What’s the one thing you miss most from pre-pandemic days?
For a lot of folks, the answer is travel. When the pandemic hit, countless vacation plans were scrapped, and the last 12 months have been rough for anyone who loves to explore new parts of the world.
But the COVID-19 vaccines are, of course, a game changer. And now, all that pent-up demand is finally being released — and the bug to travel has hit Seattle harder than most places in the country.
According to new survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 990,000 Seattle-area residents — that’s nearly one-third of the adult population — have plans to take an overnight trip at least 100 miles from home in the next four weeks. A projected 1.8 million do not have upcoming travel plans, and about 300,000 did not report a response to the question. The survey was conducted from May 12 to 24.
The survey was conducted in the 15 largest metro areas in the U.S. (as well as all 50 states), and only one of these metros had a higher percentage of residents with travel plans than Seattle: Phoenix, at 35%. The temperatures are already in the triple digits there, so perhaps that explains the strong desire to leave home for a while.
California’s Riverside-San Bernardino metro had the lowest percentage of adults with upcoming travel plans, at just 18%.
The Seattle metro area includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. More than 3.1 million adults (18 years and older) live in our metro.
The data comes from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, an ongoing project to collect data on how people’s lives have been affected by the pandemic. Unlike traditional census releases, which have a long lag time, the Household Pulse Survey provides near real-time data. It is conducted every two weeks, but some of the questions have changed over time.
When this question about upcoming travel plans was first asked in mid-to-late April, only 22% in Seattle said they had overnight travel plans in the next four weeks. So that’s an impressive 10 percentage-point increase in just about a month.
It’s likely that the fast-growing number of Seattle-area travelers is partly due to the fact that the survey was conducted shortly before Memorial Day, a popular time to travel. But surely it also reflects an increased sense of safety around travel now that so many are vaccinated and the rates of infection are declining in most areas.
Because the Household Pulse Survey was created in response to the coronavirus outbreak, there is no comparable data from before the pandemic. So we can’t know how the current figure of 32% with upcoming travel plans in Seattle would compare with this time in a “normal” year.
Even so, I would expect that Seattle would always rank higher than most places when it comes to travel simply because this is a higher-income area. Travel, of course, isn’t cheap. Indeed, the survey data shows that a much higher percentage of those with upcoming travel plans — about half — have a household income of at least $150,000.
Interestingly, Seattle adults who are single or who do not have children in the household are more likely to have travel plans than those who are married with kids. Nationally, married people are more likely to have travel plans, and there is no significant difference between folks who have kids and those who don’t.
The data, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us any specifics about people’s travel plans, other than they include an overnight stay and are at least 100 miles away from home. For Seattle-area residents, that could mean travel plans as modest as a weekend trip to Portland. There is some data showing that Americans currently prefer to travel within the U.S., but are not necessarily planning to stay close to home — national parks look to be a popular destination, as do Hawaii and Alaska.
About 73,000 U.S. adults responded to this survey, including more than 1,900 in the Seattle metro area.