Southern Californians Mark Unofficial End of Summer with Trips Over Labor Day Weekend

Southern Californians will mark the unofficial end of summer by taking long weekend trips over the Labor Day holiday in increased numbers compared to last year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. AAA booking data for flights, hotels, rental cars, and cruises shows domestic bookings are up 4% and international bookings are up 44% compared to the 2022 Labor Day holiday.

While AAA does not issue a formal travel forecast for the Labor Day holiday, Southern California travel bookings indicate that vacation interest continues at the high levels of the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays, which matched or exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Locally, the top five destinations for Southern California residents are:

  1. Las Vegas
  2. San Diego
  3. Central Coast (Santa Barbara to Monterey)
  4. Grand Canyon
  5. Mexico (cruises and resorts)

AAA booking data nationwide shows Vancouver, Rome, London, Dublin, and Paris are the top 5 international destinations over Labor Day weekend. International hotel bookings for the holiday are up 82% compared to 2022 and international cruise bookings are up 44% over last year. Canada is popular this time of year because of its cooler temperatures and stunning scenery. Europe has seen a surge in travel all year, with more people eager to see the world again without restrictions.

The top five domestic destinations are Seattle, Orlando, Anchorage, New York, and Las Vegas. Seattle tourism has been boosted by the strong demand for Alaska cruises. Florida destinations are popular not only for their beaches and theme parks but also for their cruise ports in Central Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Miami. AAA data shows domestic cruise bookings over Labor Day weekend are up 19% compared to 2022.

Drivers taking road trips this Labor Day weekend will likely see gas prices similar to last year. California’s current average gas price of $5.26 is a bit lower than the $5.32 average price of a year ago today. This summer, gas prices spiked in July because of tight supply and the high cost of oil.

Tips To Prepare For A Labor Day Road Trip

The Auto Club strongly recommends that travelers get their vehicle checked before their unofficial end of summer holiday road trip to avoid a breakdown. This Labor Day weekend, the Auto Club expects to respond to nearly 50,000 calls for help from Southern California motorists. The most common roadside assistance calls involve flat tires, batteries and vehicle lockouts.

Best and Worst Times to Travel by Car

INRIX, a global provider of transportation data and insights, expects Thursday, August 31 between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to be the busiest time on the roads during the long Labor Day weekend. Friday, September 1 is also expected to have higher than normal traffic volumes between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

INRIX projects the biggest delay for those traveling through Los Angeles for the holiday weekend will be the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 30 on Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, where travel times are expected to be 88% higher than normal at nearly three hours between the two cities. Another congested route is expected to be Palm Springs to San Diego on the afternoon of Labor Day, with the trip expected to take 29% longer at two hours and 44 minutes.

“The best times to travel by car over Labor Day weekend are early in the morning or in the evening,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “If you must travel during heavy traffic, navigation apps and local departments of transportation can help steer drivers around long delays.”

More Travelers Interested in Travel Insurance, Extended Vacations

A new survey of AAA travel advisors reveals topics and trends on the minds of travelers this summer:

  • 59% of AAA travel advisors have seen more interest in travel insurance over the last 60 days.
  • 83% of AAA travel advisors say the most common concern from travelers over the last 60 days was getting stranded by a delayed or canceled flight.
  • 64% of AAA travel advisors say travelers who booked extended vacations (at least 14 nights) said having more time to explore destinations was their main reason for taking an extended trip.

AAA travel advisors are seeing high interest among travelers for ocean and river cruises, plus all-inclusive and guided tour vacations.

“Post-pandemic, more travelers are recognizing the benefit of protecting their investment in case of trip interruption, whether it’s illness or a canceled flight,” said Auto Club spokesperson Doug Shupe. “We’re also seeing demand for longer stays, especially now when many people have the option to work remotely from their destination.”

Survey Methodology

AAA sent surveys to a random sample of AAA travel advisors between July 12 and July 26, 2023. 165 AAA travel advisors responded.


Image Sources

  • Bye Bye Summer: Shutterstock