September 13, 2023

City Breaks and Solo Trips Hot This Fall Season According to Tripadvisor

Tripadvisor has released the next in its Seasonal Travel Index series, revealing data and trends about what to expect for travel this fall.

Although the popular summer vacation season is coming to a close, travel doesn't appear to be fading with it: 74% of American travelers surveyed report they will travel this fall, well above the 61% planning to travel at the same time last year. Similarly, over half (52%) plan to travel more than they did last fall and only 3% will travel Iess.

On trend with increased travel is a rise in international trips. While 65% of U.S. travelers will stay domestic this fall, the remaining travelers set their sights on global destinations: more than a quarter (27%) will travel both internationally and domestically, and nearly one in ten (8%) have fully prioritized international travel over domestic this season. Notably, the share of international travel has recently surpassed pre-pandemic levels, a trend that's been gradually rising over the past two years. Even for those staying in the U.S., the vast majority (80%) plan to travel over four hours from their home.

Same cities, new ways to explore

City breaks are most popular with travelers this fall, as familiar favorites in Europe and Mexico continue to shine. In fact, most travelers (75%) plan to return to a destination they've visited before, as repeat destinations can give travelers a greater sense of security. That said, people want to explore these destinations in more depth, evidenced by the fact that "culture and sightseeing" is the number one trip type for Americans this fall, and interest in museums and cultural sites is on the rise. Plus, Tripadvisor first-party data indicates that travelers are keen to try more local tours and activities, booking new and elevated ways to experience classic attractions (as shown below).

Most Popular International Destinations for Americans This Fall

  1. Paris, France
    Most booked experience: Bateaux Parisiens Seine River Gourmet Dinner & Sightseeing Cruise

  2. Cancun, Mexico
    Most booked experience: Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour

  3. Rome, Italy
    Most booked experience: Skip-the-Line Group Tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter's Basilica

  4. London, United Kingdom
    Most booked experience: Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Bath from London

  5. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
    Most booked experience: Half-Day Adventure: 4x4 ATV, Water Cave and Dominican Culture At Punta Cana

  6. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
    Most booked experience: Sunset Cruise with Open bar and Snacks In Cabo San Lucas

  7. Playa del Carmen, Mexico
    Most booked experience: Tulum Ruins, Turtles in Akumal and Cenote tour

  8. Barcelona, Spain
    Most booked experience: Fast Track Sagrada Familia Guided Tour

  9. Palm - Eagle Beach, Aruba
    Most booked experience: Aruba Pub Krawl Tour

  10. Florence, Italy
    Most booked experience: Small-Group Wine Tasting Experience in the Tuscan Countryside

For those staying stateside, the ever-popular Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando round out the top three most popular destinations Americans will visit, respectively. As U.S. travelers attempt to stretch out their summers, enjoying warmth and sunshine past Labor Day, smaller Sun Belt destinations are seeing increased interest. Below are the top trending domestic destinations for Americans this fall on Tripadvisor, based on places with the greatest year-over-year growth.

  1. Little Torch Key, Florida
  2. Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
  3. Miami Springs, Florida
  4. Hawley, Pennsylvania
  5. Carefree, Arizona
  6. Reno, Nevada
  7. Cape Canaveral, Florida
  8. Holmes Beach, Florida
  9. Rutherford, California
  10. Indio, California

Solo travel on the rise

Over one-quarter (26%) of American travelers surveyed will take a solo trip this autumn. This is well above the global total of 15% as well the 17% who reported traveling solo last fall. While the reasons behind this trend may vary, it is a sign that travelers are more comfortable to journey alone and want to fully immerse themselves in the local culture.

Americans most excited about their trips

When asked how they feel about their upcoming trip, 78% of Americans reported being excited and 70% responded "happy," both being well above global totals of 64% and 60%, respectively, for these positive emotions.

This is despite the fact that their trips will be more modest than their international counterparts: Americans are most likely to take trips 2-4 nights in length, well below totals of other countries who will average 5+ nights. Notably, Boomers are more likely to take 5+ day trips compared to other age groups. Americans also over-index in reporting to stay in vacation rentals and with friends and family (versus hotels) and are more likely to be flexible when choosing a destination (60%) than the global population of respondents (48%).

With fewer trips on average, Americans are eager to maximize those trips. Thus, U.S. travelers are likely to book more on-trip activities on average (3-5) compared to people living in all other countries surveyed, and are interested in a wide array of components such as food, activities, relaxation, shopping, people and weather, showing that their excitement is multifaceted.

Tripadvisor Tip: "Our first-party data shows that travelers are still focused on the near-term, as most trips being booked right now are for one month out, and the vast majority for 2023. However, the advanced planners booking their 2024 trips now are far more likely to be going internationally. With two in five travelers looking to make the most of seasonal discounts as cost of living continues to rise, taking a page out of the early planner's book can yield savings: If you've yet to book your fall trip, the beginning of November is the most affordable time to visit some of the most popular destinations this season." – Alice Jong, Research and Insights Senior Analyst, Media at Tripadvisor.

Other key drivers among U.S. travelers this fall include:

  • Money matters:
    • Over half of travelers surveyed (54%) plan to spend more on travel this upcoming season compared to the same period last year.
    • 37% said macroeconomic factors will change how they travel over the next three months (64% due to higher cost of living due to inflation, 50% change in financial circumstances due to the economy).
    • Most important trip factor is cost/affordability (62%).
  • Trip type:
    • Most travelers plan to visit one to two cities while on their trip.
    • 47% of Americans will travel by plane (below global total of 54%), 40% by car (well above 27% global average) and only 3% by train.
    • Travelers plan to take: 1-2 trips (65%), 3-5 trips (25%), or 6+ trips (10%) this fall.
    • Main purpose of upcoming trip: make memories (52%), followed by relax/rejuvenate (49%).
  • Activities:
    • Most travelers will prioritize food while on their trip (67%), which aligns with food generating the most excitement. Younger groups are more likely to prioritize food, nightlife, and shopping.
    • 49% of Americans have booked or plan to book restaurant reservations in advance, with local options being the most popular: 54% will book a local fine dining restaurant, and 52% a local casual restaurant.
    • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) fill in the rest of their trip by deciding in the moment depending on how they're feeling, followed by travel websites and apps.
    • Overall, travelers mainly get around via walking or public transport once they get to their destination. Car transportation (personal, rental rideshare) is more popular among U.S. respondents.
  • Planning:
    • Most plan their upcoming trip one to six months in advance. Millennials are less likely to plan things under a month in advance compared to other age groups.
    • Younger travelers (Gen Z, millennials) are more than twice as likely to book or plan to book a reservation in advance compared to other age groups (53% vs. 21%, on average).
    • 61% of respondents book their activities prior to their trip beginning, with almost a quarter booking four or more weeks before their trip. Boomers are more likely to book four plus weeks in advance on their upcoming trip (41% vs. 19%, on average).
    • Gen Z and millennials are more likely to feel negative emotions (i.e., cautious, overwhelmed, anxious) compared to older generations.

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