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Fewer deals, higher prices: Here are the travel trends for 2023

Pack those suitcases and pull out your passport for 2023.

In spite of inflation and the rising cost of travel, 6 in 10 (58%) American adults plan on taking a vacation within the next six months, according to MMGY Travel Intelligence’s new survey, which polled over 4,500 adults.

Nearly half (49%) of the 24,000 adult travelers in a recent Booking.com survey said they expect to be more extravagant in their spending habits, over half of travelers (53%) plan to balance that out by saving money on off-season destinations.

Travelers also are increasingly interested in going abroad, somewhere sunny, or places focused on self-care, but they likely will find higher prices and fewer deals in 2023.

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“Early indicators point to strong travel demand in 2023,” Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, a travel booking app, told Yahoo Money. “A whopping 80% of Hopper customers planning to travel will spend the same, or more, on travel next year.”

Here’s what to expect next year.

so many airplanes are in line on the runway waiting for take off
Strong travel demand is talking off for 2023. 6 in 10 (58%) American adults plan on taking a vacation within the next six months. (Photo Credit: Getty Creative) (All copyrights belong to Jingying Zhao via Getty Images)

International trips will take off, particularly to Asia

In fact, 25% of U.S. adults who expect to travel in the next six months aim to travel internationally, up from 19% this same time last year and the highest percentage seen in the past three years, according to the MMGY report.

One reason: foreign destinations are increasingly open after COVID shutdowns and restrictions.

“Tour operators report seeing a strong demand for travel in 2023 — a combination of pent-up demand and a renewed interest in travel,” Catherine Prather, president of the National Tour Association, told Yahoo Money. “Now that international travel is reopened and people are getting more comfortable with going overseas, there is a resurgence of long-haul travel.”

Today, 62% of searches made for flights in 2023 are for international destinations, compared with 55% of searches made at the same time last year, according to Hopper.

What’s most striking for 2023 is the surge in interest in travel to Asia.

“As most countries in Asia have almost fully reopened to tourism late this year, trans-Pacific destinations are increasingly on travelers' agendas,” according to Hopper data. Among the top 10 trending international destinations for Americans — Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok — with airfare averaging around $1,200 per round trip ticket.

KAYAK’s data backs this up:

"Travelers will be flocking to bucket-list destinations in Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand in 2023, likely because these destinations have (finally) re-opened to visitors,” the researchers found. Top destinations include Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Taipei City, Taiwan; Auckland, New Zealand; Singapore, and Melbourne, Australia.

Youth entertainment area on a shopping street in Shibuya, near Hachiko Square, Tokyo, Japan.
Shopping street in Shibuya, near Hachiko Square, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo Credit: Getty Creative) (Ken Straiton via Getty Images)

Fewer last-minute deals, more higher prices

In general, the upsurge in travel demand means that the days of booking a cheap flight or hotel room at the last minute may now be in the rearview mirror.

One reason for the changing tides: On domestic routes, airlines have rebuilt back to 96% of the capacity (seats available to book) which they were flying in 2019, according to Hopper. Airlines have been more conservative in rebuilding international networks where demand has been slower to recover, especially trans-Pacific where only 70% of capacity has been restored, according to Hopper’s data.

“With fewer seats available to book and strong demand, airfare will continue to be inflated until supply begins to outpace demand,” Hopper researchers predict.

Airfares for 2023 domestic trips have already lifted off and are currently averaging above 2022 prices. Both domestic and international flight prices are up in 2023 compared with 2022 (52% for domestic and 29% for international), KAYAK reported.

The smallest fare increases for next year from the U.S. are to the South Pacific, up 3%, and Europe destinations, up 10%. Airfares to Melbourne, Australia, and Bora Bora are down 10% compared with last year at this time, according to KAYAK data.

Airfare to Mexico and Central America has risen the most, up 40%.

For those travelers searching for hotel stays in other countries, higher prices are likely for winter and spring break getaways, according to Hopper. Prices for the top 5 most searched for international hotel destinations are all considerably higher than at this time last year, with increases ranging from 12% in Puerto Rico to 60% in Paris.

Hotel prices in the US for 2023 check-ins are currently averaging $220 per night, a 60% increase from this time last year.

small palm trees, secluded beach in miami, sunset
Miami Beach (Photo Credit: Getty Creative) (THEPALMER via Getty Images)

Following the sun

It could be the winter blues, but travelers are “prioritizing warm-weather destinations – top domestic destinations already booked for next year all offer warmer weather, and include Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, and Miami,” Berg said.

Cancun, Barcelona and Punta Cana top the rankings for most-booked international destinations, with airfare now averaging just over $600 to Barcelona and under $500 to the Caribbean, according to Hopper.

“Bookings for 2023 spring and summer travel already show a rush to sunny sought-after destinations,” Stan Sandberg, the co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, an online comparison site for travel insurance policies, told Yahoo Money. “Spring breakers are traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico in 2023. For all of 2023, though, international travel is rebounding, with nearly 8 in 10 (78%) of overall travel insurance purchases for international travel compared to 68% last year,” he said.

Top destinations include Mexico, Jamaica, Italy, Israel and The Bahamas.

Self-care takes center stage

A growing number of vacationers are seeking groovy, feel-good wellness getaways. Nearly half of travelers (44%) are hoping to book meditation and mindfulness getaways next year, and 42% are eager to go on a “health hiatus” to focus on mental or transformative health, or to help with watershed events such as pregnancy or menopause, according to the Booking.com survey.

Overall, wellness remains a priority for travelers as half of respondents said they will explore travel experiences in 2023 that are in synch with their wellness goals for mind, body and spirit, according to the Hilton 2023 Trends Report of 7,000 adult travelers.

That desire also popped up in Expedia’s dive into 2023 travel trends. Half of global travelers are looking for wellness breaks, chakra sessions, laughter therapy, puppy yoga, and food boot camps, according to the new report.

“After analyzing data across Expedia, Hotels.com, and Vrbo, we found that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to travel next year,” Melanie Fish, Expedia Brands travel expert, told Yahoo Money.

View of the town of Castelsardo with its colorful Mediterranean architecture and imposing  fortress, built by the Doria in the XII Century, situated on the Gulf of Asinara on the island of Sardinia, Italy, Europe.
View of the town of Castelsardo with its colorful Mediterranean architecture and imposing fortress, built by the Doria in the XII Century, situated on the Gulf of Asinara on the island of Sardinia, Italy, Europe.(Photo Credit: Getty Creative) (Mieneke Andeweg-van Rijn via Getty Images)

What you watch, where you go

Let’s call it the power of suggestion or travel porn.

“Travelers are branching out and driving unexpected trends in what we call the ‘no normal,’” Fish said. “This includes movies and TV shows becoming a leading source of travel inspiration, and art and culture festivals driving the return to major cities.”

Interestingly, two-thirds of global travelers have considered and 1 in 4 (39%) have booked trips to destinations after seeing them on streamed shows or movies, according to Expedia research.

“Perhaps it’s the ‘White Lotus’ effect (with some Stanley Tucci tailwinds), but demand for Italy remains rock solid, and we’re already seeing availability constraints for 2023 summer and autumn travel,” Mollie Fitzgerald, co-owner of Frontiers Travel, told Yahoo Money. “Clients are revisiting old favorites, but also branching out to lesser-known destinations like Puglia, Sardinia, and the Dolomites.”

Close up of a woman's hand squeezing lemon juice on to a fresh oyster, enjoying a scrumptious meal in a restaurant. Eating out lifestyle
“Destination representatives are seeing a heightened desire for off-the-beaten-path destinations — unique experiences focusing on local opportunities such as culinary excursions,” Catherine Prather, president of the National Tour Association, said.(Photo Credit: Getty Creative) (d3sign via Getty Images)

Stop and smell the roses is the new vacation edict

The peripatetic traveler has settled down somewhat for the new year.

“Operators say their guests want to spend more time in a single destination next year; more hub-and-spoke tours and less going from hotel to hotel,” Prather said. “Some operators are adding a deluxe tour option with more inclusions and fewer passengers, because travelers are willing to pay for it.”

Immersion in local culture is also top of the agenda.

“Destination representatives are seeing a heightened desire for off-the-beaten-path destinations — unique experiences focusing on local opportunities such as culinary excursions,” Prather added. “Similarly, tour operators are hearing more and more from their travelers about wanting experiences that are responsible to the communities and destinations they visit.”

Advice for finding the best travel deals

“While both demand and prices are up, there are still ways to save,” Jake Bouvrie, chief economist at KAYAK, told Yahoo Money. “If you’re planning a trip next year, consider flying on Thursday or Friday which is when our data generally shows the lowest flight prices.”

Take your vacation sooner rather than later, according to KAYAK sleuthing. Both domestic and international trips are expected to see price increases steadily ticking up through June, so you can save if you take trips earlier in the year, Bouvrie said.

Destinations around North America seeing the lowest fares for 2023 include New York, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, and Toronto, according to Hopper data.

Airfare and hotel prices are typically lower on weekdays, meaning these flexible travelers are also likely to take advantage of lower prices when traveling mid-week, or on off peak dates, according to Hopper’s Berg. Free price tracking tools, including Hopper’s price prediction, Scott’s Cheap Flights, KAYAK’s price alerts, and Google Flights, can help compare fares and get alerts when prices dip.

Book flights on Sunday, Expedia’s Fish said. “And lock your fare one month in advance for domestic travel and six months for international.”

Finally, this might be the year to consider adding flight insurance.

“Given the rising costs of travel, travel standard trip cancellation insurance, which costs anywhere 4% to 10% of a traveler’s total fare, is an important consideration,” Sandberg said. “The coverage will reimburse non-refundable, prepaid costs if an insured traveler has to cancel for a wide range of covered reasons, including getting sick unexpectedly.”

Afterall, no matter how badly you itch to go places, COVID isn’t likely to disappear in 2023. And don’t forget your mask.

Kerry is a Senior Reporter and Columnist at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon

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