Holiday Travel Likely to Bring More Debt

Chris Lange

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and according to a recent report, about 60 million U.S. adults are planning travel or a hotel stay during this time. Unfortunately, 39% of holiday air travelers will incur credit card debt as a result, along with 36% of those paying for lodging.

The average December holiday air traveler will spend $1,033, and for Thanksgiving it is $822. Among those planning to stay in hotels or short-term rentals, the average expected expense is $673 for the December holidays and $536 for Thanksgiving.

Out of these 60 million bodies, millennials are much more likely than older adults to be traveling for the holidays. Approximately, 35% of millennials will fly or stay in a hotel over the December holidays, versus 12% of those age 39 or more. For Thanksgiving, it’s 29% of millennials and 9% of older adults.

The most popular payment method for this travel is a credit card paid in full before interest accrues (50% of air travelers and 48% of hotel/short-term rental guests). Next is a debit card or cash (46% of hotel visitors and 44% of fliers).

A significant number of Americans will use rewards points to offset at least some of the costs of their upcoming journeys (42% for flights and 33% for lodging). Unfortunately, a similar number plan on incurring credit card debt (39% who will be traveling by air and 36% who will be overnighting in a hotel or short-term rental).

Millennials are significantly more likely than their elders to pay with a debit card or cash (59% for hotels and 48% for flights, compared with 33% and 35% of older adults, respectively). Millennials are also the biggest rewards points users, particularly for air travel (47% will redeem miles/points, versus 31% of those who are older). Baby boomers (ages 54 to 72) are considerably more likely than other generations to pay in full with a credit card.