Lifestyle

Labor Day weekend 2023: Best, worst times to travel


Although summer is winding down, many travelers are still taking advantage of their last holiday weekend before the school year gets into full swing. 

In fact, according to data from automobile club AAA, booking data for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises over the three-day weekend is up over last year – especially for international trips.

Labor Day travel demand:

Bookings for flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises are up 4% for domestic trips and up 44% for international getaways, according to AAA. 

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International hotel bookings are up 82% compared with the same period a year ago. Additionally, international cruise bookings are up 44%, the auto club reported. 

Labor Day Holiday

Automobile traffic moves along Interstate 395 on Friday morning Sept. 1, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images / Getty Images)

For air travel, in particular, travel app Hopper projected that 20 million seats will depart from U.S. airports from Thursday to Tuesday of Labor Day Weekend, which is a 14% increase compared with this time last year. 

Meanwhile, international capacity will rise by 10%, according to Hopper data. 

Friday will mark the busiest day for airports in the U.S. with an estimated 3.7 million people expected to depart. However, Monday is the busiest day to return, with 3.6 million people expected to depart. 

The best and worst travel times:  

With so many travelers, INRIX transportation analyst Bob Pishue said the best time to travel is early in the morning and late in the evening. 

The worst time to travel on Saturday will be between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time. The best time to head out on the road will be after 6 p.m., according to AAA. 

On Sunday, “minimal traffic” is expected, so travelers should be good to travel at any time of day. The worst time to travel on Monday is between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The best time to travel is anytime after 7 p.m. 

Expected costs:

According to Hopper data, tickets for a domestic flight are averaging $226 round-trip, down 11% from last year and 20% lower compared with Labor Day weekend in 2019.  

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LAX

A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 prepares for takeoff at Los Angeles International Airport at the start of the Labor Day holiday on Aug. 31, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.  (AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images / Getty Images)

Flights to Mexico and the Caribbean are averaging between $350 and $430 per ticket, down as much as 10% compared to a year ago. 

Meanwhile, airfare to Europe is averaging $1,132 per ticket. Even though that’s down nearly 10% from 2022, it is still elevated compared with 2019, according to the data. 

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Although flight prices eased compared with 2022, hotel stays are up from last year. 

Prices are averaging $215 per night, an uptick of 2.8% from a year ago.

Prices for rental cars on the other hand have slipped 14.5% from last year and are averaging $41 per day.

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