Kurt Weinsheimer
Kurt Weinsheimer

For much of the U.S., Labor Day signals the end of the summer travel season. It's time to pack up your barbecues and beach towels and get ready for the winter holidays. Before we let the summer disappear in our rear-view mirror, Sojern wanted to recap summer travel trends. So we looked at three major summer holidays -- Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- to understand how U.S. consumers travel throughout the summer and for each holiday.

Memorial Day, a quick getaway

Memorial Day is, for many, the beginning of summer. And as it's always the last Monday of May, it gives U.S. travelers a consistent three-day weekend for travel. This year, we saw a quarter of travelers plan more than a month in advance.

Given that Memorial Day is the start of summer, it makes sense to see people dreaming of their first getaway well in advance. If you're looking to market to Memorial Day travelers, you can start inspiring their travel early on and capture that summer wanderlust as winter begins to thaw. One-third of travelers take trips of two to three days over the Memorial Day weekend.

For that same weekend, trips for eight or more days make up only 17% of all the trips booked.

So, while Memorial Day begins summer travel, it's not necessarily a time during which consumers take long vacations. Focusing promotions on two- to three-night experiences makes much more sense vs. later in summer.

July 4 vacations are a time for family

July 4 fell on a Monday this year, giving most Americans a long weekend holiday from work. As we noted, Independence Day is also the summer holiday that engenders the largest share of long vacations. In fact, the Fourth appears to be the holiday in which U.S. travelers enjoy the longest trips, with the highest percentage of long vacations (23% took eight days or more).

Such insights are helpful when planning your upselling campaigns. Offers for extended stays will likely perform better later in the summer.

The Fourth is also the most popular holiday for family travel, comprising 10% of travel searches for parties of three or more.

With the long weekend, and all students out of school, the Fourth of July is the most popular time of summer for long family trips. Plan your marketing campaigns accordingly; ads and promos for family getaways are certain to perform better over this holiday, especially compared with the other summer holidays.

Labor Day bookings more last-minute

Our Labor Day data, gleaned from June 4 to Aug. 18, offers a clear picture of early planners for the holiday.

Last-minute travelers might shift travel trends as they plan trips; however, our data shows us that bookings were happening later for that three-day weekend than for the other summer holidays.

Labor Day is also unique in that it has the largest share of couples traveling of the three holidays. However, Labor Day durations are identical to Memorial Day, suggesting that the holidays that bookend the summer are ideal for weekend travel but not for lengthy summer getaways.

Looking at just three holidays clearly reveals that treating all summer travel the same isn't a sound strategy. Each holiday has its own nuances, and it's important to understand and craft marketing materials and strategies tailored to each audience and holiday.

In our next column we will do it all again, this time looking forward to the winter holidays and how holiday travel is already taking shape.


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