Following significant end-of-summer seasonal decreases in travel in September, flight bookings in October remained relatively stable. Both domestic and international travel destinations that saw the most bookings in October were comparable to those in September, with warmer climate destinations continuing to see an uptick in flight bookings.

In this fourth installment of our analysis of emerging travel hotspots, we analyzed flights booked by U.S. consumers on Expedia, Orbitz and United Airlines in October to detect the top ten domestic and international destinations by MoM changes in booking activity. We then compared October’s findings to the average booking activity in the last six months to shed light on long-term travel trends. Read on for our full travel findings.

Top 10 domestic travel destinations in October

While domestic bookings dropped 16 percent between August and September, domestic flights saw a mere 1 percent decrease in booking activity during October. Another look at the data revealed a continued seasonality effect in domestic travel, with warmer climate destinations, such as Sarasota, FL and Maui, HI gaining popularity, while fans of winter sports drove colder locations, such as Aspen, CO, into the top ten domestic list for MoM changes.

Sarasota, FL saw the largest MoM increase in flights booked, with a 114 percent increase in bookings in October compared to September. Des Moines, IA was a close second, with 112 percent MoM increase in booking activity.

As for the rest of the list, only two destinations that made the October list carried over from September. Maui saw a 56 percent MoM increase in bookings in October, after a 55 percent decrease in bookings in September versus August. Lihue, HI saw a 40 percent MoM increase in bookings in October, on top of the 18 percent increase in bookings in September.

# Destination MoM Changes
1 Sarasota, FL 114%
2 Des Moines, IA 112%
3 Cedar Rapids, IA 83%
4 Dayton, OH 69%
5 Maui, HI 56%
6 Aspen, CO 54%
7 Oklahoma City, OK 48%
8 Madison, WI -43%
9 Lihue, HI 40%
10 Palm Springs, CA 38%

Top 10 international destinations in October

As on the domestic front, flight purchases to international destinations from within the U.S. remained stable MoM, with a mere 1 percent MoM increase in booking activity. As in September, trips to warmer climates, such as Netherlands Antilles and Brazil saw an uptick in flights purchased in October, while European countries, such as Austria and Greece, saw substantial MoM decreases. In fact, all but one of the countries that made the October list with increased MoM flight purchases are located in warmer regions, with Ireland as the only exception.

Only two countries that made October’s top ten list for MoM changes were also features in September’s lists: Netherlands Antille and Greece. Netherlands Antilles claimed first place for MoM changes in flights booked, with a 150 percent increase in October, following a 65 percent decrease in flight purchases between August and September. United Arab Emirates also saw a large increase in popularity during October, with a 147 percent MoM increase in flights booked. Greece continued losing travelers in October, with a 49 percent decrease in flights booked MoM, on top of a 49 percent decrease in activity between August and September.

# Country MoM Changes
1 Netherlands Antilles 150%
2 United Arab Emirates 147%
3 Brazil 78%
4 Norway -58
5 Vietnam 54%
6 Canary Islands -52%
7 Dominican Republic 52%
8 Ireland 50%
9 Greece -49%
10 Austria -45%

Six-month flight booking trends

When comparing October’s findings to the average of the last six months two clear trends emerged: College towns saw the largest decreases in booking activity among domestic destinations, while weather severely influences international travel.

Six-month domestic travel trends

Sarasota, FL, October’s lead for MoM changes in booking activity, also claimed first place for increased fight purchases when the last six months were considered. This destination saw a 84 percent increase in flights booked during October compared to the average since May. Palm Springs, CA was the only other destination that increased flight bookings in October compared to the six month average.

The rest of the top ten list was dominated by college towns, taking up seven spots in the top ten for flight bookings when comparing October to the six month average. These destinations saw major decreases in flight purchases post back-to-school.

# Destination October compared to 6 month average
1 Sarasota, FL 84%
2 Huntsville, AL -59%
3 Myrtle Beach, SC -57%
4 Palm Springs, CA 50%
5 Anchorage, AK -47%
6 Springfield, MA -45%
7 Louisville, KY -41%
8 Rochester, NY -41%
9 Madison, WI -41%
10 Syracuse, NY -39%
Six-month international travel trends

When the full six months were taken into account, warmer climate travel was seen as a prominent trend in international travel. All four countries with increased flight bookings in October compared to the six month average were warm weather destinations located either south of the equator or in the Middle East. And four out of six countries with decreased activity in October compared to the average since May were European countries.

The two exceptions were Indonesia and Chile. Flights booked to Indonesia fell by 47 percent in October compared to the six month average, as the country entered its rainy season that month. And flights to Chile saw a 44 percent decrease in flights booked in October compared to the six month average.

# Country October compared to 6 month average
1 Greece -72%
2 Canary Islands -68%
3 Norway -58%
4 Croatia -53%
5 United Arab Emirates 48%
6 Indonesia -47%
7 Chile -44%
8 Brazil 23%
9 Saudi Arabia 16%
10 Netherlands Antilles 12%

Bottom Line: October’s story was less about monthly change than the role climate plays in travel destination decisions. With six months of data, we’ve seen the impact of both summer and back-to-school with winter travel just beginning to be seen. Our November and December data should show holiday travel and begin the comparison of winter to summer destinations, so be sure to check back. In the meanwhile, Happy Holidays to you and your family!