlando; Dallas to Los Angeles, Chicago to Los Angeles, New York City to Orlando and Orlando to Philadelphia.

Similar to flights, Priceline’s research found that there was not a lot of pre-planning for hotel bookings. The average advanced purchase window decreased by 45% in 2020. On average, travelers booked their stay within a six- to seven-day window of their check-in date.

The most popular destinations for hotel bookings were Las Vegas, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Orlando.

The most-searched-for destinations in 2020 were Las Vegas, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles.


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