Skift Take

Although more Americans had the resources and confidence to travel abroad in 2013, those who did were more cautious about their spending, resulting in lower budgets and slightly fewer days overseas.

Americans are spending less time and money on overseas travel than in previous years, but the numbers of people traveling abroad are still higher than you might expect considering the vacation time left behind by many working Americans.

Some 61.9 million U.S. residents traveled abroad in 2013, up 2 percent from 2012, according to new data released by the U.S. Office of Travel and Tourism Industries.

Although the volume of outbound travelers rose, their average length of trip and money spent decreased between in 2013 when compared with 2012.

The average length of trip outside of the U.S. decreased slightly to 18.1 nights in 2013. This still seems lengthy for a nation hamstrung with its lack of vacation time.

The amount of cash, or credit, that residents spent also decreased. Americans’ spending on flights decreased 4% on average to $1,370 per person, and spending while abroad fell 1% to $1,559 per person in 2013.

U.S. travelers took an average of 2.6 international trips in the last 12 months, also down slightly from 2012.

Decision-making continued to take place far in advance of the actual trip with Americans booking airfares about 68 days before departure.

The average number of countries visited while abroad, 1.8, was unchanged with most of that time spent sightseeing, shopping, experiencing local cuisine and visiting historic attractions.

The Where’s and Why’s of Travel

The most popular destinations visited by U.S. residents were Mexico (20.9 million visitors) and Canada (12 million), followed by popular European countries including the UK (2.6 million), France (2 million) and Italy (1.8 million).

Vacation, a broad term, was the primary trip purpose for 50 percent of overseas travelers. Just more than a quarter, or 27 percent, of travelers went abroad to visit friends and family, and only 11 percent went predominantly for business.

The percentage of Americans citing leisure travel as their main trip motivator increased year-over-year by 3 percent while those citing business and convention travel dropped 5 percent.


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Photo credit: A Jet Blue Airways plane awaits at the gate for its Boston-bound passengers at Washington Reagan National Airport on July 31, 2012. Curtis Tate / MCT

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