Travel Trends Heading Into Labor Day Weekend

With the Labor Day holiday marking the unofficial end of summer, and a year-and-a-half of dealing with the stresses and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, plenty of people are intending to get away from it all over the long weekend.

“As summer comes to a close, travel volumes around Labor Day are expected to remain high,” AAA spokesperson Julie Hall told Condé Nast Traveler.


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But, the still-spreading Delta variant has cast a pall over many Americans’ plans for this summer’s final hoorah. Would-be travelers continue to weigh the perceived risk of infection against their desire to get out of town. So, there’s still some disparity among the various forecasts that aim to predict traveler volumes for the weekend of September 4.

Part of the reason Labor Day vacationer volumes are still hard to predict at this point is that people are keeping their plans flexible, largely due to the unpredictability inherent in trying to travel amid a pandemic. But, analysts are seeing some definite trends emerging for travel over the long weekend.

Last-Minute Bookings

A recent TripAdvisor survey found that 31 percent of Americans have plans to travel over the holiday weekend (a figure comparable to 32 percent seen in 2020 and 35 percent in 2019), but that 22 percent still remain undecided.

Other data also suggests a broader Labor Day travel trend of booking at the last minute. TripAdvisor reported that 70 percent of the trips booked through its platform during the first week of August were for travel taking place within the following three weeks. Online booking engine Orbitz echoed the observation that customers are waiting until the eleventh hour to book their trips and said it expects many people to solidify their Labor Day plans either this week or next.

“The last-minute booking trend really emerged last year as a response to COVID-19 and travelers taking their time to make decisions on where and when to go, if at all,” says Mel Dohmen, Orbitz’s senior brand manager. “Refundable and flexible booking options have helped travelers return to normal a bit.”

Woman enjoying a solo vacation in the Caribbean
Woman enjoying a vacation in the Caribbean. (photo via NicoElNino/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Solo Trips

It seems that Americans not only want to get away from it all but also are also happy to have some time away from each other. Orbitz reported seeing a serious uptick in solo travel for the Labor Day weekend this year, with single bookings for round-trip flights up at least 200 percent over last year. Some iconic urban destinations saw even bigger increases, like Boston (up 280 percent) and Seattle (up 260 percent).

“In our rush to make up for the lost year of travel, vacationers are increasingly willing to go it alone,” Dohmen said. “Travelers aren’t waiting anymore to see some of their favorite places, and in some cases may even see it as both safer and easier to go it alone.”

Domestic Destinations

According to TripAdvisor data, most Americans are still planning to stay stateside for their Labor Day getaways, as most also did in 2020, with 86 percent traveling domestically. But, this continued trend from 2020 has changed a bit, with sixty-three percent of survey respondents telling that their trips will take them farther from home this Labor Day.

The trend toward selecting outdoorsy destinations also continues this year, with Orbitz noting an increase in hotel bookings in areas like the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon coast, coastal communities in the nation’s northeast and national parks and monuments. Several major metropolises also top the list of this summer’s most popular destinations, with spots like Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago, New York City, Seattle, Orlando and Los Angeles repeatedly snagging top spots in the rankings. While opting for a densely populated urban destination may seem odd, given directives for social distancing, Dohmen said it may be because travelers feel confident that such big cities have implemented extensive health and safety measures.

People enjoying road trip in their convertible
People enjoying a road trip in their convertible. (Photo via g-stockstudio / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Longer Road Trips

Expedia has noticed the average Labor Day stay has been stretched to three nights, as opposed to an average of two nights in 2019, and both TripIt and TripAdvisor predict that the Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the holiday weekend will become more popular travel days this year.

Another trend that’s carried over from 2020 is traveling by car.’s nationwide survey found that over 20 percent of Labor Day vacationers had canceled their previously booked flights (likely in light of the Delta variant complication) and will be driving instead, with 90 percent of them doing so in private vehicles.

“With a resurgence of COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant, it’s important to remain informed and be flexible as policies and guidelines continue to evolve,” Hall said. “For the most part, people who were planning to travel are still taking their trips, while being mindful to take precautions to protect themselves and others.”

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