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Americans Embrace Off-Season Travel, Planning Multiple Trips Before Year’s End

Fall and winter travel surge as lighter crowds and lower costs entice households, with 83% planning at least one more trip in 2023.
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It might be the “off-season” but Americans are traveling anyway. The lighter crowds and lower costs of fall and winter travel are beckoning to travelers this year and most households are giving into the desire. In a survey, Forbes Advisor has uncovered how Americans will be traveling on—and budgeting for—trips between now and the end of the year.

According to the results, 83% of consumers plan to take at least one more trip in 2023.

The vast majority of U.S. households will be traveling in the next few months: 15% of survey respondents indicate they will take one trip between October and December 2023, while another 38% plan to take two trips in the same time frame and nearly 30% say they will take three or more trips before the end of the year.

The lighter crowds and lower costs of fall and winter travel are beckoning to travelers this year and most households are giving into the desire.  PHOTO BY VEERASAK PIYAWATANAKUL/PEXELS 

The overall trend of fall travel extends to all demographic groups. Unsurprisingly, high-income households will travel more than lower-income respondents, with 94% of respondents with a total household income between $150,001 to $200,000 planning on traveling at least twice this fall compared to just 24% of households earning under $50,000 per year.

Other groups who have the travel itch include younger respondents. Gen Z plans to travel the most, with 83% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 26 planning to travel two or more times throughout the rest of 2023. Millennials aren’t far behind at 81%, compared to 53% of Gen X, 35% of Baby Boomers and 35% of the Silent Generation.

Families with children (defined as a household with at least one adult and one child) are also traveling heavily this fall. At least 75% of families will travel two or more times between October and December—more than double that of couples without kids (37%) or single adults (32%).

This fall, travelers will be taking to the skies. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents (74%) will be flying for at least one trip this fall, edging out the number of travelers who will travel primarily by driving (72%).

Of those that are flying, multiple trips are involved. About 57% of respondents will fly both domestically and internationally by the end of the year. Another 23% will only fly domestically on one or more trips and 19% will fly only internationally.

The lighter crowds and lower costs of fall and winter travel are beckoning to travelers this year and most households are giving into the desire.  PHOTO BY VEERASAK PIYAWATANAKUL/PEXELS 

Even those who are driving are planning to cover longer distances: half of respondents anticipate driving between six and 10 hours to reach their destination. Another 12% will drive more than 10 hours.

These aren’t quick getaways, either. The most common trip duration will last between four and six days, with 65% of respondents planning trips of that length. Almost 46% will take trips between seven and 10 days and 37% are planning shorter trips of only one to three days. Longer trips of more than 11 days were the least popular, representing only 17% of respondent selections. Note that respondents taking multiple trips may have selected more than one option.

Though October hasn’t traditionally been a particularly busy holiday travel period, it’s gaining popularity. Nearly half of all respondents (49%) reported they planned to travel then for a wide variety of reasons. Halloween destinations—think Salem, Massachusetts—represented the third most popular trip type this year, with 45% of respondents traveling to one of these spooky places. Leaf-peeping trails behind, with only 38% of respondents traveling with that goal in mind.

Travel around the holidays is always busy and this year is no exception. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents reported they planned to travel in November. Likely a fair amount of this is centered around Thanksgiving, since 63% of respondents noted they planned to travel to celebrate holidays with family and friends.

Additionally, 44% of respondents will travel in December. Winter travel often covers far more reasons or intentions, since many people travel to take advantage of school breaks and relaxed office policies in addition to celebrating holidays. For 2023, snow is beating out sunshine: 48% of respondents will travel for winter wonderland, skiing or other winter sports while only 15% are choosing warm-weather destinations.

Other popular travel styles for the remainder of 2023 were city or urban getaways (45%) and attending sporting events (39%).

A full 55% of respondents plan a trip with less than three-months notice and 12% plan in under a month. While last-minute travel might be easy enough to organize if you’re heading to Grandma’s house for the holidays, starting your planning earlier could be advantageous for other types of travel.

End-of-year travel can be complicated and expensive, especially if you hope to travel on or around peak holiday dates. Hotels can and do sell out, leaving no bargains to be found. Additionally, award flights can get snatched up by those with forethought and diligent checking. Ideally, you’ll start planning, searching and booking when there are fewer travelers competing for the same deals—less than 6% of survey respondents plan more than six months ahead.

Over 70% of survey respondents are using points and miles to cover at least part of their travel expenses, proving there’s legitimate value to be found from loyalty programs.

Seasonal events at home will still keep half of households busy this fall. Americans still expect to participate in events and activities, with watching football or tailgating being the most popular form of fall fun according to the survey. About 19% of non-traveling respondents expect to weave football into their agenda. Local, seasonal festivals were another popular activity, as were trick-or-treating and pumpkin picking. However, half of respondents aren’t planning any autumn-specific activities.

Of those who aren’t traveling, finances were the most commonly cited reason to stay home: approximately two-thirds of respondents said they either couldn’t afford it or didn’t think it was worth the cost.

If your finances are tight, foregoing travel can obviously be a smart move—but if you’d love to travel at a lower cost, you may have options. It’s worth the effort to learn how a travel rewards card works to see if that’s an option you’d like to pursue. In addition to meaningful welcome offers for new card members, there can often be ongoing discounts and benefits that change the value equation of your trip. For example, hotel credit cards may offer free night certificates and discounts on award redemptions.You can also join the 53% of survey respondents who intend to visit budget-friendly destinations to stretch their dollars farther. By heading to affordable cities for family vacations, you can have your fun without blowing your budget.


Produced in association with SWNS Research

(Additional reporting provided by Talker Research)

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