Christmas Travel Survey 2023 – 50.44% (131 million American adults) to Travel for the Holidays; 59%+ Expect Airline Delays & Cancellations
The big holiday travel season has begun. TSA foot numbers are already at all-time highs. And millions of more Americans will head to the airport to fly to visit family and friends for Christmas this year (see the best days to fly around Christmas). In addition, millions of other Americans will travel by car or public transportation to reach their destination.
We created this 2023 Holiday Travel Survey to understand travel intentions this holiday season. How many people intend to travel? Will there be more travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas? Which holiday do travelers prefer? Are travelers confident airlines can prevent excessive delays and cancellations? Below, you can find the answers to these questions and analysis. At the bottom, you will also find a fun question we run yearly about the most disliked traditional Thanksgiving food.
- For Christmas, 50.44%, or nearly 131 million American adults plan to travel. Last year, 42.98% intended to travel for Christmas.
- More than 59% of American adults say they have little or no confidence in airlines being able to avoid excessive delays and cancellations during Christmas this year.
- Traveling for Christmas is preferred by 41% more American adults than Thanksgiving travel.
Table of Contents
Do you plan on traveling to a vacation destination or holiday gathering (by car, bus, train, airplane, etc.) during the holidays this year?
Let’s take a look at the survey results:
- Thanksgiving. — 16.78%
- Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa. — 22.01%
- Both. — 28.43%
- No. — 32.77%
Interesting Demographic Comparison — American adults in the Middle Atlantic region are the most likely to have intentions to travel for at least one of these holidays this year. 72.97% of people in the Middle Atlantic region said they will travel for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both. This region contains the states of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. On the other hand, American adults in the West North Central region are the least likely to have intentions to travel this holiday season. Only 59.09% of people in this region stated their intention to travel. The West North Central region has the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Key Takeaway — More than two out of every three American adults will travel to a vacation destination or holiday gathering this year. According to the latest census, the 67.23% represents over 174 million people traveling for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or both. The 67.23% is also nearly 6% more than the 61.52% of people who stated intentions to travel for one or more of these holidays in last year’s survey. I am not surprised by this increase in travel plans as we have seen it all year for every holiday. Individually, 45.21% or 117 million American adults plan to travel for Thanksgiving. And 50.44% or nearly 131 million American adults will travel for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa. Lastly, the 28.43% that say they intend to travel for both represents almost 74 million people.
The Vacationer Tip
If you are thinking about traveling for the holidays, review the following guides before planning your travel:
Let’s take a look at the survey results:
- Thanksgiving. — 27.84%
- Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa. — 39.39%
- I prefer not to travel for either. — 32.77%
Interesting Demographic Comparison — The youngest generation of American adults, between 18 and 29, are the most likely to prefer traveling for the holidays. Only 24.23% of American adults in this age group said they like not to travel for either. As Americans age, the number of people who say they don’t want to travel increases. 30.64% of American adults in the 30-44 age bracket prefer not to travel for either holiday. And 35.07% of American adults in the 45-60 age bracket said they choose not to travel at all during the holidays. Lastly, the oldest generation of Americans over age 60 are the least likely to want to travel for the holidays, with 41.29% saying they prefer not to.
Key Takeaway — Traveling for Christmas is preferred by 41% more American adults than Thanksgiving travel. The 39.39% of American adults that like to travel for a December holiday such as Christmas account for 102 million people. Additionally, 32.77% of American adults, or 85 million people, prefer not to travel for either holiday. The non-travelers are more than the 27.84% that prefer to travel for Thanksgiving. I can personally attest I am one of the people who do not want to travel for Thanksgiving.
Let’s take a look at the survey results:
- Not Confident at All. — 33.66%
- A Little Confident. — 25.57%
- Somewhat Confident. — 25.17%
- Confident. — 8.69%
- Extremely Confident. — 6.91%
Interesting Demographic Comparison — Men are more likely than women to feel confident in airline schedules this holiday season. 18.15% of men in our survey stated they are either “confident” or “extremely confident” that airlines will avoid excessive delays and cancellations. However, only 13.41% of women had the same confidence.
Key Takeaway — More than 59% of American adults say they have little or no confidence in airlines being able to avoid excessive delays and cancellations this holiday season. The 59.23% that said this equates to 154 million people. After all the travel issues and meltdowns over the last year, it is understandable that people are not confident this holiday season. On the other hand, nearly 7% of people said they are “extremely confident” airlines can avoid delays and cancellations.
Which of these traditional Thanksgiving foods do you dislike?
Here is the complete ranked list of most disliked traditional Thanksgiving foods:
1. Cranberry Sauce — 31.49%
2. Sweet Potatoes or Yams — 29.22%
3. Green Bean Casserole — 28.04%
4. Turkey — 27.74%
5. Stuffing/Dressing. — 26.75%
6. Ham — 25.57%
7. Coleslaw — 25.57%
8. Pumpkin Pie. — 24.28%
9. Mashed Potatoes. — 18.66%
10. Macaroni and Cheese. — 17.47%
11. Carrots. — 16.98%
12. Apple Pie. — 16.29%
13. Corn. — 15.50%
None of these. I like them all. — 13.82%
*Note: Survey respondents could choose as many items as they wanted.
Interesting Demographic Comparison — The youngest generation of American adults, 18-29, are far pickier with what they like for Thanksgiving than the oldest generation of people over age 60. Every single item listed American adults aged 18-29 disliked more than those over age 60. There were some drastic differences, too. For example, 34.54% of people aged 18-29 dislike ham for Thanksgiving, while only 11.61% of American adults over age 60 do. Only 6.70% of those aged 18-29 said they liked every food item listed, while 25.16% of people over 60 did.
Key Takeaway — For the third year in a row, cranberry sauce takes first place as the most disliked traditional Thanksgiving food. Over 31% of respondents, 82 million American adults, do not want cranberry sauce for their Thanksgiving dinner. Surprisingly, sweet potatoes came in as the second most disliked traditional Thanksgiving food, with more than 29% of people not liking it. I didn’t expect this one as I would happily eat sweet potatoes over more than half of the items listed. Green bean casserole is the third most disliked Thanksgiving food at more than 28%. Rounding out the top four is turkey, with nearly 28% saying they don’t like it. The main staple for Thanksgiving may be turkey, but that doesn’t mean everyone will eat it.
SurveyMonkey conducted this 2023 Holiday Travel Survey on behalf of The Vacationer. In total, 1,013 Americans over 18 were polled on October 16. Of those surveyed, 46.88% were male and 53.12% were female. The age breakdown of participants included in this survey was 19.19% in the range 18-29, 29.38% in the range 30-44, 36.10% in the range 45-60, and 15.33% over 60. This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of ±3.142%. You can learn more about SurveyMonkey’s sampling method by clicking here.
The questions were chosen and the results were analyzed by the post author, Eric Jones, a Mathematics and Statistics Professor at Rowan College South Jersey.
Get The Vacationer Newsletter
Get highlights of the most important news delivered to your email inbox