2023 Travel Trends: COVID Concerns Are Declining
Cost and inflation have replaced COVID-19 concerns as top barriers to travel.
While most Americans say they are comfortable traveling again, many feel they can’t afford to because of rising inflation and high costs.
A new AARP survey shows 81% of adults 50-plus who plan to travel in 2023 believe it’s safe to travel now (up from 77% in 2021). And just one in four say COVID-19 is a barrier to travel, compared to about a half who felt that way last year.
However, pandemic worry is being replaced with money concerns.
Cost is the main reason people are curbing traveling today, according to 52% of American travelers ages 50-plus in a late 2022 national poll. And 27% say financial concerns due to inflation are making them hesitant to vacation. Half of those who expected to travel more last year say it was money woes that altered their plans.
Notably altering their travel habits are those age 70 and older, who anticipate spending over 40% less on 2023 trips than they planned to for 2022. They also remain the most cautious age group concerning COVID-19.
On average, American adults intended to spend $8,369 on travel in 2022, but now plan to spend just $6,688 in 2023, the AARP research finds.
Still, a majority of adults (62%) age 50-plus will take at least one leisure trip in 2023 — and most will take between three and four trips.
Travel is one of the most popular ways to spend discretionary income: 85% of travelers surveyed rank travel among their top three priorities. This year, though, many Americans will vacation closer to home to save money. Domestic travel will be focused on family trips and weekend getaways, with fewer people planning solo trips in 2023.
AARP reports 61% of respondents say they are only taking trips within the United States, and most will drive to their destination — often hitting the road in the spring and summer. At this point in the previous year, 51% said they were limiting themselves to domestic travel.
Some are venturing abroad, but the numbers are down. About four in ten travelers 50-plus expressed an intent to travel internationally, compared to about half who wanted to in 2022.
Comparison of results from last year’s Travel Trends reveals a dip in interest in international cruises, from 27% to 18%. However, the survey shows that among age 50-plus travelers who are taking a cruise in 2023, the average number of cruises they’ve ever taken is 14. Most are taking ocean cruises (89%), and they are motivated by value and the chance to visit multiple locations.
Europe remains the most popular international destination, followed by Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The pandemic upended travel patterns for many, and the impact continues. Overall, women are more cautious than men in their travel plans.
The AARP survey reflects an uncertainty among nontravelers about traveling this year: 58% say it’s because of finances, and 20% are hesitant because of COVID-19. Still, about half intend to return to leisure travel in 2024, while fewer are interested in staycations than in the past.
Money that might have been spent on trips is largely being redirected to paying bills and reducing debt. And one-third are stashing away savings for future travel, although that’s down from 42% in 2022.
Among those who do travel, the trend is to take slightly fewer trips than in the past, but many are spending more locking in flexible travel options or staying longer than they usually would at a destination, AARP discovered.
The majority (63%) of American travelers age 50-plus still embrace the idea of taking a “bucket list trip” — for many (39%) even more so than prior to the pandemic. The most common reasons keeping them from booking that dream vacation are the increase in travel costs (21%), health issues (16%), and less available discretionary income (12%). Travel restrictions, global unrest, and weather concerns were lesser factors.
AARP gathered this data through a 15-minute online survey of 2,000 Americans age 18 and older conducted in November and December 2022. Respondents sampled had taken at least one trip within the past two years 50 miles or more away from home, with at least a two-night stay. They also were required to have used an online travel site within the past two years and intended to travel for leisure in 2023. For the nontraveler findings, a 10-minute online survey was administered to 500 Americans age 18 and over who do not plan to travel in 2023, but historically have traveled for leisure purposes.
For more information, please contact Vicki Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org. For media inquiries, contact External Relations at email@example.com.
Levy, Vicki. 2023 Travel Trends. Washington, DC: AARP Research, March 2023. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00592.001
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Life & Leisure
2022 Travel Trends
After curtailing vacations during the pandemic, a 2022 AARP survey finds Americans are beginning to feel more comfortable about traveling.Find Out More