Nashville, Tennessee – International travel is increasing this year. According to AAA bookings data, international travel is up more than 200% compared to 2022.
Hotel bookings saw the biggest jump, more than 300% over last year. A surge in demand drives up airfares. Ticket prices for international travel have jumped by more than 30%.
“Travel is in full swing and bookings are incredibly strong, so it pays to plan ahead,” says Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA-The Auto Club Group. “And if you’re planning to travel abroad, we suggest using a travel advisor like those at AAA. We partner with vetted travel providers who have staff at the destination who can adjust plans if needed.”
Europe and Canada are the most popular international destinations according to AAA data. London tops the list with a nearly 350% increase over last year. Rome, Paris, Dublin and Barcelona are other European hotspots. Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary are the most popular destinations in Canada.
“River cruises are a popular way to visit multiple international destinations in one trip,” Haas continued. “Just returned from an international river cruise and enjoyed the ease of unpacking once and gliding between destinations.”
10 ways to prepare for international travel
1. Prioritize your passport
You cannot travel abroad without a passport. If you don’t have one, apply as soon as possible! The US State Department issues passports and the routine service usually takes 8 to 11 weeks. But the pandemic-related backlog of applications, combined with an increase in travel demand, is leading to longer wait times, anywhere from 10 to 13 weeks. Even some expedited services see delays of around 7 to 9 weeks. If you already have a passport, check the expiry date. Some countries require passports to be valid for six months after the date of departure from the United States. Your destination may also require a travel visa. For peace of mind, work with a travel advisor who can ensure you don’t miss a single step. AAA members receive exclusive shipping rates for US passports and global travel visas with RushMyPassport.
2. Don’t know where to visit? Start here
Choosing an international destination can seem daunting. One way to get inspired is by browsing popular destinations or curated trips on Trip Canvas, AAA’s free online travel tool for dreaming up, planning and booking trips. Or reach out to AAA Travel Advisors in person, online or by phone to brainstorm ideas and create itineraries.
3. Follow the leader
Solo/solo travelers – or people who haven’t been abroad in years – benefit greatly from guided tours where an expert leads the way. Guided tours are a great way to see the world without the stress of planning daily itineraries. According to AAA Member Choice Vacations, the most popular tours for new travelers are London and Paris, British Landscapes and Ireland.
4. Been there, done that? Try this one
For travelers who have already checked Europe off their bucket list and crave something different, trips focused on adventure and local culture are becoming increasingly popular. AAA’s Club Adventures, which focuses on small group tours, says Antarctica, Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru, Morocco and Vietnam are destinations in high demand. They say more travelers are looking for authenticity and connection on their international travels. “Today’s travelers are reshaping what it means to connect with a destination. They are looking for authenticity and understanding, longing to see the world through a local lens,” said Alison Villasenor, Managing Director of Club Adventures.
5. Unpack once, see the world
Travelers who want to experience multiple destinations without staying in multiple hotels book cruises. Cruises are in high demand this year. AAA booking data shows that cruises departing from international destinations are up 30% compared to 2022. Cruises sailing to Northern Europe, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are among the most popular. European river cruises and ships plying the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia are also high on the list.
6. Rent a car? You will need this
Many countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally. An IDP is a valid form of identification that includes your name, photo and driver information. Even if a country does not require an IDP, your car rental company may. The IDP must be issued in the same country as the passenger’s driver’s license and cannot be issued more than six months before the desired effective date. AAA is one of only two private entities in the US authorized by the US State Department to issue IDPs.
7. Protect your investment
Travel insurance is always a good idea, but even more so if you’re traveling abroad. Protecting your trip is highly recommended in the event of travel delay, expenses incurred from missed flights, lost luggage or medical expenses due to illness or injury. The best way to determine what type of coverage you need is to contact a trusted travel advisor, such as an AAA travel agent. This person will help you choose the right plan to get a clear understanding of which policy (your personal health cover or your travel insurance company’s cover) is primary or secondary. It is important to know how much coverage the policy offers and what it does and does not cover.
8. Ways to save
One of the best ways to save money on international travel is to be flexible with your dates. Traveling in the off-season can mean better deals, fewer crowds, and a more pleasant experience overall. For example, if you go to Europe in October or February, you can save money on plane tickets and accommodation. Off-season travel also helps the destination itself by reducing the overcrowding that strains local communities and infrastructure.
Another way to spend less is to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Midweek flights tend to be cheaper as many airlines add weekend surcharges. When booking a hotel, try to avoid properties in the city center, which tend to be more expensive. Plus, find out how much the hotel charges like resort fees, parking and internet – it all adds up!
9. Sign up STEP
Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app for detailed information about countries around the world and up-to-date travel advice. While in the app or on the State Department website, sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) to let the State Department know about your trip so they can alert you to any disturbances or advisories at your destination.
10. Learn from the pros
AAA Diamonds inspectors know a thing or two about travel. They log thousands of kilometers every year inspecting hotels and restaurants, verifying the 4Cs of AAA Diamonds: cleanliness, comfort, cuisine and consistency.
Here are some pro tips from AAA international travel inspectors:
“Notify your credit card company of your trip and check for foreign transaction fees. Use ATMs instead of exchange offices and always choose the local currency if you have a choice in credit card transactions.”
“Take a photo or make a copy of your passport and keep it with you. Secure your physical passport in the hotel safe while you sightsee.”
“If you’re traveling with a significant other or a close friend, split your clothes into two bags so that if one suitcase gets delayed or lost, you both have clothes. If you’re traveling alone, put a few clothes in your carry-on.”
“Place a large sheet of paper with your name, address and contact information in the front pocket of your checked bag in case your luggage tag is removed or falls off. This will give you a better chance of your bag being returned to you.”
“If you’re checking a bag and carrying a roll bag, put the heaviest items in your carry-on. That way you avoid paying an overweight fee for your bag, and if the airline forces you to check your carry-on anyway, because there’s no overhead bin space, you won’t have to pay a checked bag fee either.”
“Compression socks for flights!”
“Make sure you know how to get to the hotel from the airport once you arrive, and if possible arrange your transport in advance.”
“Separate your money into separate purses or pockets. In the unlikely event that you are robbed, all of your money will not be taken.
“To help with jet lag: Avoid caffeine and alcohol during the flight. If it’s daylight when you arrive, stay outside as much as possible to get natural light. Avoid naps and try to stay awake until a normal bedtime at your destination.
About AAA – The Auto Club Group
Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members in 14 US states, the province of Quebec and two US territories.
ACG and its affiliates provide members with road assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offers 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 promote freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety.
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