What American Travel Looked Like Before COVID-19

Despite historic setbacks similar to today’s, Americans have become more dedicated travelers

vintage suitcases
In 2018, more than 40 million Americans traveled overseas. Alexander Spatari via Getty Images

Americans as well as others around the globe are facing peacetime travel restrictions unprecedented in the modern era because of the coronavirus pandemic. We’re left to contemplate the many impacts of this unusual self-isolation, and not just in personal terms of canceled vacations or postponed weddings or even, more broadly, the terrible economic hardships borne by people working in hospitality industries. From Lewis and Clark to the beatniks, Americans have long dared to get up and go—for the thrill of it, of course, but also because it helps enlarge our perspective. As Mark Twain once wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

If U.S. airlines cut flights by 35 percent due to COVID-19, their monthly exhaust emissions would be reduced by 7.31 million tons
graph showing the number of vacation days received and used per country: Japan 20:10, France 30:30, Germany 30:30, US 14:10, Mexico 15:14, Spain 30:30
Workers in the U.S. take comparatively little vacation, even when it’s paid for. In 2018, they left 768 million paid vacation days unused. Smithsonian magazine
Have you had a raise or bonus in the last three years? 65 percent yes to 47 no among those who took 11 days vacation or more, 53 no, 35 yes among those who took 10 days or fewer
A 2016 survey by the U.S. Travel Association finds that vacation days correlate with compensation. Smithsonian magazine


Click on the circles below to see how American air travel has changed over the years.

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