International Bookings Soar as Americans Boost Labor Day 2023 Travel Plans

International travel climbs 44% and domestic travel is up 4% for Labor Day 2023, AAA says

People checking in for flights at an airport

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Americans are planning to continue their Labor Day tradition of traveling, with more heading to international destinations, and most departing today or Friday, the latest AAA booking data showed. 

Key Takeaways

  • Higher cruise-ship reservations will contribute to 2023 Labor Day travel activity, with international bookings up 44% and domestic ones up 4%, according to AAA. 
  • Cooler weather is helping draw visitors to destinations like Canada and Alaska, while European travel is booming as the region loosens pandemic restrictions. 
  • At $3.81 a gallon, regular gasoline prices are expected to remain about the same as 2022's Labor Day, as the impact of Hurricane Idalia is still being measured.

Looking at data on flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises, the AAA report projected international bookings this Labor Day weekend were 44% higher than last year, while domestic travel was up 4%. 

Travelers can expect Thursday between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to be the busiest time on the roads before the Labor Day weekend, with 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday seen to be the next worst travel period. Sunday will be the quietest day, according to AAA, and it's also better to travel after 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Drivers can expect gas prices close to what they experienced last year, when the average price for regular gasoline was $3.82, compared with the average national price of $3.81 on Thursday. 

Gas prices spiked in July due to tight supply and high oil costs, although prices began to fall some in August, AAA said.

The travel holiday also comes on the heels of Hurricane Idalia, which hit Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas this week, where damage assessments continue. The landfall edged oil prices higher as production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico shut down operations, even though the storm appears not to have hit any major production platforms or pipelines. AAA said the 2023 storm season raised concerns about gas prices on the eve of Labor Day weekend.

Looser European Restrictions, Cooler Canadian Weather Drawing Tourists

International hotel bookings during the Labor Day weekend are 82% higher in 2023 than the prior year, and international cruises were up 44%, with Vancouver, Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris being the top global travel destinations, AAA said. Canadian travel is boosted by its cooler temperatures, the auto association said, while Europe has experienced increased travel all year as the loosening of pandemic restrictions has lured travelers back to the Continent. 

In the U.S., 2023 Labor Day domestic cruise bookings are up 19% over last year, with Alaskan cruises showing strong demand and Florida destinations also proving popular for their port access. Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, New York City, and Las Vegas were the most popular U.S. destinations for the holiday weekend.

“Domestically, the Pacific Northwest, big cities like New York and Denver, and tourist hotspots like Orlando and Las Vegas are the most popular. Internationally, it’s all about Europe and Canada,” Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel, said.

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