American Travel Trends: Top Vacation Spots & More

Data Reveals 20+ Years of Trends in American Travel

Travel: it’s a favorite hobby of many Americans. Whether it’s a family trip to the closest beach or a flight halfway across the world, there’s always something about exploring other places that excites us. Oftentimes, parents pass down their passion for adventure to their children. That’s what keeps the trend going. But, while their interests may be passed along, some things do change such as where the hotspots for travel are.

At, we love seeing the changes in travel trends and keeping up with our customer’s latest adventures. That’s why we decided to look into the facts and figures behind the American travel trends over the last two decades and see what has changed. Using government data, we’ve uncovered outbound flight patterns from 1996 through 2017. Check out some of the most interesting findings below:

most popular travel destinations

American travel trends chart

Overall, the top vacation spots were Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The destination where the most outbound flights headed was Europe with a whopping 219,991,219 flights. Africa, on the other hand, wasn’t getting much air traffic from the US with 5,277,964 outbound flights. Flights to Mexico rose in popularity from 2009 to 2016 while flights to Asia and the Middle East took a dip from 2008 to 2011.

most popular years to visit

2016 seemed to be a popular year for traveling, but certain destinations had their highest traffic in other years. 2009 was the hottest year to visit South America, even with the flu pandemic that year. Meanwhile, it’s been 17 years since Oceania has seen their biggest travel year.

world map with increases in flights

The biggest spike in air traffic occurred in 2010 when Africa saw a 55.8% spike. This is likely due to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Other notable traffic spikes were in 2008 when the Middle East saw a 45.2% increase in flights coming from the US and in 2004 when Asia saw 25% more American flights than the year before.

world map with decrease in flights

Many destinations also saw significant drops in outbound flights in the span of one year. For instance, flights to the Middle East dropped 25% in 2001. One year later, Africa saw a 23% decrease in flights coming from America.

least popular months to fly

If you’re looking to avoid the tourist crowds, you might want to visit your destination of choice during the least popular months for outbound flights. January,  February, and September are all low-travel times.

most popular months to fly

But the more popular months for outbound flights often mean better deals on airfare. June and July are most popular for all destinations except Oceania and South America who had the most flights during February and December.

average American traveler

American travelers not only tend to visit the same places (Europe over anywhere else), but they also have some similarities in their other traits. The average American traveler visits 1.3 countries while on vacation, staying 17 nights. While millennials are certainly loving the traveler’s lifestyle, the average age of a female traveler is 43 and a male traveler is 45.  

We’re excited to see what happens to US travel over the next twenty years. We’re sure that more and more Americans will start checking off their dream destinations. Do all of these stats give you wanderlust? Maybe it’s time for you to book your next trip! Want to join the thousands of others who take a trip to the Caribbean in July? Start here.