Surprise, Surprise: A Ton of People Plan to Travel for the Holidays (2023)

Plus, most Americans say they don’t have much faith in airlines right now

Halloween is over, and pumpkins are being composted. And even if you aren’t someone who cues Mariah Carey’s holiday theme song as soon as the clock strikes midnight on November 1, you are already thinking about holiday travel.

And that’s going to be necessary considering that four different studies predict that most Americans will be traveling this season.

The 2023 holiday season is expected to be one the busiest on record with 122 million people or 63 percent of leisure travelers planning to travel between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Of those travelers, 20 million are planning to go RVing this holiday season, a 30 percent increase over 2022.

Christmas at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

55 percent of RVers plan to take a trip within three hours of home allowing for less time on the road and more time enjoying friends and family over the holidays. Millennials are more likely to stay closer to home with 61 percent planning a trip within 3 hours while 43 percent of Boomer respondents said they are planning trips more than 16 hours from home. 

According to the just-released RV Industry Association Holiday Travel Intentions Survey, the top reasons people are planning to go RVing are the love of road trips, the desire to travel in comfort, interest in exploring the great outdoors, and the affordability of RV travel. With RV vacations costing 50 percent less than comparable hotel and plane ride trips and a third less than hotel and car ride trips, RVing is an attractive option for people looking for the freedom to travel while also controlling their travel expenses.  

Another top reason people are choosing RV travel is their pets. 60 percent of RVers are planning to bring their pets with them rather than boarding them over the holidays. Of those sharing the trip with their furry family members, 87 percent will travel with at least one dog and 52 percent will travel with at least one cat.

Christmas at Whispering Oaks RV Park in Weimar, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not all will hit the road though. 56 percent of those planning to use an RV this holiday season will park it at home and use it for guest accommodations. 49 percent will use it as an extra kitchen for food prep and storage.

“With the rush and stress that comes with traditional travel during the holidays, people are choosing RVing as a way to still travel and see friends and family but do so in a more relaxed and comfortable way,” says Craig Kirby, President & CEO of the RV Industry Association. “Whether using an RV for guests or bringing your pets along for the ride, RVing allows people to spend more quality time with those they love this holiday season.”

A second survey conducted by Enterprise Mobility found that 56 percent of Americans surveyed are planning at least one overnight trip 50+ miles away from home between November 2023 and January 2024 with 61 percent of those trips to take place in an owned or rented vehicle this holiday season.

48 percent of trips are planned to take place in a personal vehicle, just over one in ten (11 percent) are anticipated to be a rental vehicle, and 2 percent plan to utilize a rideshare service.

Just over a quarter (28 percent) plan to use loyalty points toward booking travel and a third of those plan to use their points toward a rental vehicle.​

Americans who are traveling are planning an average of two trips this season with Christmas being the most popular holiday for travel (66 percent) followed by Thanksgiving (49 percent).

RV decorated for the holidays © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of all holiday trips planned in the U.S. more than half are to visit friends and family (58 percent) but almost one quarter (23 percent) are purely for leisure, a vacation getaway without visiting friends or family. And December is the busiest month for travel over the holiday season with 46 percent of all travel days happening in this month (departures and returns).

In addition, nearly half (46 percent) of trips are less than 200 miles from home and slightly more than half (54 percent) are 200 or more miles away.

Generationally, Millennials (age 27-42) are the most likely to have travel plans this holiday season (62 percent) while Generation Z (age 18-26) is the least likely (43 percent) and 53 percent of both Generation X (43-58) and Baby Boomers (59+) are planning to travel this holiday season. Of all the trips planned this season, Gen Z is least likely to have a trip planned to visit friends and family (47 percent) but most likely to have a vacation getaway planned, not visiting friends or family (27 percent).

When taking a holiday road trip the majority of Americans (90 percent) enjoy listening to at least some holiday music.

The top three domestic destinations this year are warmer states including California, Florida, and Texas.

RV prepped for Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a survey conducted by Motel 6 of 2,000 Americans, 84 percent of respondents plan to travel to at least one gathering this year with at least 52 percent of respondents expecting to take multiple trips.

In another survey conducted by The Vacationer which polled 1,013 Americans, 67.23 percent of respondents said they plan on traveling for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both. For Thanksgiving, specifically, The Vacationer study found that an estimated 117 million American adults plan to travel which was 2 percent more than last year’s estimates.

While the Motel 6 data and the Vacationer data differ, both studies show that well over half of the population plans to travel for the holidays. Given how crowded roads and airports were in recent years during the winter holidays this information serves as an indicator that we can expect the same thing this year.

There’s not much confidence in airlines from those who plan on traveling for the holidays which isn’t too surprising considering the delays, cancellations, and general chaos of recent years. The Vacationer study revealed that 59.23 percent of respondents have little to no confidence in airlines being able to avoid excessive delays and cancellations during the holidays.

RV decorated for Christmas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking for more travel tips?

Whether you need destination guides or camping suggestions or make sure your RV is prepped for travel, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading for RV travel hacks and everything you need to help you plan your next big adventure.

Worth Pondering…

Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.

—Catherine Pulsifer