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

Meet the American who told us About the First Thanksgiving—Here Is His Amazing Story

Young Mayflower passenger shaped image of Pilgrims and offered only contemporary account of the first Thanksgiving

Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow was the only Pilgrim to record the settlers’ first year in the New World—including an account of the very first Thanksgiving. It is the first and greatest American adventure story. 

A small band of Christian devotees persecuted in their homeland sought refuge in a forbidden wilderness across the vast ocean aboard a leaky ship in the autumn of 1620. Against all odds following near death at sea amid disease and frightening loss of life, they planted the seeds of a daring new society. 

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Within a few generations, their descendants brazenly challenged the world monarchial order with the revolutionary statement that all men are created equal and fought to establish the first great constitutional republic. It became a haven for people just like them: the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Most everything we know about their first year in what’s now Plymouth, Massachusetts comes from one man. His name is Edward Winslow. He’s a major figure in the Pilgrim story and had the foresight to write down their story and share it with others.

Winslow wrote a lengthy letter to a friend back in England that has gone down in history as Mourt’s Relation.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is the only account written as it happened of the Pilgrims’ first year in Plymouth. It is still in print, available on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Mourt’s Relation includes Winslow’s brief, undated description of a three-day celebration in the autumn of 1621 after “our harvest being gotten in” during which the English settlers and a much larger group of Wampanoag friends feast on fowl and deer.

It is the first Thanksgiving. Winslow’s account is the only version of the origin story of America’s national holiday written by Somebody Who Was There.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winslow made many other contributions to the Pilgrim narrative. He signed the Mayflower Compact, the first self-governing covenant among New World settlers as the ship floated in Cape Cod Bay on November 11, 1620. He was the first Pilgrim to meet Wampanoag chief Ousamequin, better known in history as Massasoit. 

“Winslow informed Massasoit that his people desired to have peace with him and engage in trading,” James and Patricia Scott Deetz wrote in their 2000 history, The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love and Death in Plymouth Colony. The two men bridged a cross-cultural relationship that benefited both sides for several decades before the outbreak of King Phillip’s War in 1675.

Winslow also gives us our only look at the face of an actual Pilgrim.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

He sat for a portrait in London in 1651 after returning to England to serve its government under Protestant Parliamentarian Oliver Cromwell following the English Civil War. 

“History records no nobler venture for faith and freedom than that of this Pilgrim band,” reads the tomb on a hill overlooking Plymouth Harbor today. It’s the site where the settlers buried their many dead that first winter in the New World.

Edward Winslow was born on October 18, 1595 to Edward Sr. and Magdalene (Oliver) Winslow in Droitwich Spa, a town in western England that traces its history to Roman settlement. He moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1617 to live among the English separatist colony that produced the Pilgrims. He worked as a printer. 

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

He was just 24 when he departed Plymouth, England aboard the Mayflower with his wife Elizabeth (Barker) and younger brother Gilbert on September 16, 1620. After a harrowing trip across the ocean and a month spent exploring Cape Cod, the Pilgrims anchored in Plymouth Harbor in late December. They began the seemingly impossible work of carving a new society out of the frozen earth.

Winter on the New England coast is dark, windy, and unforgiving even today with the benefit of modern clothing, home heating systems, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Yet the Pilgrims landed in the middle of what’s known as The Little Ice Age—a 500-year period of unusually cold weather.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

England and Holland are north of Plymouth but also far more temperate. The Pilgrims had never experienced anything as cold as a New England winter. Death soon gripped the colony. 

“They were probably suffering from scurvy and pneumonia caused by a lack of shelter in the cold, wet weather,” writes Plimoth Patuxet Museums. “As many as two or three people died each day during their first two months on land.”

Only 52 of 102 people survived the first year in Plymouth. The Mayflower sailed back to England with only half its crew alive in April 1621. Elizabeth Winslow was among the first winter’s victims. She died on March 24 at age 27 or 28. Pilgrim Susanna White lost her husband, William, in February.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But new life, activity, and hope emerged in the spring. Edward and Susanna married on May 12, the first wedding in the Plymouth Colony. They began having children the following year. 

The Pilgrims in March met English-speaking Wampanoags Samoset and Squanto who had learned the language from fishing boat captains seeking cod off the New England coast. Through Squanto, Winslow met chief Ousamequin. The Pilgrims began planting spring crops with the help of the Natives. They enjoyed an abundant harvest that autumn. The relationship appeared to blossom.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us,” reports Mourt’s Relation. “We often go with them and they come to us; some of us have been 50 miles by land in the country with them … We entertain them familiarly in our houses and they as friendly bestowing their venison on us.”

The Natives were also overcoming shocking tragedy, notes Begley. Plague was unknowingly carried upon the ships of European explorers. The people of the Americas had no immunity. Up to 90 percent of the Native population of southern New England, according to expert estimates, was wiped out by disease from 1616 to 1619—an apocalyptic tragedy. The Wampanoags were likely seeking hope and a reason to give thanks for their survival, too, in the autumn of 1621.

The two sides cemented their friendly relations with a grand feast after the autumn harvest. Winslow described the first Thanksgiving in just 115 words of an extended sentence. 

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winslow wrote, “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after have a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl as with a little help beside served the company almost a week at which time amongst other recreations we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit with some ninety men whom for three days we entertained and feasted and they went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor and upon the captain and others.”

The celebrants ate fowl—plentiful in the area—and venison. The harvest certainly included corn among other fruits and vegetables. 

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We learn of Pilgrims eating turkey—later on—only from William Bradford’s history, Of Plymouth Plantation. The first governor of Plymouth began writing his history in 1630. Hidden away for more than two centuries, Bradford’s account was not published until 1856. He does not mention the feast. 

The entire Thanksgiving origin story comes from the one passage in Mourt’s Relation. Winslow’s account indicates that the Wampanoags vastly outnumbered the Pilgrims. Massasoit brought 90 men and, historians assume, perhaps an equal number of women and children. There were barely more than 50 English settlers in Plymouth at the time.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winslow, most prophetically, offers the passage that turns the harvest feast into a celebration of Thanksgiving.

“And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The Pilgrims had gone from the brink of perishing to an abundance far from want in one growing season. It must have felt like a miracle. 

“The first Thanksgiving marked the conclusion of a remarkable year,” writes historian Nathaniel Philbrick in his 2006 book, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War. “By all rights, none of the Pilgrims should have emerged from the first winter alive.”

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edward Winslow lived a life of more adventure after settling Plymouth and recording its dramatic story for posterity. He died at sea in the Caribbean reportedly of yellow fever, on May 7, 1655. Oliver Cromwell, the victorious Parliamentarian of the English Civil War, reportedly intended to have Winslow serve as governor of the colony in Jamaica.

Before his death, Winslow gifted the American people with the miraculous story of the first Thanksgiving. The survival of the story is itself something of a miracle. 

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The letter that became Mourt’s Relation was sent by the ship Fortune back to England in December 1621. 

It was captured on the open sea by French pirates who brought the ship to a prison island. The local governor confiscated anything of value on board including the clothing of the passengers, “not leaving some of them a hat to their heads nor a shoe to their feet,” according to an account of the drama in the Public Records Office in London.

He also “sent for all their letters; opened and kept what he pleased.” He did not please, apparently, of Winslow’s account of the first year in Plymouth. It made its way to London and was printed as Mourt’s Relation in 1622.

Giving thanks for an abundant harvest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mayflower 400, an organization convened to celebrate the quadricentennial of the Pilgrim journey, paid homage to Winslow in 2020: “He died a God-fearing Pilgrim at heart and with him went a very special set of skills that built friendships, won negotiations, and established a new way of life in a new land.”

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

Thanksgiving RV Trip: How to Enjoy the Holiday on the Road

Why not shake it up this year with a new tradition? Instead of the usual family gathering, jump in the RV and hit the road for a holiday you can be truly thankful for.

The classic vision of Thanksgiving typically involves a giant stuffed turkey with multiple side dishes and pies, all covering a long dining table surrounded by family and friends. 

However, as RV travel continues to grow in popularity and more and more people adopt non-traditional lifestyles such as digital nomads and full-time RVing, the entire concept of holidays is rapidly changing. They can still be spent making memories and connecting with loved ones but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending several days in meal planning and prepping or even staying home. 

This year, why not consider a Thanksgiving RV trip? Whether you go to a favorite place or a new one, head out solo, bring your whole family along, cook up a quintessential Thanksgiving feast or skip a traditional meal altogether, hitting the road is a fun and memorable way to spend the holiday.

Enjoying Thanksgiving at Clerbrook Golf and RV Resort, Clermont, Florida

Reasons to take a Thanksgiving RV trip

  • Experience national parks and other popular destinations during the shoulder season when there are few other visitors—enjoy less-crowded viewpoints and trails, little to no traffic, and your pick of campsites
  • A Thanksgiving RV trip creates a new tradition with your significant other or family
  • Minimal cleanup as compared to a kitchen in a house for Thanksgiving dinner
  • If you’re not a full-timer, a Thanksgiving trip can extend your camping season and let you enjoy one more adventure before storing your rig for winter
Spending Thanksgiving in Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ideas for your Thanksgiving RV trip

The sky is really the limit when it comes to places you can spend Thanksgiving in your RV but here are some unique ideas. 

Camping at Arches National Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National parks

Even the parks that close individual entrances or most roads for winter have at least one campground open all year. Planning a Thanksgiving RV trip is a wonderful way to experience some of the country’s most popular parks in a unique way without the crowds and in a much quieter setting. Most national park campgrounds are dry camping with no utilities.

Related article: 49 Million Americans Will Road Trip This Thanksgiving, 15 Million by RV

Best of all, some national parks even host special Thanksgiving programs. For example, restaurants in Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park host elaborate Thanksgiving spreads.

Camping at Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State parks

A quieter alternative to national parks, many state parks are open year-round and are very accessible. Choose one close to home, look for one that will still have fall foliage late in the season, or pick one that offers a warm climate. State park campgrounds offer a variety of sites including no services, electricity, and water only, and full-service camping. It’s a design-your-own-Thanksgiving-RV-trip.

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

Traditional RV parks

Camping in an RV park or resort over Thanksgiving can give you access to full hookups, scheduled activities, clubhouse and pool, fire pit, outdoor seating, and table space, and perhaps even shared kitchen facilities. Some parks may even host Thanksgiving events where you can meet other travelers. 

Boondocking near Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boondocking

If you want to try something different and completely unplug over the holiday, consider boondocking. You’ll need to do some advance planning in terms of grocery shopping and meal prepping plus decide how you’ll make Thanksgiving dinner but can be a fantastic, memorable way to create new traditions.

Related article: Top 8 Tips for Planning a Road Trip this Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday Season

Potential downsides of a Thanksgiving RV trip (and how to deal with them)

Carrots for a colorful Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Being away from family and friends 

If you’re used to spending the holiday with a large group of friends and family, this can be a major factor in deciding whether or not to take a Thanksgiving RV trip. Thanks to modern technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected with loved ones. Consider scheduling a FaceTime or Zoom call at some point during the day so everyone can say hello. 

You can also plan a traditional Thanksgiving meal when you’re all together in person even if it’s nowhere near the actual holiday. Who knows, this could become a new favorite tradition.

Thanksgiving dinner? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wanting to prep a traditional meal but not having enough space

Whipping up a Thanksgiving meal can be challenging even in a single-family home so there’s no denying it’s difficult in an RV. However, it’s not at all impossible.

Pie for Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Think about what you realistically have fridge and oven space for and come up with creative ways to prepare and cook everything else. For example, maybe you purchase a pie from a local bakery or you cook some dishes over the fire pit or grill. 

And if table/counter space is an issue make use of any surfaces you have outside the RV. There’s no rule saying you can’t decorate a picnic table or folding chairs for Thanksgiving.

Be prepared in case bad weather © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bad weather

Late November can be dicey weather-wise, no matter where you are. Plan ahead and have some day-of backup plans in case inclement weather forces you to stay inside. Do your Thanksgiving grocery shopping in advance to eliminate the possibility that you’re short one or two key ingredients and if you’re planning to dine outside have an indoor layout in mind so there’s plenty of space to accommodate everyone. 

Related article: Thanksgiving & Our RV Lifestyle: Giving Thanks

Do something different this Thanksgiving, Go RVing! Take your family off the Wi-Fi craze for a few days and enjoy a nearly work-free meal prep and enjoyable conversation with the whole family. It will be an experience you never forget!

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