Travel Shaming Is Declining But People Are Still Afraid To Share Trips On Instagram

Some people are traveling again, and travel shaming has dropped substantially compared to late March and April, but many who do travel are still afraid to post to Instagram for fear of the social media backlash.

  • There’s an irrational belief that all travel is bad, even if holders of that belief cannot explain why all travel increases spread of Covid-19. (I’ll explain why it doesn’t in a moment.)

  • There’s a deep recession, and many people are hurting. So proponents of solidarity suggest everyone should suffer, or at least be shamed for not suffering. (I happen to think if you can find a bit of happiness in the midst of 2020, that’s a good thing.)

It’s this notion of solidarity that may even keep people from planning – or admitting they’re planning – future travel because to do so is to admit that they can which is deemed impolite when not everyone else can.

Risk Of Travel Is Limited

Back in March I wrote that most people were overestimating the risks associated with travel and virtue signalers descended. The reason to shut down travel was to avoid bringing the virus from someplace where it’s spreading to someplace where it isn’t.

What Makes Sense For New Zealand Doesn’t Make Sense For Florida

Viruses don’t stay away forever, unless the rest of the world hits herd immunity or there’s an effective vaccine. As soon as you let your guard down, or make a mistake, it gets in. It’s better to push off the virus to the future, though, because of the possibility of better treatments and a vaccine. Already patient outcomes have improved markedly since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Zealand is trying to rid itself of the virus completely, and given that strategy – if they can make it work for, say, six more months – it makes sense to ban travel. But where the virus is already spreading? Surely anyone would have to admit that the U.S.’s continued ban on travelers from Europe and China is nuts because there’s a lot more virus here than there is in either of those places.

What Matters Is Where You’re Traveling From And Going To

New York City hasn’t been distancing and wearing masks better than Maryland. That simply doesn’t explain why New York’s virus spread has slowed so much. Connecticut hasn’t been more virtuous than Michigan or Washington state. Instead the spread in New York has slowed as much as it has because of a combination of precautions (distancing, masks) and that there are simply a smaller percentage of people left to infect there than in many places.

There’s not a lot of virus in New York now. If a New Yorker travels to Florida they aren’t bringing the virus to Florida as though it isn’t already spreading rapidly in Florida (though it’s slowing, because Miami has now had nearly as much virus per capita as New York City). There simply no projectable harm, even if the traveler was asymptomatic or presymptomatic with Covid-19. And they have to quarantine upon their return.

There Are Still Reasons Not To Travel

There are plenty of people taking road trips instead of flying, but this may be silly. In normal times flying is far safer than driving, and the Covid pandemic doesn’t flip that calculation. When you’re driving you may get tired. You have to deal with other drivers. Car accidents can happen for a number of reasons.

But how can you go about buying a ticket to Hawaii, when they keep changing their re-opening plans? And how can you buy a ticket to New York – you may be coming from a state that isn’t on their quarantine list, but by the time travel arrives it might be. A country currently open to Americans may shut its borders, or change its entry requirements. In other words, regime uncertainty.

Or you may be exposed to someone who tests positive for Covid-19 and have to quarantine for up to two weeks, and be unable to return home when planned. You could have the unexpected expense and inconvenience of extending your stay for two weeks.

Many hotels just aren’t fun right now, with no housekeeping, amenities closed, yet still charging resort fees. And that special first class trip? Don’t expect what you used to get on board, either.

And if you do travel there simply may not be as much to do, with restaurants and bars closed in many places, and many entertainment venues shut down.

But If You Travel, By All Means Share It

There are several good reasons, I think, that if you’re traveling you should report on your trips.

  • It’s good to help educate people what travel is like right now. I’m almost always going to come down on the side of sharing more information with people, to help them form their own expectations and make fully-informed (rather than misinformed) decisions.

  • It’s good to inspire people for the future. One of the ways to cope with the current times is to have a vision and inspiration for something better down the line. They may be sacrificing now, for health or economic reasons, but this is something to look forward to and that keeps us going as human beings.

  • It stores the memories and extends the trip for better or worse things are more ‘real’ for many people when they’re online, and it’s certainly reasonable that as social creatures things are more real when we can share them with people we care about. Posting to social media lets us look back on the trip, and it continues to be ‘real’ through the time that it’s posted and when we scroll through our own feeds. If nothing else that can serve as a bridge to 2021.

Another word for ‘solidarity’ during difficult times is resentment. And that’s not the emotion we should be giving into, in travel or our politics.

Nick Gillespie takes this social shaming as “a sign of late indicator that faith in the system is dead or dying” and asks what’s “wrong with people that they can’t enjoy their lives?”

I much prefer a version of ‘being all in this together’ where we help lift each other up, not have to apologize for our joys and keep celebration under wraps. There’s not enough joy in 2020 as it is.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Reasons not to travel:

    You’re currently sick with anything contagious. (yeah… you should stay home)

    You’re perfectly healthy but your chosen means of transportation provides a substantially higher chance of infection than your typical daily activities.

    You’re perfectly healthy but the place you are travelling to has a much higher rate of currently infected and your presence there will subject you to a much higher rate of exposure than you are typically used to.

    You’re scared of airplanes. (sometimes they crash!!!!!)

    You’re broke and can’t afford to travel. (and somehow missed the whole thing about miles and points).

  2. Social and mainstream media should be very proud i making a large fraction of population scared almost to the point that if you bump into someone in a supermarket you are going to die a terrible death. Before Covid-19 I was logging 200,000+ actual air miles per year including India, Malaysia including Borneo, Indonesia (outside Bali) etc. Many of these places are not clean and microbes and viruses are different from North America here I reside. The simplest rules like washing hands often, avoiding street food and only using hotel and reputable restaurants, drinking bottled beverages only, kept me safe while traveling including over bird flu and MEMS outbreaks. And yes, I keep some domestic travel now. I am actually more concern regarding touching my face with unwashed hands when putting/adjusting the face mask than with anything else.

  3. I am currently in southern portugal , heaven, in particular since the brits are not here
    Spent a week in slovenia, will spend total 3 weeks in portugal and will finish with a week in Stockholm
    With the exception of 2 days of work in slovemia the rest (5 weeks) is pure leisure with my 7 years old
    Whoever does not approve of this can kiss my ass
    You can choose to spend your life hiding or you can live life while taking care of yourself

  4. Although I don’t feel comfortable traveling by air yet, I don’t see any problem with road trips as long as they are being done responsibly. With that being said, I have seen people shaming other travelers by accusing them of “holidaying” while the world is going through a pandemic. I want to support the suffering tourism industry but I don’t want to be accused of being unsympathetic either.

  5. In the Turks & Caicos islands today and trust me don’t feel one ounce of guilt. Sun is shining beaches are gorgeous and uncrowded. Flight down was about 20% full so had tons of personal space. “Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.” ― Natalie Babbitt

  6. Why you shouldn’t share? It’s not about shaming, because your kids have to go to school with other kids and you don’t need other parents freaking out. The more expensive your school is, the worse the parents are.

  7. @Doug My compliments. Good on you. Very well played indeed. Please keep letting the terrified and isolated know how the rest of the world is going on with life while they all cower at home.

  8. I do believe in the shaming of people selfish and careless enough to leisure travel right now. The reality is that the virus originated in one region (the region is irrelevant) but spread throughout the world via travel. The selfish and careless people who insist on spreading it via leisure travel will ensure it never goes away.

    Catching something on the plane itself is definitely high risk (sitting right next to a potentially sick person for many hours is just common sense that exposure is significant regardless of any statistic). But even outside of the plane, there are cab rides, rental cars, buses/shuttles, monorails, the airport itself and of course, the actual destination.

    If people would just realize this is a wasted year and stop trying to get back to normal, they actually could get back to normal a lot quicker. But at this rate the ‘me me me’ mentality will keep us in this bad situation for a while.

  9. What really should be shamed is flying for work right now.
    You dont need to go to a sales meeting or to present a powerpoint to a client, especially overseas, to make money for your corporate overlord.

  10. @Doug and Mak. You may have good reasons to travel. That’s fine. Others have good reasons for staying home; like maybe we give a shit about our health and the health of others with whom we interact. Once you get Covid -19 you can’t just wish it away.

    It easy to encourage people to travel, open schools, play sports, open restaurants and bars, and undertake other activities that increase the risk of contracting Covid-19 when you accept no responsibility (like POTUS) for resulting illnesses and deaths.

  11. So since travel concerns are so seriously overblown, I presume that you’re flying for pleasure?

  12. I think it’s less about shaming, Gary, and more about shame. In New York, if you’re well-off, you’ve probably skipped town already, leaving millions of unemployed people and essential and low-paid workers behind. In fact, you probably skipped town at least once during the “Do Not Leave Your House” part of pandemic, in the first few weeks of March and into April.

    So while there’s nothing inherently wrong with traveling, in a country with tens of millions of unemployed people – most of whom have just had their subsistence cut even further – Instragramming your vacation seems a little, well, gross. And if you choose to “share” your privilege, you have to expect to be called out.

  13. PS – since when do libertarians believe “we’re all in this together”? I would think that’d be anathema to the dogma.

  14. @Alex_77W

    You hit the nail on the head. People make it seem like the flu never existed and seniors were never more susceptible to complications from it. People are bullied into believing the propaganda. A lot of politicians in the West recognized lockdowns and shutdowns were not necessary, but they were bullied into silence and fear of upsetting the vocal minority who control the mainstream media, political establishment, educational institutions, and regulatory bodies. It’s the thing with BLM propaganda bullying white people into supporting a movement so not to be scolded and hounded on social media. Silence, neutrality, and non partisanship are no longer allowed. You will now be required to publicly support the liberal narrative or lose your job and have your property and lives threatened.

  15. Doug forgot to mention he’s Canadian and can get into countries U. S. citizens cannot.
    What Doug doesn’t understand, as well as many Americans, we have a complete fool as a president who will not take responsibility and still does not have a plan.

  16. @Rog
    I am actually triple citizen canada usa and israel
    Born in new york
    Moved to canada 10 years ago
    I do understand trump is a fool, although not sure what it has to do with people’s decision to calculate risk and decide what they tolerate
    I could stay in canada with slim chances to get covid at supermarket or I can have the same slim chance while eating monkfish rice in the beautiful town of Alvor like I just finished
    Now if you excuse me, I have to choose desert…

  17. @ChadMC – you are certainly entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. I haven’t flown since early March (currently have a flight in October but likely will cancel) but have been on numerous trips including 4 trips to casinos, week in Florida on a beach (rented house with a pool) and 4-5 beach trips for my wife and kids with friends or family.

    I have ZERO shame or regret living my life. Frankly, I don’t even know anyone that has tested positive for COVID, wear a mask, distance from people and am almost obsessive about hand washing. IMHO my chances of catching the virus via travel are not materially different than at a local store or restaurant (oh yeah I go out to eat regularly – only at places which have good procedures – and hit the stores frequently).

    If I am going to catch the virus and then infect others it is just as likely to happen in my local interactions as during travel. The only option is to stay at home and frankly I’m not going to do it! I plan to LIVE MY LIFE (responsibly) and that includes travel.

    PLEASE keep your opinions to yourself. You won’t change my mind or many others. You may feel I’m not responsible and selfish but I feel you are paranoid, afraid of your shadow and not properly balancing the many factors related to COVID.

  18. “Spend your life hiding”, “cower at home”, “you are paranoid, afraid of your shadow”. Do those who write comments like this feel smug and extra brave after you write them? Would you also like to brag about stealing candy from small children and mocking the disabled? After all, they are weaker than you, right? Do what you like with your personal travel plans and share them freely if you wish. I like my friends Facebook posts if I see they’re traveling responsibly. If they don’t appear to be, I just keep scrolling. But trying to make other people who have lower travel comfort levels – for any number of reasons – feel less than just to make yourself feel superior is the epitome of weakness, in my view.

  19. @karen
    First, congrats on the name, suits your personality
    Sexond, I don’t
    Have facebook or instagram, I do not post anything and I do not feel superior to anyone
    I simply don’t like people telling me that I should not travel because THEY are afraid
    It is very very simple, try to think about it or read above lines again

  20. @doug
    Wow, unoriginal name calling. I think you just reiterated my point about people who like to make other people feel less than.

  21. Travel responsibly if you wish. I have.

    However, at a time when millions are truly sickened, really out of work, and businesses are shuttering, it seems a little (or a whole lot) tone deaf to post what might look to many like lavish lifestyles.

    For example, an acquaintance recently posted glitzy pictures of her tween son and husband with their brand-new matching motorcycles. The caption, “boys and their toys,” might well have said, “let them eat cake.”

  22. Interesting that you left off the economic aspect angle. Traveling supports the travel industry, and they could use any help they can get right now. Also a lot more people have developed immunity at this point. And by all means I want those people traveling if they can. I know I would, even with recent studies suggesting you lose immunity after 3 months.

  23. Your comments about New York and Connecticut are false. Things are handled seriously in New York. We don’t have indoor dining. Maryland had indoor dining and that is one of the reasons they had their numbers go back up last month. New York also has much more substantial testing than many places.The idea that somehow there are fewer people to infect in a city of 8 million people is a frickin joke.Can’t even believe you put forth the idea that someone should travel from a low covid area to a high covid area and then return to the low covid area. How reckless can someone be? We passed 170k dead in the US today. I understand you are a travel blogger but we see how this is impacting the world especially because of people moving around. People should just stay home for a couple of weeks to stop spreading this virus all around. The reason its not going away is because people insist on not taking this seriously.

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