Skift Take

Although inflation is still impacting many Americans' travel plans, the U.S. travel industry is poised to have its biggest Memorial Day weekend in years — another major step in its recovery from the pandemic.

Inflation is still a significant concern for large numbers of Americans but it isn’t putting a major dent in the urge to travel.

Nearly 64 percent of American adults intend to travel during Memorial Day weekend this year despite a slightly higher percentage saying inflation is affecting their travel plans, according to a recent survey by travel news site The Vacationer.

The percentage of U.S. adults planning 2023 Memorial Day travel is a roughly 5 percentage points higher than last year. Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, believes that bump points to a strong season for the industry.

“Summer travel is officially back, and we expect the trend to continue with higher numbers than last year for Fourth of July and Labor Day,” said Jones, a Rowan College of South Jersey professor who has conducted studies and surveys on travel.

Memorial Day travel plans
Source: The Vacationer

“While (a 5 percentage point increase) may not sound like a huge number, it represents tens of millions of Americans,” Jones said.

Although travel organization AAA projects Memorial Day weekend travel this year to surpass 2019 levels, Jones acknowledged that inflation could prevent some people from going on trips. Roughly 66 percent of participants in The Vacationer’s survey said inflation was affecting their Memorial Day travel plans, with nearly 13 percent responding that high airfares were altering their flight plans. AAA’s booking data revealed a 40 percent jump in airfares for Memorial Day weekend to major destinations such as Orlando, New York City and Las Vegas.

In addition, 22 percent of respondents in The Vacationer’s survey said high gas prices are affecting their road trip plans.

“The effect on travel plans is Americans are choosing destinations that are cheaper to reach, whether it be by flying or driving,” Jones said. “Some people who want to travel will stay home, solely because they cannot afford it due to high prices.”

The impact of inflation on Memorial Day weekend travel might be most pronounced among older travelers. American adults above the age of 60 are the group least likely to travel for Memorial Day this year, with nearly 44 percent saying in the survey that they would not be taking any trips during the holiday weekend. Only 32 percent of respondents between the ages 18-29 said they weren’t planning to travel for Memorial Day.

“It is very expensive to travel at the moment, and airfare and gas prices present a challenge to those who may be living on a limited income, such as older Americans,” Jones said. Seven of 10 U.S. travelers said in a recent Skift Research survey they had experienced higher travel prices while booking their personal trips.

But he’s optimistic about a jump in even more Americans making plans to hit the road during Memorial Day weekend next year, especially if the U.S. economy improves.

“If inflation cools down, expect an increase in travel intention for Memorial Day 2024,” he said.

Impact of inflation on Memorial Day travel
Source: The Vacationer


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: inflation, memorial day, prices, road trips, u.s. travel

Photo credit: Young couple driving convertible at sunset on desert road. Source: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Up Next

Loading next stories