Americans Took Record-Setting Vacations In Summer Of ‘Revenge Travel’

Travelers make their way through Orlando International Airport during the busy Labor Day holiday weekend in Orlando. According to the American Automobile Association, Orlando is a top five Labor Day travel destination. Orlando International Airport is expecting more than 900,000 passengers, a 14 percent increase over 2022.

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Three and a half years after the pandemic struck, U.S. consumers were still in “revenge” mode this summer, taking long-delayed vacations and pushing travel statistics to record highs.

Key Takeaways

  • Almost one-third of U.S. households went on a vacation this summer, a record in a Federal Reserve survey going back to 2015.
  • Travel checkpoint data from the Transportation Security Administration also showed record numbers of passengers passing through checkpoints.
  • The surge is fueled by "revenge travel" as people take trips they'd delayed at the height of the pandemic.

Almost a third, or 32.8%, of all U.S. households took a vacation between May and August, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released Monday. That was up from 28.5% in August 2022 and a record high in data going back to 2015.

Data from the Transportation Security Administration also showed a travel surge: 273 million people passed through TSA checkpoints between May 31 and Sept. 17, an 11% increase from the same period in 2022 and a record in data going back to 2019.

Experts have long predicted the summer of 2023 would be a busy one for travel, as people took trips they had put off the previous three years when the COVID-19 pandemic made travel a riskier proposition. A survey of would-be travelers by Deloitte this spring found that out of those planning a trip, 19% were making up for a journey they’d put off during the height of the pandemic.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book published earlier this month, which surveys business leaders around the country on economic trends, noted the phenomenon and indicated the season of revenge likely won’t be repeated.

“Consumer spending on tourism was stronger than expected, surging during what most contacts considered the last stage of pent-up demand for leisure travel from the pandemic era,” Fed researchers wrote.?

People managed to travel despite higher gas prices pushing up air and ground travel. While higher gas prices have dampened consumer spending lately, prices still haven’t risen to the levels they hit in 2022 after Russia invaded Ukraine, disrupting global oil supplies. A gallon of regular gas averaged $3.83 this August, down from $3.97 in August 2022 according to nationwide data from AAA. 

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  1. Federal Reserve Bank of New York. "SCE Household Spending Survey."

  2. Transportation Security Administration. "TSA checkpoint travel numbers (current year versus prior year(s)/same weekday)."

  3. Deloitte Insights. "The experience economy endures."

  4. Federal Reserve. "The Beige Book."

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