The majority of Americans are planning to leave their day-to-day stress behind to travel this year. However, it’s likely their travel plans will introduce new stressors.

Nearly two in three (63 percent) U.S. adults have traveled or plan to travel for leisure this year, according to a new Bankrate survey. Of the 32 percent of U.S. adults who already have traveled for either leisure or business this year, something went wrong for many of them: 77 percent have run into a travel-related problem.

Those issues range from higher prices than they’re accustomed to (53 percent), long waits (25 percent), poor customer service (24 percent), canceled or disrupted plans (23 percent) and hard-to-find availability (23 percent).

After surging last year when COVID-19 travel restrictions eased, pent-up demand for travel still hasn’t slowed. But with that demand, travelers may have to combat higher prices, in part due to inflation and tighter availability when booking plane tickets, hotels and other travel essentials.

Travel demand is even higher this year, and with the travel industry struggling to keep up, high prices aren’t likely to be the only problem. Further delays, cancellations and crowded conditions are expected. — Ted Rossman | Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst

Bankrate’s 2023 travel issue insights

  • Leisure travel is even more popular this year than in 2022. 63% of U.S. adults have traveled or plan to travel for leisure in 2023. 32% have traveled already by early June and 46% plan to travel before the end of the year. In 2022, 58% of U.S. adults planned to travel for leisure or already had traveled by July 2022.
  • The majority of upcoming travelers are worried about possible issues. 82% of people planning to travel for leisure or business later this year say they are worried about travel-related problems. That includes 55% with worries over high prices, 35% over long waits, 29% over canceled or disrupted plans, 28% over hard-to-find availability and 23% over poor customer service.
  • Travel costs are creeping up. 28% of leisure travelers plan to spend more in 2023 than they did in 2022. On the other hand, 21% plan to spend less in 2023 due to economic concerns.
  • Many travelers have a big budget. 44% of U.S. adults who have traveled or anticipate leisure traveling in 2023 have spent or plan to spend at least $1,000. 16% have or plan to spend at least $5,000.

Nearly 2 in 3 Americans plan to travel in 2023

Whether it’s renting a car for a quick road trip in-state or booking a flight for a luxury international getaway, 63 percent of U.S. adults plan to travel for leisure this year — 32 percent have already taken a trip by early June 2023 and 46 percent plan to travel before the end of the year (with some overlap between those two groups).

The pent-up urge to travel after COVID-19 has gotten even stronger over the last year: 58 percent of U.S. adults had traveled or planned to travel in July 2022, according to Bankrate.

“Travelers should brace for another busy summer travel season. I thought a lot of people got the travel bug out of their system last year, as the pandemic receded, and I expected high inflation to contribute to a decline in travelers this year. But that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst Ted Rossman said.

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, 2023

Additionally, 23 percent of people have or plan to take a business trip this year, including 12 percent who already have gone on one and 14 percent who plan to do so later in the year.

Leisure travelers in 2023 sway younger and wealthier. Gen Zers and millennials are the most likely of any generation to travel for leisure this year:

  • Millennials (ages 27-42): 69 percent
  • Gen Z (ages 18-26): 68 percent
  • Gen Xers (ages 43-58): 60 percent
  • Baby boomers (ages 59-77): 58 percent

Similarly, households with a six-figure income or more are 34 percentage points more likely to have gone on or be planning a vacation than households who earn below $50,000 a year:

  • $100,000 a year or more: 85 percent
  • $80,000-$99,999 a year: 77 percent
  • $50,000-$79,999 a year: 67 percent
  • Less than $50,000 a year: 51 percent

More than half of travelers have experienced higher-than-usual prices this year

More people traveling since 2022 may be good for a rebounding travel economy, but for consumers, it means more bottlenecks in airports, train stations, freeways — and plenty of headaches.

More than three in four (77 percent) U.S. adults who have already traveled this year experienced a travel-related problem. Most commonly, 53 percent of people experienced higher prices than they’re accustomed to:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, 2023
Note: Of U.S. adults who have already traveled in 2023

Other travel woes include long waits at airport security, restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions and other services (25 percent); poor customer service (24 percent); difficulty finding availability for lodging, rental cars, airlines and others services (23 percent); and canceled and disrupted plans for flights, delays, lost luggage and more (23 percent). Only 23 percent of people say they haven’t experienced any travel-related problems.

Business travelers are even more likely to have run into issues: 87 percent of business travelers say they experienced a problem — 10 percentage points more than leisure travelers.

Over 4 in 5 upcoming travelers are worried about running into a problem while traveling

More than four in five (82 percent) U.S. adults who plan to travel in 2023 are worried about travel-related problems. Most commonly, 55 percent of travelers are concerned about higher prices:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, 2023
Note: Of U.S. adults who are planning on traveling in 2023

Other concerns for upcoming travelers include long waits (35 percent), canceled or disrupted plans (29 percent), difficulty finding availability (28 percent) and poor customer service (23 percent). A little less than one in five (18 percent) upcoming travelers aren’t worried about potential travel problems.

Over 1 in 4 leisure travelers plan to spend more in 2023 — many plan to spend at least $1,000

Perhaps in anticipation of higher prices, 28 percent of leisure travelers plan to spend more in 2023 than they did last year — 44 percent of American leisure travelers plan on spending at least $1,000. Some (16 percent) plan to spend at least $5,000 on leisure travel.

The percentage of Americans willing to spend at least $1,000 on travel comes after a January 2023 Bankrate survey found that 57 percent of U.S. adults wouldn’t pay for an unplanned $1,000 emergency expense from their savings. Also, more than two in three (68 percent) said inflation was causing them to save less.

In contrast, 21 percent of leisure travelers said they plan to spend less on leisure travel in 2023 due to economic concerns:

Source: Bankrate survey, June 6-9, 2023
Note: Of U.S. adults who are leisure travelers in 2023

Amid eagerness to travel, one in five (20 percent) leisure travelers say they may be willing to use savings to fund their trip this year, 22 percent are more excited to travel this year than they were prior to the pandemic, and 7 percent say they are willing to take on debt to travel.

Additionally, one in five (20 percent) leisure travelers plan to use rewards points or miles more frequently in the future, a tactic Rossman recommends.

“The best way to fight back against high travel costs is to redeem your credit card rewards, frequent flier miles and hotel points,” Rossman said.

3 travel tips to save this summer

With some travelers planning to spend $1,000 or more this summer, families may consider dipping into savings or saving for their summer vacation in advance. But you don’t need to spend a lot in order to get some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Consider these tips when you make your itinerary this summer:

  1. Flexibility is key. For those travelers who have the option, Rossman recommends being flexible as they make plans this summer. “If you can choose from a wider variety of dates and destinations, you’ll have more opportunities to save versus being locked into a certain place at a certain time,” he said.
  2. Make use of your travel rewards. One in five travelers plan to use more reward points or miles from airline credit cards in the future. Travel credit cards can be an easy way to save money on flights and receive perks like free checked bags and priority boarding, which can ease some of the stress when flying during the summer. “Keep in mind that many credit cards offer valuable travel insurance protections that can help you if your trip is canceled or delayed,” Rossman said.
  3. Utilize deal websites. Online aggregators can help you shop between pricey airlines, hotels, rental cars and more to help you find the best deal. Trying to find last minute tickets? Some aggregators specialize in low-cost tickets for flights leaving as soon as that weekend.
  • Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey on travel woes. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3,689 U.S. adults. Fieldwork was undertaken June 6-9, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.

    The study on emergency savings (that was conducted in December 2022) was conducted for Bankrate by SSRS on its Opinion Panel Omnibus platform. The SSRS Opinion Panel Omnibus is a national, twice-per-month, probability-based survey. Interviews were conducted from Dec. 16-19, 2022 among a sample of 1,028 respondents in English (1,003) and Spanish (25). The survey was conducted via web (998) and telephone (30). The margin of error for total respondents is +/-3.5 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All SSRS Omnibus data are weighted to represent the target population.