Travel trends in 2023: COVID concerns recede

Although most Americans say they are comfortable traveling again, many feel they cannot afford it due to rising inflation and high costs.

A new AARP survey shows that 81% of adults over 50 who plan to travel in 2023 think it’s safe to travel now (up from 77% in 2021). And only one in four say COVID-19 is a barrier to travel, compared to about half who felt that way last year.

However, concerns about the pandemic are being replaced by concerns about money.

Impact of inflation

Cost is the main reason people are cutting back on travel today, according to 52 percent of U.S. travelers age 50 and older in a national survey in late 2022. And 27 percent say financial worries due to inflation are making them hesitant about the vacation. Half of those who expected to travel more last year say money problems changed their plans.

Particularly changing their travel habits are people aged 70 and over, who expect to spend over 40% less on 2023 travel than they planned for 2022. They also remain the most cautious age group regarding COVID-19 .

On average, American adults intended to spend $8,369 on travel in 2022, but now plan to spend just $6,688 in 2023, the AARP survey found.

Yet the majority of adults (62%) over the age of 50 will take at least one leisure trip in 2023 – and most will take between three and four trips.

Travel is one of the most popular ways to spend discretionary income: 85% of travelers surveyed ranked travel among their top three priorities. This year, however, many Americans will be vacationing closer to home to save money. Domestic travel will be focused on family trips and weekend getaways, with fewer people planning solo trips in 2023.

AARP reports that 61 percent of respondents said they travel only within the United States, and most will drive to their destination — often hitting the road in the spring and summer. At this point in the previous year, 51% said they limited themselves to domestic travel.

Destination abroad

Some venture abroad, but their numbers are dwindling. About four in ten travelers over 50 expressed an intention to travel abroad, compared to around half who wanted to in 2022.

A comparison of results from last year’s Travel Trends edition reveals a drop in interest in international cruises from 27% to 18%. However, the survey shows that among travelers over 50 who take a cruise in 2023, the average number of cruises they have ever taken is 14. Most take ocean cruises (89%) and are motivated by value and the opportunity to visit multiple locations.

Europe remains the most popular international destination, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean.

The pandemic has upended travel patterns for many, and the impact continues. In general, women are more cautious than men in their travel plans.

2024 jump?

The AARP survey reflects uncertainty among non-travelers about traveling this year: 58 percent say it’s because of finances, and 20 percent are hesitant because of COVID-19. Still, about half intend to return to leisure travel in 2024, while less are interested in layovers than in the past.

Money that might have been spent on travel is largely diverted to paying bills and reducing debt. And a third are stashing away savings for future travel, although this is down from 42% in 2022.

Among those who do travel, the trend is to take slightly fewer trips than in the past, but many are spending more, locking into flexible travel options or staying longer than usual at a destination, AARP found.

A majority (63%) of US travelers over the age of 50 still embrace the idea of ​​taking a “bucket list trip” — for many (39%) even more so than before the pandemic. The most common reasons holding them back from booking that dream vacation are increased travel costs (21%), health issues (16%) and less disposable income (12%). Travel restrictions, global unrest and weather concerns were smaller factors.


AARP collected this data through a 15-minute online survey of 2,000 Americans ages 18 and older conducted in November and December 2022. Respondents in the sample took at least one trip in the past two years 50 miles or more from home, with at least two nights. They were also required to have used an online travel site in the past two years and intended to travel for leisure in 2023. For the non-traveler findings, a 10-minute online survey was administered to 500 Americans aged 18 and older who do not plan to travel in 2023, but have historically traveled for leisure purposes.

For more information, please contact Vicki Levy at [email protected] For media inquiries, contact External Relations at [email protected]

Suggested quote:

Levy, Vicki. Travel trends in 2023. Washington, DC: AARP Research, March 2023.

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