As the summer season gradually comes to a close, a surge in travel plans is sweeping across America. According to AAA booking data encompassing flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises, Labor Day weekend travel is showing a notable uptick compared to the previous year. Notably, domestic bookings have risen by 4%, while international bookings have soared by an impressive 44%.
“Most travelers are gearing up to depart on Thursday or Friday, making the most of the extended holiday weekend,” remarked Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. She emphasized that the Pacific Northwest, vibrant urban hubs such as New York and Denver, and iconic destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas are topping the charts for domestic travel. On the international front, Europe and Canada are the hot favorites.
Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris have emerged as the top international destinations for Labor Day weekend, based on AAA booking data. International hotel reservations for this holiday have experienced an astonishing 82% surge compared to the figures from 2022. International cruise bookings also paint an encouraging picture, witnessing a 44% leap from the previous year. Europe, with its inviting climate and scenic landscapes, has been a preferred playground for globetrotters throughout the year, echoing the pent-up wanderlust after a period of travel restrictions.
Shifting our focus to domestic travel, the top 5 destinations gaining traction are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, New York, and Las Vegas. Seattle’s allure has been bolstered by heightened interest in Alaska cruises. Florida’s charm, extended beyond its sun-soaked beaches and theme parks, extends to its central cruise ports in places like Central Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Miami. A noteworthy finding from AAA data is that domestic cruise bookings over Labor Day weekend have seen a 19% surge compared to last year.
For those embarking on road trips this Labor Day weekend, gas prices appear poised to remain comparable to those of the previous year. Last year’s Labor Day average for a gallon of regular gas stood at $3.78. While July witnessed a surge in gas prices due to supply constraints and elevated oil costs, early August brought a slight relief. Nonetheless, as hurricane season looms, concerns about potential gas price hikes leading into Labor Day weekend continue to linger.
Navigating the roads during the holiday weekend might prove challenging, according to transportation data and insights provider INRIX. It anticipates that the busiest time on the roads will be between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 31, with elevated traffic volumes expected between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday, September 1. INRIX’s Bob Pishue advises that the optimal times for car travel during this period are early mornings and evenings. For those braving heavy traffic, navigation apps and local transportation departments are invaluable resources for evading prolonged delays.
A recent survey conducted among AAA travel advisors has unveiled intriguing trends and topics that have captured travelers’ attention this summer:
- 59% of AAA travel advisors have observed a heightened interest in travel insurance over the last two months.
- The predominant concern expressed by 83% of AAA travel advisors pertains to the fear of being stranded due to delayed or canceled flights.
- Among travelers who have opted for extended vacations (lasting at least 14 nights), 64% indicated that the primary motivation behind this choice was to have more time for thorough exploration.
- Rising enthusiasm among travelers has been noted for ocean and river cruises, along with all-inclusive and guided tour vacations.
Twidale shared insights on this shift in travelers’ perspectives: “In the post-pandemic era, travelers are increasingly recognizing the significance of safeguarding their travel investments in the face of potential disruptions, whether it’s due to illness or flight cancellations. Additionally, there’s a growing demand for longer stays, especially now that remote work options have opened up the possibility of working from destination locations.”
Survey Methodology: AAA conducted surveys among a random sample of AAA travel advisors between July 12 and July 26, 2023. The study garnered responses from 165 AAA travel advisors.