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Travelers Mark Unofficial End of Summer over Labor Day Weekend

AAA booking data shows international trips, cruises, and cooler weather destinations are most popular

Packed suitcases and cooler in trunk of car

WASHINGTON, DC – August 21, 2023 – As summer winds down, many Americans are heading out of town. AAA booking data for flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises shows Labor Day weekend travel is up over last year: domestic bookings are up 4% and international bookings are up 44%. 

“Most travelers will leave on Thursday or Friday before Labor Day to take advantage of the long holiday weekend,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “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.”  

AAA booking data shows Vancouver, Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris are the top 5 international destinations over Labor Day weekend. International hotel bookings for the holiday are up 82% compared to 2022 and international cruise bookings are up 44% over last year. Canada is popular this time of year because of its cooler temperatures and stunning scenery. Europe has seen a surge in travel all year, with more people eager to see the world again without restrictions. 

The top 5 domestic destinations are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, New York, and Las Vegas. Seattle tourism has been boosted by the strong demand for Alaska cruises. Florida destinations are popular not only for their beaches and theme parks but also for their cruise ports in Central Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Miami. AAA data shows domestic cruise bookings over Labor Day weekend are up 19% compared to 2022. 

Drivers taking road trips this Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year. The national average for a gallon of regular was $3.78 on Labor Day 2022. This summer, gas prices spiked in July because of tight supply and the high cost of oil. The beginning of August brought some relief, but as hurricane season heats up, so do concerns about higher gas prices heading into Labor Day weekend.

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car
INRIX, a global provider of transportation data and insights, expects Thursday, August 31 between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to be the busiest time on the roads during the long Labor Day weekend. Friday, September 1 is also expected to have higher than normal traffic volumes between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. 

“The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “If you must travel during heavy traffic, navigation apps and local departments of transportation can help steer drivers around long delays.” 

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car 
Date  Worst Travel Time  Best Travel Time 
Wednesday, Aug 30  12:00 PM – 8:00 PM  Before 7:00 AM 
Thursday, Aug 31  12:00 PM – 8:00 PM  Before 7:00 AM 
Friday, Sep 1  11:00 AM – 9:00 PM  Before 11:00 AM 
Saturday, Sep 2  10:00 AM – 4:00 PM  After 6:00 PM 
Sunday, Sep 3  Minimal Traffic Impact Expected  
Monday, Sep 4  10:00 AM – 6:00 PM  After 7:00 PM 


Metro  Route  Peak Congestion Period  Est. Travel Time  Compared to Typical 
Atlanta  Birmingham to Atlanta via I-20 E  Wednesday, 1:00 PM  4 Hours 6 Minutes  58% 
Boston  Boston to Hyannis via Pilgrim Hwy S  Thursday, 3:30 PM  1 Hours 58 Minutes  54% 
Chicago  Milwaukee to Chicago via I-94 E  Thursday, 4:45 PM  2 Hours 32 Minutes  25% 
Denver  Palisade to Denver via I-70 E  Monday, 4:00 PM  4 Hours, 58 Minutes  32% 
Detroit  Detroit to Grand Rapids via I-96 W  Saturday, 10:15 AM  3 Hours 7 Minutes  35% 
Houston  Galveston to Houston via I-45 N  Friday, 4:45 PM  1 Hours 37 Minutes  40% 
Los Angeles  Los Angeles to Bakersfield via I-5 N  Wednesday, 4:30 PM  2 Hours 58 Minutes  88% 
Minneapolis  Minneapolis to Eau Claire via I-94 E  Wednesday, 4:45 PM  1 Hours 39 Minutes  21% 
New York  Jersey Shore to New York via Garden St Pkwy N  Monday, 11:15 AM  1 Hours 46 Minutes  64% 
Portland  Cannon Beach to Portland via Sunset Highway E  Wednesday, 1:00 PM  1 Hours 38 Minutes  36% 
San Diego  Palm Springs to San Diego via I-15 S  Monday, 4:45 PM  2 Hours 44 Minutes  29% 
San Francisco  San Francisco to Monterey via Santa Cruz Hwy S  Sunday, 4:00 PM  3 Hours 11 Minutes  68% 
Seattle  Seattle to Bellingham via I-5 N  Thursday, 3:30 PM  2 Hours 34 Minutes  71% 
Tampa  Tampa to Orlando via I-4 E  Thursday, 8:15 AM  1 Hours 54 Minutes  36% 
Washington DC  Washington DC to Baltimore via Balt/Wash Pkwy N  Friday, 1:45 PM  1 Hours 9 Minutes  33% 


More Travelers Interested in Travel Insurance, Extended Vacations
A new survey of AAA travel advisors reveals topics and trends on the minds of travelers this summer:  

  • 59% of AAA travel advisors have seen more interest in travel insurance over the last 60 days.  
  • 83% of AAA travel advisors say the most common concern from travelers over the last 60 days was getting stranded by a delayed or canceled flight. 
  • 64% of AAA travel advisors say travelers who booked extended vacations (at least 14 nights) said having more time to explore destinations was their main reason for taking a longer trip.  
  • AAA travel advisors are seeing high interest among travelers for ocean and river cruises, plus all-inclusive and guided tour vacations.   

“Post pandemic, more travelers are recognizing the benefit of protecting their investment in case of trip interruption, whether it’s illness or a canceled flight,” said Twidale. “We’re also seeing demand for longer stays, especially now when many people have the option to work remotely from their destination.” 

Survey Methodology
AAA sent surveys to a random sample of AAA travel advisors between July 12 and July 26, 2023. 165 AAA travel advisors responded.   


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