Kurt Weinsheimer
Kurt Weinsheimer

Now that North Americans have "fallen back" out of daylight saving time, they're beginning to look forward to their Thanksgiving and other holiday trips. In our third quarterly report this year, we analyzed some Q3 travel events and took a closer look at North Americans' travel intent leading up to and during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's.

Tracking activity can provide insights into next year's marketing launch dates and last-minute marketing to capture the procrastinating traveler.

Thanksgiving 2015 to be busiest yet

Fifth night free, anyone?

As you might expect, travelers are trying to make the most of their Thanksgiving break by leaving earlier in the week. Of those who had already booked tickets as of the drafting of our Q3 report in early October, travelers were two-and-a -half times more likely to travel on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and three times more likely to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving than on the holiday itself. These were the three most popular days for Thanksgiving travel this year. If early bookers are any indication, fewer travelers may be headed on their trips alone this year: 63% are traveling solo compared with 71% last year, but last-minute bookers (who tend to travel solo more anyway) may yet skew the numbers.

The top five most-searched destinations for Thanksgiving remain relatively stable year-over-year, with the exception of San Francisco, which dropped off the list from last year and was replaced by Miami. New York, Chicago, Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles, in that order, were the top-searched destinations for Thanksgiving travel in the U.S. this year.

This season favoring longer trips

This holiday season, defined as the period starting on Dec. 15 and ending on New Year's Day, North American travelers are looking to take slightly longer trips than last year: 38% are searching for trips of eight days or more compared with 34% last year. Trips of 12 days or more and six- to seven-day trips were popular, as well. Globally, the most popular departure date was Dec. 19, but in the U.S., it took the second spot, after Dec. 23.

Party sizes are also following an upward trend; last-minute bookers may skew these numbers again in favor of the solo traveler. But for now, only 52% of early bookers are planning to travel alone this holiday season compared with 74% of all bookers last year. Bookings of two capped out at 29%, the second most common party size.

New York still rules the holidays

The top five destinations remain similar to that of most U.S. holidays, but looking at a broader top 10 list, warm vacation destinations like Cancun and San Juan also make an appearance. But New York continues to be the top destination for North American travel during the holidays, followed by Miami, London, Los Angeles and Chicago. Overall, travel trends for Thanksgiving and the remainder of the 2015 holiday season are promising. Of all the months in Q3, September was the most popular month for booking trips, with 37% of the quarter's booking taking place that month. We'll see how last-minute bookings in Q4 stack up soon enough.

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