Where Americans Are Traveling in 2024: By the Numbers

Americans are going abroad more than ever, with Japan and Central America seeing the biggest increases.
Sam Kemmis
By Sam Kemmis 
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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Americans are traveling abroad in droves.

The number of U.S. citizens flying to international destinations reached nearly 6.5 million passengers in March, according to the International Trade Administration. That’s the highest March total in over five years and shows that the post-pandemic “revenge travel” trend is the new normal.

It wasn’t just March, which usually sees a spike in international departures for spring break. In every month of 2024 so far, more Americans left the country than last year and 2019. These trends point to a blockbuster summer for overseas travel.

Nearly half of Americans (45%) plan to travel by air and/or stay in a hotel this summer and expect to spend $3,594 on average, on these expenses, according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted online by The Harris Poll and commissioned by NerdWallet.

That's despite rising travel prices that have caused some hesitancy among would-be travelers. About 22% of those choosing not to travel this summer cite inflation making travel too expensive as a reason for staying home, according to the poll.

So where are traveling Americans going? And what does it mean for those looking to avoid crowds of tourists and higher travel prices?

New travel patterns

Nearly every region in the world saw an increase in U.S. visitors in March 2024 compared with March 2023, according to International Trade Administration data. Only the Middle East saw a decline of 9%. Yet not every region saw the same year-over-year bump. U.S. visitors to Asia saw a 33% jump, while Oceania and Central America each saw a 30% increase.

Comparing 2024 with 2023 only tells part of the story, however. The new patterns really emerge when comparing international travel trends to 2019. For example, Central America received 50% more U.S. visitors in March 2024 compared with March 2019. Nearly 1.5 million Americans visited Mexico, up 39% compared with before the pandemic. That’s almost as many visitors as the entire continent of Europe, which has seen a more modest 10% increase since 2019.

Only Canada and Oceania saw fewer visitors in March 2024 than in 2019, suggesting that interest in these locations has not rebounded. Indeed, the trends indicate a kind of tourism inertia from COVID-19 pandemic-era lockdowns: Those destinations that were more open to U.S. visitors during the pandemic, such as Mexico, have remained popular, while those that were closed, such as Australia, have fallen off travelers’ radars.

Price pressures

How these trends play out throughout the rest of the year will depend on a host of factors. Yet, none will likely prove more important than affordability. After months of steadiness, the cost of travel, including airfare, hotels and rental cars, has begun to sneak up again.

About 45% of U.S. travelers say cost is their main consideration when planning their summer vacation, according to a survey of 2,000 Americans by the travel booking platform Skyscanner.

That’s likely to weigh further on U.S. travelers’ appetite for visiting expensive destinations such as Europe, while encouraging travel to budget-friendly countries. It could also depress overall international travel as well, yet so far, Americans seem to be traveling more.

For those looking to avoid crowds while maintaining a budget, Skyscanner travel trends expert Laura Lindsay offered a recommendation many of us might need help finding on a map.

“Albania has been on the radar of travelers looking for something different,” Lindsay said. "Most people have yet to discover it, but flights and tourism infrastructure are in place, and there are fewer crowds in comparison to trending European destinations like Italy, Greece, or Portugal.”

On the flip side, American travelers looking to avoid crowds of compatriots would do well to avoid Japan, which has seen a staggering 50% increase in U.S. tourists between March 2019 and 2024.

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