Labor Day: How Many Americans are Traveling This Year

Tax Planning

Every year, Labor Day offers working Americans a much-deserved day off. What will you do with it? Despite higher gas prices, more consumers are planning to travel this year than in 2011 according to travel group’s AAA survey of more than 50,000 U.S. households. Below, we explore how many Americans are traveling, the gas prices they will be paying, average trip lengths, and the most popular national and international destinations of the year.

Labor Day Travel
Labor Day Travel

How Many More People Are Traveling in 2012 than 2011?

In total, AAA expects 33 million Americans to travel “at least 50 miles” during Labor Day weekend. This represents roughly 870,000 more travelers than 2011, or a 2.9% increase. In addition to a spike in the number of travelers, those travelers are expected to spend more this year, too. This year’s median expected trip cost is $749, up from $702 last year.

While the overwhelming majority (28.2 million) will opt to drive instead of fly, AAA projects air travel to rise 3.7% (fueled, in part, by a 4% reduction in airfares from 2011). All told, an estimated 2.55 million travelers will fly during the holiday, and another 2.3 million will use buses, rails, or cruise ships.

How Are Travelers Coping with High Gas Prices?

As CNN points out, the nationwide average per-gallon cost of gasoline is 14 cents higher ($3.71 as of Tuesday, August 21) than the same time period in 2011. Yet despite this, gasoline costs “are not expected to have a major negative impact” on the nation’s Labor Day travels. In addition, 66% of those surveyed by AAA said their “current financial outlook” would have no impact on their holiday plans, according to Fox Business.

Instead of foregoing travel, cash-strapped consumers plan to save money by skipping hotels, staying with family or friends, shortening their trips, driving fuel-efficient vehicles, or spending less on recreation during their travels. CNN clocks the average trip length at 626 miles, while noting that 54% of survey respondents plan on trips of 100-400 miles round trip.

Where Are the Most Popular Labor Day Destinations?

Recent data from offers telling insights into the most in-demand travel destinations this Labor Day:

“If you’re planning a flight, Las Vegas, New York, and Chicago are the top flight search destinations for Labor Day. Average clicked fares for travel to these destinations for the holiday weekend were $291, $300 and $254, respectively.”

Meanwhile, Kayak names Atlanta, Las Vegas, and New York as the most popular U.S. hotel destinations “by absolute search share rank, with hotels coming in at $183.74, $275.63, and $204.21, respectively.”

Ireland is the top international destination year-over-year, which, Kayak speculates, is largely due to the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game on September 1, 2012. In addition to Dublin, Paris and London are popular flight search destinations in Europe for Labor Day weekend. Average prices are $1,355.32, $1,071.24, and $1,200, respectively.

For Caribbean and Central American destinations, San Jose, Panama City, and Belize City are the most popular flight searches, with Belize City enjoying a 50% year-over-year increase in search share.

Kayak also points out that travelers can expect to save 8%-10% on average by postponing their travels until after the holiday weekend.

How do you plan to travel and save this Labor Day holiday?

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