DENVER (Sept. 26, 2023) - While the summer travel season just came to an end, folks aren't waiting to lock in their travel plans for the year-end holidays. Per a new AAA survey, 60% of Coloradans are already planning to take a holiday vacation. More than half of them (58%) are booking holiday travel plans earlier this year due to higher travel prices. A striking majority of holiday travelers (70%) say they're planning at least one flight during the holiday season.
"2023 has been a bonkers year for travel, with record-breaking demand throughout the summer," said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA. "By all accounts, those trends will persist into the year-end holidays. If you know you're going to travel, don't delay booking - or you just won't get the itinerary you want at the price you want to pay."
More than half of Colorado travelers (54%) are planning a trip with at least one overnight stay for Thanksgiving. Per the survey, the largest share of travelers (37%) will lock in their Thanksgiving travel plans during September. By the end of this month, 61% will have already booked their trip.
The busiest travel days will be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday. Consider booking a flight Sunday or Monday before Thanksgiving and Saturday after the holiday. Airports will be less busy, and flights should have more availability, though not if you wait to book.
The timing is more spread out for Coloradans who are planning a trip for Christmas. Only 11% have already finalized plans, as a quarter will wait for September (24%), October (25%), and November (23%) to book.
Most travelers depart two to four days prior to Christmas Day. Since Christmas Day falls on a Monday this year, travelers should expect the busiest days at the airport to be Friday and Saturday, before the holiday.
AAA's Advice for Booking a Flight
• Book early for the best combination of availability and price. Most travelers want to skip layovers and get right to their destination. Nonstop flights, especially those going cross-country and internationally, will fill up fast.
• Book a direct flight that leaves early in the morning. Afternoon and evening flights are more susceptible to delays/cancellations due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. Connecting flights multiply the risk of something going wrong.
• Consider traveling a day or two earlier than planned. Even if you face delays, you are still likely to arrive on time.
• If your flight has connections, build in a couple hours between flights. That way, if your first flight is delayed, you are less likely to miss your second one.
More than a third of holiday travelers (36%) say they are less likely to fly this year because they're concerned about flight delays and cancellations. AAA urges travelers to consider travel insurance, which will make you whole if your travel is affected by severe winter weather.
"Given recent challenges with air travel, we are seeing more and more passengers opt for travel insurance," said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA. "Travel insurance is such a valuable resource for air travelers, because it provides financial benefits for lost or delayed luggage, flight cancellations, and flight delays of as little as three hours."
Experiences Over Presents
AAA travel advisors are seeing more people gift experiences to loved ones instead of presents. In many cases, those folks are already thinking about the holidays. "I just booked travel for one family who's surprising their children on Christmas morning with a trip to Disney World, leaving later that same day. That family had to book early to get exactly what they wanted," said Cady DeBlois, a travel advisor for AAA.
Europe, Cruises, and Theme Parks Sell Out in Advance
European travel is booming this year, and the holidays will be no exception. AAA travel advisors say touring Christmas markets in Europe is extremely popular and itineraries sell out in advance. River cruises are also in high demand during the holidays, along with Caribbean cruises. Theme parks are a holiday favorite among families with kids when students are on winter break.
AAA will release its Thanksgiving Travel Forecast in early November.
About the Survey
The AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey was conducted online among residents living in Colorado from August 1-7, 2023. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Colorado.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app , visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.