Editor's Notes: This story was last updated on May 30, 2023.
Summer is right around the corner, and travelers are itching to hit the road.
With 70% of U.S. travelers intending to travel over the next year (and willing to spend an average of $4,339 per trip, according to MMGY’s latest Portrait of the American Traveler), now is the time to finalize summer travel plans.
And new research from VisitorsCoverage suggests that 88% of travelers are more inclined to travel this summer than they were in 2022.
We’ve rounded up five of the latest travel trends to expect for the coming season.
Trend 1: International Cities in Asia and Europe Are in High Demand
Flight searches are up 25% this summer, according to new data from Expedia's Summer Travel Forecast, which also showed that interest in international cities in Europe and Asia is up by triple digits (top Asian cities, according to Expedia, include Hong Kong; Osaka, Japan; Da Nang and Hanoi, Vietnam).
Although U.S. Google users preferred Orlando, Fla.; Cancun; and Las Vegas for vacations in 2022, London has stolen the show for 2023 as the most-searched destination on Google Flights (and it's listed as the No. 2 international destination by Expedia).
Other European countries have also secured a spot in the Google ranks: Paris is No. 3, Rome is No. 5, Athens is No. 14, Barcelona is No. 16 and Dublin is No. 18.
The interest in Europe aligns with new research from VisitorsCoverage, Inc., which shows that 61% of travelers have planned a European vacation for the summer, with top destinations including the U.K., France and Italy, in addition to Sweden, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. It also matches the latest report from Allianz Partners, which shows a 55% spike in booked trips to Europe over 2022 (which saw a 600% increase in flights booked over 2021).
Other international locations that are attracting clients, according to VisitorsCoverage, are Canada (11% of travelers are planning a trip up north), Indonesia (related to the 2023 FIFA World Cup sporting event) and Argentina, which is home to hot spots Patagonia and Buenos Aires.
And when it comes to destinations attracting travelers who are 18-35 years old, new research from Contiki shows that Japan, Thailand, Iceland and Greece are top of mind, according to the tour operator's Top 10 best-selling list for August and September.
"Our booking trends show that the vast majority of 18-35 year old travelers are all about slowing things down and adventuring further," said Melissa DaSilva, President of Contiki, North America. "From Japan to Thailand, Asia is rising on the charts, and while there’s still a place for the iconic Eurotrip of packing in as many cities as possible into one trip, American travelers are escaping the hustle and bustle and prioritizing single-country tours that offer a more in-depth experience into a singular place."
Trend 2: Warm-Weather Destinations and Domestic Hot Spots Will Continue to Lure Travelers
Other sunny tourist spots — Cancun, Orlando, Miami, Los Angeles, Honolulu and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — are also in the top 20 most-searched destinations from Google, which shows an overlap with Expedia's data (which has Cancun as the top international destination, and New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Orlando and Las Vegas as the top five domestic vacations).
Allianz's latest survey, which reveals Top 2023 Summer Travel Destinations, includes many sunny domestic spots: Orlando, Fla. (No. 1 in domestic destinations); Honolulu, Hawaii (No. 3); Kahului, Hawaii (No. 5); Los Angeles (No. 7); Las Vegas (No. 8); and Miami (No. 9). Sun-soaked spots also dominated its top destinations for international travel. The list closely mirrors the company's Spring Break Review.
And when analyzing flights booked through airlines that partner with Allianz, the travel insurance provider reveals that its top 10 international destinations for summer 2023 are, respectively: Cancun, Mexico; San Jose del Cabo, Mexico; Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; Oranjestad, Aruba; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Nassau in the Bahamas; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; London; Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos; and Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In terms of trip length, recent data from TransUnion suggests that travelers are planning trips of at least seven days (45%), while one-third of travelers plan to be away for more than eight days.
Trend 3: Solo Travel Is on the Rise
Google searches for “solo travel for women” and “solo cruises” have more than doubled over the past year for U.S. users, while “solo travel destinations” queries have increased by more than 120%. The destinations most-searched for solo travel are Japan, New Orleans, Iceland, Mexico City and Italy.
Meanwhile, Contiki's research (conducted in conjunction with OnePoll) echoes this trend, with 41% of travelers saying they've traveled alone, or they will travel alone in the future to meet new people. And 60% of those who have joined a tour group believe they had a more memorable experience because they met new people.
The solo travel trend is also striking a nerve on TikTok, with search trends revealing that the term has raked up more than 3.8 billion views, according to U.K.-based tour operator, Titan Travel.
Trend 4: Travelers Are Booking Beach Vacations, But Are Also Seeking Out U.S. Cities
Google searches suggest that couples are opting for island and beach getaways; Jamaica, Bora Bora and Turks and Caicos take the top three spots based on search terms, with the Maldives and Myrtle Beach, S.C., rounding out the top five. However, when it comes to looking for activities for couples (based on the query “Things to do in … for couples,”), Google users are eyeing five U.S. cities: Las Vegas, San Antonio, San Diego, Miami and Indianapolis, Ind.
Road trips are attracting attention for domestic jaunts, too, with 43% of households choosing road trips as their preferred way to explore the U.S., according to TransUnion's research.
Trend 5: Kids Are a Major Influence in Summer Travel Plans
The recent 2023 Spring and Summer Travel Report from TransUnion finds key differences in how families with children plan travel, when compared with households without children.
Families with children are likely to take more trips over the summer than travelers without kids. This will lead to 59% of households without children to avoid traveling over the summer holiday, according to the report. Of the households with children, 43% plan to travel for July 4, and 23% plan to travel for Labor Day.
When considering cost, nearly half (48%) of families with children are planning to spend more this year than previously. And they're looking to explore further afield: 42% of these households planning to go to a new destination, compared to 37% of households without children. Camping is a popular choice for 26% of these families, as are a cruise and all-inclusive vacations, which appeal to 17% of families with children (vs. 9% of those without kids).
Loyalty programs also appeal to this group. Sixty-one percent of households with kids participate in some kind of travel loyalty program, compared to 49% of households without kids.
“Loyalty and credit card programs are important to driving higher passenger and guest lifetime value,” said Cecilia Seiden, vice president of TransUnion's travel and hospitality business. “Beyond that, building deeper profiles such as knowing which of their guests have children in the household enables airlines and hotels to create opportunities for incremental bookings.”
Trend 6: Slowing Job Growth in the U.S. May Affect Service for Peak Travel Season
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Employment report reveals that the leisure and hospitality sector added only 72,000 jobs in March, below the average monthly gain of 95,000 jobs overall. The U.S. Travel Association, in turn, has warned that the slowed labor growth could potentially impact the summer travel season.
“The drop-off in leisure and hospitality hiring reported today is a concern as our industry prepares for the busy summer season and the need to fill 1.5 million open jobs in this sector,” read a statement from U.S. Travel. “An adequately resourced travel workforce is essential to meeting demand and growing revenue in the travel industry.”
The uncertainty in the economy is also leading to an increased interest in travel insurance, according to VisitorsCoverage. Thirty-six percent of respondents are more likely to buy insurance because of inflation and the economy. Of those who plan to purchase a policy, 70% will be buying trip insurance, and 27% will be purchasing travel medical insurance.
Trend 7: Technology Is Becoming Increasingly Important for Travelers
A wireless connection is essential for this summer's travelers, according to a new Harris Poll survey from T-Mobile that shows that 88% of consumers would experience anxiety without reliable wireless service, and 83% saying their mobile phones are the most important piece of technology during a trip.
Travelers desire this connection so much, that they would rather get food poisoning during an international trip (39%), deal with flight delays (31%), or have several flight disruptions (nearly 25%) than travel without wireless service.
Social media sharing is also important, with two-thirds of travelers sharing social content while abroad, especially of the trip's landscape, lifestyle and food.