International travel is up more than 200%, according to AAA booking data. Europe and Canada are the most popular international destinations, with hot spots like London seeing an increase of almost 350% over last year. Hotel bookings are up more than 300%. The spike in demand is also driving up airfares, with ticket prices for international trips up more than 30%.
“Travelers are making up for lost time and willing to spend more to see the world,” said Cyndi Zesk, Vice President of Travel at AAA Northeast. “If you do your homework and rely on travel experts, like AAA travel advisors, there are deals to be had. But the key is giving yourself plenty of time to plan ahead.”
Learn more about the best time to book flights, cruises and mores.
Here are some of our top tips for preparing for your next international adventure.
Prioritize Your Passport
You can’t travel internationally without a passport. If you don’t have one, apply ASAP!
The U.S. Department of State issues passports, and routine service normally takes 8 to 11 weeks. But pandemic-related application backlogs coupled with a surge in travel demand are leading to longer wait times, anywhere from 10 to 13 weeks. Even some expedited services are seeing delays of about 7 to 9 weeks.
If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Some countries require passports be valid for six months beyond your departure date from the United States. Your destination might also require a travel visa. To give you peace of mind, work with a travel advisor who can ensure you’re not missing any steps. AAA members get exclusive rates on expediting services for U.S. passports and global travel visas with RushMyPassport.
Don’t Know Where to Visit? Start Here
Choosing an international destination can seem daunting. One way to get inspired is by browsing trending destinations or curated trips on Trip Canvas, AAA’s free online travel tool for dreaming, planning and booking trips. Or turn to AAA travel advisors in person, online or by phone to brainstorm ideas and create itineraries.
Follow the Leader
First-time travelers – or people who haven’t been abroad in years – greatly benefit from guided tours, where an expert is the one leading the way. Guided tours are a great way to explore the world without the stress of planning daily itineraries. According to AAA Member Choice Vacations, the most popular tours for new travelers are London, Paris, Italy and Ireland.
Been There, Done That? Try This
For travelers who’ve already checked Europe off their list and are craving something different, trips focused on adventure and local culture are rising in popularity. Club Adventures by AAA, which focuses on small group tours, says Antarctica, Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru, Morocco and Vietnam are destinations in high demand. They say more travelers are seeking authenticity and connection on their international trips.
“Today’s travelers are reshaping what it means to connect with a destination. They are seeking authenticity and understanding, they long to see the world through a local lens,” said Allison Villasenor, Club Adventures Managing Director.
Unpack Once, See the World
Travelers wanting to experience multiple destinations without staying at multiple hotels are booking cruises. This year, cruising is in high demand. AAA booking data shows cruises departing from international destinations are up 30% compared to 2022. Cruises sailing in Northern Europe, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean are among the most popular. European river cruises and ships sailing in the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia are also high on the list.
Book your next cruise with AAA.
Renting a Car? You’ll Need This
Many countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally. An IDP is a valid form of identification that includes your name, photo and driver information. Even if a country doesn’t require an IDP, your rental car company might.
An IDP must be issued in the same country as the driver’s license of the traveler and may not be issued more than six months before the desired effective date. AAA is one of only two private entities in the U.S. authorized by the U.S. Department of State to issue an IDP.
Protect Your Investment
Travel insurance is always a good idea, but even more so if you’re traveling internationally. Protecting your trip is highly recommended in case of trip delay, expenses incurred from missed flights, lost luggage, or medical expenses due to illness or injury.
The best way to determine what type of coverage you need is by reaching out to a trusted travel advisor. They’ll help you choose the right plan for you.
Ways to Save
One of the best ways to save money on international travel is to be flexible with your dates. Traveling during the off-season can mean better deals and fewer crowds. For example, going to Europe in October or February can save you money on airfare and lodging. Another way to spend less is flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Mid-week flights tend to be cheaper, as many airlines add weekend surcharges.
When booking a hotel, try to avoid properties in the city center, which tend to be pricier. Find out how much the hotel charges in resort fees, parking and internet – all of that adds up!
Enroll in STEP
Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app for detailed information regarding countries around the world and up-to-date travel advisories. While you’re on the app or on the State Department website, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to notify the State Department of your trip, so they can alert you of any unrest or advisories at your destination.
Take it from the Pros
Connect with a AAA Travel advisor. They are well-traveled and will make sure you maximize your international travel experiences. Here are some tips for international travel from our pros:
- “Notify your credit card company of your trip and check foreign transaction fees. Use ATMs instead of exchange houses and always choose local currency if given the choice with credit card transactions.”
- “Take a photo or make a copy of your passport and keep that with you. Secure your physical passport in the hotel safe while you’re sightseeing.”
- “Compression socks for the flight!”
- “Put a large paper with your name, address and contact information inside the front pocket of your checked suitcase in case your luggage tag is removed or falls off. This will give you a better chance of having your bag returned to you.”
- “Divide your cash into separate purses or pockets. In the unlikely event you are robbed, all your money won’t be taken.”
- “To help with jet lag: Avoid caffeine and alcohol on the flight. If it’s daylight when you arrive, stay outside as much as possible to get natural light exposure. Avoid naps and try to stay awake until a normal sleeping hour at your destination.”
Have a question for our travel advisors? Ask away!
Where are you headed on your next adventure? Let us know in the comments below.