If there is one thing we learned during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that Americans don’t like feeling trapped (i.e., protests against masks, flocking to bars as soon as they open and so on). America is still facing rising cases throughout the country and the uncertainty of when any sort of entertainment will return to “normal” is consequently deepening. Unsurprisingly, many Americans are antsy to get out of wherever they may be and plan to as soon as they can. This phenomenon is being dubbed “revenge travel.”
Where did “revenge travel” come from and what does it mean in America?
Revenge travel evolved from “revenge spending” which originated in China in the 1980s after consumer interest in luxury spending skyrocketed after the Cultural Revolution. The same thing is occurring in China right now as the country recovers form the pandemic: A Hermes flagship store in Guangzhou took in $2.7 million the first day it opened after the coronavirus shutdown.
Likewise, people in America are eager to get back to spending, but largely on travel, hence the term revenge travel. A 2020 Harris Poll survey concluded that the longer Americans are impacted by COVID-19, the more restless they are to return to leisure activities such as travel. The top three reasons for wanting to travel are 1. Confidence that the public health risk has been significantly reduced; 2. The desire to reconnect with friends and family; and 3. A need of an environmental change. Furthermore, 74 percent of respondents to a 2020 Fuel poll said they plan to travel in 2020 or 2021. While long-distance travel has not quite picked up, people have found a way to help ease their coronavirus blues: camping and other outdoor activities.
How Americans are coping as travel restrictions remain
Camping and similar nature-centered getaways are providing relief for Americans in place of what may have been large, flashier summer vacations. National and state parks saw so many visitors as the stay-at-home orders came into play that they had to be shut down. RV and rental car reservations increased to 650 percent more than normal demand in May. The travel start up Getaway, which rents out cozy cabins in the woods, founder Jon Staff told Vox bookings increased 400 percent when Trump announced the Europe travel ban in March. There are of course still commercial flights open within the United States as states begin to lift restrictions, but for now, these wildlife getaways seem to be a tranquil distraction from the reality of pandemic life.
People weigh in
I talked to a few folks who have traveled or had travel plans affected during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what they had to say about their plans and their feeling of safety:
Q: Did you travel during the pandemic?
Michael B., New Jersey (MB): I was in New Orleans when the pandemic began and the first case was confirmed in New Jersey. I was there for a conference that I was presenting for a research project I was on. I didn’t feel any way because it was just [the] beginning and didn’t think it would be too serious. The following week I was in DC for a trip with my girlfriend and her former roommate. Again, [I] did not think about it too much, but definitely was more cautious on what to touch and who to be around. Then in mid August I went on a camping trip in Milford, New Jersey to relax with my girlfriend. We did not go out and were cautious about going places with a lot of people.
Kim S., Wisconsin (KS): I did plan to travel! No where crazy, but since moving to Wisconsin before graduations were deemed an okay gathering, I had always planned to come home for my graduation to walk across the stage and get that feeling of closure. The week before my graduation, WI got put on that list of 22 states not to travel to or from, so I missed out on my college graduation and stayed in WI.
Q: How did you feel while traveling or at the thought of potentially traveling during the pandemic?
KJ: For the most part I feel safe when traveling. Of course flying is my biggest concern because of social distancing on the plane itself and then travel quarantines once you land. Although, taking a COVID test and getting a negative result normally bypasses those restrictions. If you follow the guidelines—wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands—you should be fine. Everyone else traveling is most likely also doing their most to stay safe too.
MB: New Orleans was just a normal trip. [In DC I was] a little cautious. [In] Milford [I] stayed away from crowds and stayed in nature.
KS: I honestly wasn’t to phased by the thought of traveling because I traveled from NJ to WI during NJ’s COVID peak back in April, and it was fine. I used sanitizing wipes and wore a mask in the airport, which are both regular things that people do now, so I honestly felt like I’d be okay. The only reason I didn’t travel was because cases in my area spiked and I didn’t want to put others at risk, even though I knew I didn’t have COVID.
Q: Do you plan on traveling in the future during the pandemic? For what?
KJ: I am going to California to spend time with family in September. I have the time off from work, and although each time I travel I take a risk, I feel confident that if I follow the guidelines I will stay safe.
MB: Not really. If I’m going to travel, I will be going somewhere where there are no people close so I can stay safe.
KS: I do! Even though COVID is still running rampant, I’ve decided to come home to see my family at the end of this month. I’m homesick and although some would frown upon any travel at this point in time, I have a plan in place to sanitize and keep myself and others protected as best as I can while traveling.
Q: Do you plan on revenge traveling?
KJ: I would say that I think about traveling or planning a trip somewhere regularly.
MB: I want to get out of the house, but wouldn’t say I’m antsy to get on vacation.
KS: I would say yes I have revenge travel on my mind as I’ve been feeling very trapped these past few months and am anxious to feel free again.
If you do decide to travel or are thinking about it, here are the CDC guidelines to browse. Stay safe, everyone!