Older Travelers Undeterred by High Costs, Travel Challenges

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Americans love to vacation — and most older adults are set to pack their bags for an adventure in 2024.

An AARP survey shows nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans ages 50-plus plan on traveling in 2024. Most of these travelers will stay within the U.S. (63%), while 37% say they will take at least one international trip.

On average, older adults will spend $6,659 on vacations this year, which is on par with budgets last year. About half indicate they will spend more on travel in 2024 than in 2023.

Growth trend

The overall travel trend reflects a continuing rebound in activity, despite some lingering concerns about finances and airline challenges. Last year was the first since the pandemic in which intended travel matched the actual number of trips taken.

Also reflecting a changing environment is what’s driving decisions among those who plan to opt out of travel. Only 7% named COVID as the obstacle, compared to 20% who expressed concern about the virus in 2023. Leading reasons cited among those not expecting to travel include the high cost (51%) and decreased discretionary funds due to inflation (34%). As health-related fears diminish, nontravelers are reconsidering their plans beyond this year, with 45% saying they intend to resume domestic travel in 2025. Most of those who plan to resume travel domestically for leisure next year will fly to their destination (70%).

Disability doesn’t deter

In the survey, AARP asked about travel patterns for adults with disabilities or whose travel companions have disabilities. They account for about 14% of older travelers and most often need accommodation for mobility impairments (78%).

The research discovered that these travelers plan to travel about as much (3.5 trips in 2024) as their counterparts (3.6 trips). Destinations were also similar, with 66% traveling only domestically, about 29% taking both international and domestic trips, and 5% vacationing only internationally. Travelers needing accommodations for disabilities expected to spend $5,170 in 2024, while their counterparts anticipated $6,909 in expenditures.

Destinations and motivations

Travelers are looking for adventure both near and far. The idea of a “travel bucket list” is common, with 75% of travelers in their 50s having one. That compares to 69% of adults 60–69 and 60% of Americans ages 70-plus. Barriers to taking on those bucket lists: health issues, according to 21%, followed by inflation/travel costs (15%) and global unrest (13%).

Americans appear to be increasingly willing to visit unique or off-the-beaten-path destinations than in years past. About one-third (29%) of those ages 50–59, 23% in their 60s, and 18% of adults 70-plus are willing to do so.

When older adults travel, they are most often taking family trips, summer vacations, or weekend getaways. More than half (55%) of the domestic trips for 2024 have been booked or are currently being planned. Among those in the process of planning, 84% have decided on their destination.

Where are travelers headed this year? Top domestic trips will be to Florida (16%), California (10%), and Las Vegas (5%). Arizona, New York, Chicago, and Michigan were also popular. Texas, meanwhile, dropped off the list as a favorite vacation destination for the 50-plus crowd.

Americans are game to travel abroad, too. The survey indicates people are further along in the planning process for international travel than in the past. Older Americans are twice as likely to have plans in place for an international adventure as they are for a domestic trip. Among those international travelers still making plans, 83% have already chosen their international destination.

Europe is the most sought-after destination (41%), with Italy, Spain, Great Britain, and France topping the list. Next, travelers are eyeing Latin America and the Caribbean (36%) — namely Mexico, the Bahamas, and Aruba.

Consistent with previous years, most travelers are flying internationally and driving domestically. Those planning to take to the skies indicated various concerns in advance of their trips: 57% about the high cost of airline travel, 37% regarding airline cancellations, and 22% over reductions in airline routes and flights no longer being available.

Among those Americans with no travel plans in 2024, many instead intend to repurpose their travel money to pay down debt (25%). Meanwhile, 37% plan to save those unused dollars for future travel.

Methodology

For this report, information was gathered from online surveys of U.S. adults ages 18-plus conducted in November 2023. The 1,897 travelers surveyed had taken at least one trip in the past two years, stayed at least two nights, used an online travel site, and intended to travel for personal pleasure in 2024. A separate survey was conducted of 352 adults who had no plans for personal travel in 2024.

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

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