People are booking Christmas vacations earlier than ever before

What a difference a year can make.

Last September, the travel industry agonized over a dearth of Christmas bookings. This September, some hotels are already fully booked for the holiday season.  

People are reserving their Christmas vacations earlier this year, despite an unsettling rise in Covid-19 infections caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The reason, said Tim White, founder of travel website, has everything to do with vaccines.

“As soon as … people got vaccinated — boom! — they were booking their year-end activities,” he said. White said the spring brought a “huge spike” in holiday bookings at major hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott.

Fear of missing out is very real at this moment.

James Cole

partner, Ohana Real Estate Investors

But it’s not just that booking rates are exceeding last year’s lackluster numbers. Many companies are reporting far more reservations for holiday trips now than they did before the pandemic.

“People are stubborn … and I mean that in an admiring way,” said Carolyn Corda, the chief marketing officer for the travel marketing company Adara. She told CNBC that a rise in Covid infections over the summer didn’t cause a huge dip in travel bookings which could indicate leisure travelers are no longer inclined to cancel trips over Covid.

Bookings ‘earlier than ever before’

Mohonk Mountain House, a resort in New York’s Hudson Valley, launched its holiday campaign on July 6 — the earliest the hotel has ever done in its 152 years of operation.

December reservations made by leisure guests are up 60% at Mohonk compared with the past three years, according to the hotel.

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York released its Christmas schedule of holiday music, craft-making and ice skating in July.

Courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

“Travelers are booking for the holidays earlier than ever before,” said Alisha Kapur, senior travel manager for web analytics company Similarweb.

Internet search queries for December travel were five times higher this August than last, she said, adding that U.S. travelers are mostly traveling domestically this Christmas.

And the top destination is…

Travelers are forgoing a white Christmas for hikes, sand and sun this year.

“National parks … continue to win American travelers’ hearts,” Kapur said, however, “Hawaii is the most in-demand destination.”

Vacation home site Vrbo told CNBC that in Maui and Kauai, both in Hawaii, less than 20% of its rental homes are available for the week of Christmas.

California, the Caribbean and other warm weather locations are popular for Christmas travel this year, however Hawaii is the most in-demand destination for American travelers, according to Similarweb.

M.M. Sweet | Moment | Getty Images

Interest in Hawaii slowed after Governor David Ige asked tourists to stay away from the islands last month, according to data from the travel booking website VacationRenter. However, holiday bookings there “skyrocketed” last weekend, said Zander Buteux, the…

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