2021 was a rollercoaster of vaccine rollouts and country reopenings and waves of Covid and its variants.

When we surveyed travelers for our 2021 State of Cheap Flights report at the end of 2020, the majority (84%) of respondents said they were planning to travel internationally in 2021 and even more (93%) planned to travel domestically. 

More than half (61%) said they were feeling hopeful about travel, with 83% of respondents planning to take at least two domestic trips and 44% planning two or more international journeys in 2021. 

By May and June, we were filled with vaccines and optimism, as several countries that were previously closed to Americans reopened just in time for peak summer travel season. But by August, some of that excitement diminished when the Delta variant became a bigger concern, and as the year came to a close, an even newer variant called Omicron was making headlines as several countries reinstated travel restrictions.

In this, our third annual Report on the State of Cheap Flights (here's 2021 and 2020), we’ll look at where we are now as we enter year three of the coronavirus pandemic—how consumers are spending on travel, how they choose flights, where they’re going, how much they’re spending to get there, and how the ongoing pandemic continues to impact their travel plans.

For most travelers, 2021 didn’t go quite as planned—for better or worse.

Many travelers (36%) actually took more trips in 2021 than they initially expected to, though almost as many (33%) took fewer trips than they expected. 

The better news: Only 9% of travelers reported not taking any trips last year. Given that at the start of 2021, most countries were still firmly closed to foreigners and even domestic travel was dicey, we’ll call that a win.

2021 travel compared to expectations

I took more trips than I initially expected in 2021
36%
I took fewer trips than I initially expected in 2021
33%
I took the number of trips I expected in 2021
22%
I did not travel in 2021
9%

Those who did travel had mostly good things to say about it, like one respondent who said: 

“I loved traveling in 2021. Having assurances of deep cleaning of spaces and fresh air in the cabin of the airplane in addition to requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for flights...gave an extreme level of comfort while traveling. Let's not go back to how we traveled. Let's do it better and safer with what we've learned during the pandemic.”

But Covid still weighed heavily over the travel landscape.

About two-thirds (66%) of travelers cited Covid-related concerns as their number one barrier to travel in 2021. Only 9% cited money as their primary reason for not traveling more. 

With more countries now open in 2022 and many countries having a very high percentage of their population vaccinated, hopefully we’ll see Covid becoming less of a barrier to traveling (we’re Scott’s Cheap Flights after all, so we can help with the cost, but other things are out of our control).

Barriers to travel in 2021

Covid-19 travel restrictions
35%
Concerns about Covid-19
31%
Lack of time off from work or school
13%
Lack of money
10%
I traveled as much as I wanted
6%
Family and other commitments
5%

2022 is all about going big.

If expectation meets reality in 2022, we can expect a travel boom. More than half of travelers plan to take at least two international trips and at least two domestic trips, with most travelers planning to travel for 7-10 days for each international trip and 2-6 days for each domestic trip.  

For the majority of travelers this will mean traveling more in 2022 than they did in 2021.

And, after a year when a lot of travelers stuck to domestic travel, many are planning to go big on international trips. 75% are planning more international trips for this year, 63% are planning to take longer international trips than in 2021, and 84% are planning to spend more on international travel this year than they did in 2021.

Plans for 2022 compared to 2021

I’ll take more trips in 2022 than I did 2021
75%
International
56%
Domestic
I’ll take fewer trips 2022 than I did in 2021
5%
International
12%
Domestic
I’ll take the same amount of trips in 2022 as I did in 2021
20%
International
32%
Domestic

Trips planned for 2022

0
9%
International
6%
Domestic
1
33%
International
14%
Domestic
2
35%
International
27%
Domestic
3
14%
International
21%
Domestic
4
5%
International
14%
Domestic
5+
4%
International
18%
Domestic

Length of average trip in 2022 compared to 2021

I’ll take longer trips in 2022 than I did in2021
63%
International
25%
Domestic
I’ll take shorter trips in 2022 than I did in 2021
5%
International
11%
Domestic
I’ll take trips of the same length in 2022 as I did in 2021
32%
International
64%
Domestic

Number of days of average trip planned for 2022

2-3
1%
International
19%
Domestic
4-6
13%
International
48%
Domestic
7-8
25%
International
18%
Domestic
9-10
22%
International
6%
Domestic
11-14
21%
International
4%
Domestic
15+
18%
International
5%
Domestic

Money spent on travel in 2022 compared to 2021

I’ll spend more in 2022 than I did in 2021
84%
International
56%
Domestic
I’ll spend less in 2022 than I did in 2021
4%
International
14%
Domestic
I’ll spend the same amount in 2022 as I did in 2021
12%
International
30%
Domestic

Money allocated for travel for 2022

$1,000 or less
3%
International
18%
Domestic
$1,001 to $2,500
18%
International
31%
Domestic
$2,501 to $5,000
33%
International
29%
Domestic
$5,001 to $7,500
19%
International
11%
Domestic
$7,501 to $10,000
12%
International
6%
Domestic
$10,000+
15%
International
5%
Domestic

Covid isn’t stopping people from traveling.

Compared to 2021, fewer people expect Covid to impact their ability to travel in 2022 (66% in 2021 vs 38% in 2022). Other common barriers for the coming year include lack of funds (25%) and lack of time off (18%).

Expected barriers to travel in 2022 vs. 2021

Covid-19 travel restrictions
35%
2021
23%
2022
Concerns about Covid
31%
2021
15%
2022
Lack of time off from work or school
13%
2021
18%
2022
Lack of money
10%
2021
25%
2022
I had/have no obstacles and traveled/will travel as much as I wanted
6%
2021
8%
2022
Family and other commitments
5%
2021
11%
2022

We saw several comments from people eager to take their kids on trips now that the younger set is eligible for vaccinations, like this respondent: 

“I've been waiting to travel internationally or fly with my family until my daughter, age 8, could be vaccinated. She just received her first shot, so we're planning to travel to Spain in 2022.”


Covid red tape also isn’t deterring visitors, with the vast majority willing to visit a country that requires a test or proof of vaccination. 48% of people even say requiring proof of vaccination makes them more likely to visit a place (45% say it makes no difference) and 64% look at vaccination rates when deciding which countries to visit. 

91%
of people are willing to enter a country that requires a negative test
93%
of people are willing to enter a country that requires proof of vaccination

But Covid has changed the way people plan their trips.

Covid has slightly changed the way people travel, though. The most common changes being increased interest in visiting family and friends or in visiting less-populated spots, and an increase in how far out they are booking trips. Other people also reported that they are paying much more attention to cancellation policies.

How Covid has changed travel plans for 2022

51%
More interested in spots with fewer people (beaches, parks, forests, etc)
40%
More interested in visiting family and friends
30%
Booking trips farther in advance

Members elaborated on other ways that Covid has changed their approach in the comments. 

“I am now willing to spend more to have the option to change or cancel a reservation. I always bought the cheapest option available before.”
“I’m less likely to visit a country now if it doesn’t have reliable medical resources. I also feel less inclined to travel without my husband and baby now, because I wouldn’t want to risk being stranded from them.”

And although 30% of people said as a result of Covid they are booking trips farther in advance, only 30% (perhaps those same folks) have already booked flights for a domestic trip in 2022, and only 42% have booked flights for an international trip. 

Trips already booked for 2022

0
68%
International
70%
Domestic
1
24%
International
19%
Domestic
2
6%
International
7%
Domestic
3+
2%
International
4%
Domestic

For 2022, most people plan to book their international trips 3-6 months out (64%) and their domestic trips 1-4 months out (76%), which means for peak summer months, most travelers will begin booking their international trips after January and their domestic trips after March.

We recommend booking 2-8 months in advance for international trips and 1-3 months in advance for domestic trips, as this tends to be when we see the best deals.

How far in advance people book travel

Under 4 weeks
2%
International
15%
Domestic
1-2 months
12%
International
48%
Domestic
3-4 months
37%
International
28%
Domestic
5-6 months
27%
International
7%
Domestic
7-8 months
11%
International
1%
Domestic
9+ months
11%
International
1%
Domestic

Travel remains extremely important to people.

About one-third (34%) of people say travel is even more important to them now than it was prior to the Covid pandemic. 5% say it’s less and the majority (61%) say its importance hasn’t changed. It’s still critical or highly important to 86% of respondents’ happiness.

How travel affects happiness
41%
Travel is highly important for my happiness.
45%
Travel is critical for my happiness.
13%
Travel is somewhat important for my happiness.
1%
Travel is irrelevant for my happiness.
34% say travel is more important to them post-covid


This sentiment was echoed in comments like this: 

“Planning an international trip for 2022 is a bit tricky considering travel restrictions and safety; however, the pandemic has shown me that I value quality highly over quantity. If it takes an extensive amount of planning, we will do what we can at the best moment to experience international travel again.”

People were also willing to make sacrifices in order to keep traveling, like giving up pizza, Netflix, or social media. Only 2% said they’d rather give up traveling than any of those other things.

Things people would rather give up before giving up travel for one year
63%
Pizza
67%
Social media
54%
Netflix
18%
Dating and relationships

Increased remote work flexibility is contributing to the increase in travel.

91% of respondents with full-time jobs will have the same or more vacation time in 2022 as they did in 2021 (only 9% will have less). Almost three-quarters (73%) get at least 16 days and almost half (47%) get at least 21 days. And we’re happy to hear that 76% of people plan to use all of their vacation time.

Vacation days

Up to 10 days
9%
11-15 days
19%
16-20 days
25%
21-30 days
26%
30+/unlimited
21%

Of those with full-time jobs, 64% of people can work remotely and of those who are able to work remotely, half (52%) plan to do so while they travel in 2022.

How remote work policy affects travel plans

I will take more trips because I can work remotely
41%
I will take more trips and the trips will be longer because I can work remotely
26%
I will take longer trips because I can work remotely
21%
I will travel the same amount as I would if I didn’t work remotely
12%

Economy prices are still among the lowest they have ever been.

In our 2020 report, we declared that we are—and have been for a few years—in a Golden Age of Cheap Flights. For example, in 1948, a roundtrip ticket from NYC to Rome cost $848—the equivalent of about $9,000 today. But Scott’s Cheap Flights regularly finds our members flights (on full-service airlines) from NYC to Rome for under $300 roundtrip. 

The average price of all our deals has fluctuated over the years. This year, for example, the average price of flights to Oceania was higher because there were very few deals on flights to Australia, which remains closed. But in general, we’re still seeing prices in the same range we did in 2018 and 2019, and, perhaps most importantly, we’ve actually seen some “lowest price ever” fares on several routes, including our cheapest fares ever to Portugal, the Maldives, and South Korea.


Average price of deals found by Scott’s Cheap Flights

Asia
2018:
$516
2019:
$543
2020:
$568
2021:
$590
Europe
2018:
$484
2019:
$483
2020:
$550
2021:
$492
Latin America
2018:
$338
2019:
$375
2020:
$398
2021:
$336
Oceania
2018:
$680
2019:
$661
2020:
$720
2021:
$801
North America
2018:
$368
2019:
$383
2020:
$298
2021:
$291
Africa
2018:
$555
2019:
$602
2020:
$602
2021:
$630
Caribbean
2018:
$283
2019:
$312
2020:
$304
2021:
$264
Middle East
2018:
$548
2019:
$602
2020:
$611
2021:
$614
United States
2020:
$177
2021:
$189

New record-low roundtrip fares found in 2021

Miami to Amsterdam
$270
NYC to Porto
$244
Austin, New Orleans & Nashville to Aruba
$220-$239
Salt Lake City to Costa Rica
$243
New York or Newark to Bogotá
$206 nonstop
Atlanta to Cancún
$219 nonstop
NYC to the Maldives
$577
Seattle to Amsterdam
$326

There’s been a boom in last-minute deals.

In “normal” years, last-minute flights tend to be more expensive—it’s the airlines’ way of price-gouging business travelers that they know will pay more to be flexible. But in 2021, with business travel largely on pause and airlines scrambling to fill planes, we saw a lot more last-minute deals than usual. 

In fact, we saw so many of these price drops that we launched a new product to deliver them to members. Every week, Premium and Elite members now get a Weekend Getaways digest full of domestic and short-haul international deals for the coming month. 

Since launching this about halfway through 2021, we’ve already found more than 13,000 last-minute weekend getaway deals.


Cheaper business and first class tickets are also more common.

With fewer suits taking to the skies in business class and first class, airlines have been slashing fares on the big seats up front—in many cases lowering them into the range of what most people pay for economy class. 

We’re talking Chicago to Stockholm nonstop for $604 in premium economy, Boston to Amsterdam for $986 in business class, or Los Angeles to Oaxaca for $486 in business class. 

Even when prices aren’t as low as full-priced economy fares, we’re still seeing an average savings of $2,000 per international trip in business class.

Average price of business, first, and premium economy class deals found by Scott’s Cheap Flights in 2021 compared to typical prices

Asia
Premium Economy:
$2,000
$1,151
Business & First Class:
$4,000
$2,567
Europe
Premium Economy:
$1,500
$1,020
Business & First Class:
$3,500
$1,693
Latin America
Premium Economy:
$800
$483
Business & First Class:
$1,000-$2,500
$970
Oceania
Premium Economy:
$3,000
$1,582
Business & First Class:
$4,500
$3,375
Africa
Premium Economy:
$2,000
$1,134
Business & First Class:
$4,000
$2,256
Middle East
Premium Economy:
$2,000
$1,178
Business & First Class:
$4,000
$2,138
North America
Premium Economy:
N/A
Business & First Class:
$600-$2,000
$385
Caribbean
Premium Economy:
N/A
Business & First Class:
$1,000
$726

Note: Premium economy is not generally offered on most routes within North America and the Caribbean. Crossed out fares represent the typical prices for those routes.

We haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on our lists.

Once again, the West Coast tops travelers' lists of which US regions they want to visit. California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, New York, Florida, Colorado, Alaska, Maine, Utah, Arizona, and Montana are among the states people are most interested in visiting. 

Sorry to North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, which were all among those at the bottom of the list (we still love you!).

US regions travelers want to visit

West/Pacific Northwest
57%
Southeast
41%
Mountains
39%
Southwest
38%
Northeast
36%
Mid-Atlantic
34%
Hawaii
30%
Midwest
21%
Alaska
16%
Great Plains
7%

*Note: Percentages total more than 100 because respondents could select multiple places.

When it comes to countries and regions, Europe and Asia once again top the list of most-coveted destinations, along with the US and Mexico.

Top countries and international regions for 2022
Europe
83%
US
34%
Asia
32%
Mexico
29%
South America
25%
Central America
22%
Canada
20%
Australia & New Zealand
15%
Pacific Islands
13%
Africa
13%
Middle East
7%

*Note: Percentages total more than 100 because respondents could select multiple places.

Within those destinations, people are still gravitating towards the major cities, but also to small towns and beaches. In the US, national parks are also popular spots.

Types of destinations people want to visit

Large Cities
86%
International
76%
Domestic
Beaches
61%
International
54%
Domestic
Small Towns
58%
International
51%
Domestic
National Parks
47%
International
65%
Domestic
Rural Areas
48%
International
36%
Domestic

Price still reigns.

Outside of Covid considerations, price is still the main factor that influences traveler’s decisions on where to go, with 64% of people saying they choose destinations because they found a good deal and 55% choosing based on a recommendation from a friend or family member.

Main factors that influence travelers' decisions

64%
I found a good deal on a flight
55%
A friend or family member recommended the place
33%
The place had a special event or festival I wanted to attend
32%
I read an article about the place in a travel magazine
28%
I saw a photo of the place on Instagram

*Note: Percentages total more than 100 because respondents could select multiple answers.

Seating preferences
43%
Aisle Seat
1%
Middle Seat
56%
Window
Favorite time to fly
55%
Early-morning flight
28%
Mid-day flight
5%
Late-afternoon flight
12%
Evening/overnight flight
Favorite seating class
78%
Economy
19%
Premium economy
3%
Business/first class
Preferred type of stay
49%
Hotel
5%
Resort
40%
Home/apartment rental
2%
Campervan/camping
3%
Hostel
1%
Couchsurfing

Summary

2021 was a rollercoaster on the path to normalcy. We’re not there yet, but for many, the year wasn’t a total loss. 91% of people took at least one trip in 2021 and the majority plan to travel more in 2022. 

There’s so much hope for 2022, with people planning to travel more, spend more, and take longer trips (thanks to remote work for some). People are especially planning to go big on international trips this year. 

Covid is beginning to be less of a barrier to travel, and most people are willing to navigate Covid tests and vaccination proof to travel. However, Covid is still impacting how people travel and it's factoring into where they go. 

Finally, we’re still in the Golden Age of Cheap Flights. At Scott’s Cheap Flights, we’re still finding dozens of amazing deals every single day, and this year we even saw some record low fares. We also have seen a huge increase in the number of last-minute deals, prompting our new Weekend Getaways roundups, and we’re finding a ton of fantastic fares in premium economy, business, and first class for our Elite members.

More resources from Scott's Cheap Flights


About Scott's Cheap Flights

Photo of Scott Keyes

Since 2015, Scott's Cheap Flights has helped members make their travel dreams come true. Our Flight Experts search thousands of flights every day to discover flight deals and Mistake Fares and email them to our 2+ million members, saving them $550 per ticket on average.

Get free flight alerts