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For many Springfield residents, a relaxing getaway might mean a day trip to Branson or a weekend at a lake.
With summer quickly approaching, some may be formulating more elaborate vacation plans.
The News-Leader reached out to the Springfield-Branson National Airport and AAA to find out what are the top summer travel destinations for local residents.
Some of the answers, such as Florida beach cities, were easy to guess. Other answers surprised even professionals who work in the travel industry.
According to Michael Right, AAA’s vice president of public affairs, many people who contact the local AAA office are planning long road trips or international vacations.
The top five driving destinations, according to Springfield’s AAA office, include the following:
- Grand Canyon, Arizona and New Mexico
- Florida Panhandle
- South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore
- Oregon and Washington
- Niagara Falls
The top five flying destinations, according to Springfield’s AAA office, include the following:
- Alaska for cruises
- European Rhine River cruises
- Jamaican all-inclusive resorts
Right said he didn’t expect to see Niagara Falls as a top destination for Springfield residents.
“It’s a long drive,” Right said. “I don’t know if there’s that much to do there. It might be a honeymoon destination.”
Right said that people who live in the western part of Missouri tend to like traveling west. People who live in the eastern portion of the state tend to go south and east, he said.
Right said AAA’s lists don’t include more “everyday” travel plans for Springfield residents, which don’t require the assistance of a travel counselor to plot out routes, book places to stay and identify points of interest along the way. However, he has a pretty good guess.
“In Missouri, water is a big destination — Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake, Lake of the Ozarks,” Right said. “Arkansas has similar outdoors activities that draw a lot of people.”
The Springfield airport also tracks travelers. Airport spokesman Kent Boyd provided numbers to the News-Leader for the second and third quarters of 2017, which spanned from April 1 to September 30.
The list includes the top 20 final destinations for travelers leaving from the Springfield airport for round trips.
A News-Leader review of the numbers found that the five most popular destinations include the following:
- Los Angeles/Orange County, California — 26,281 passengers
- Orlando, Florida — 24,803 passengers
- St. Petersburg/Clearwater/Tampa Bay, Florida — 24,154 passengers
- Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas — 22,231 passengers
- Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona — 21,401 passengers
Numbers for Los Angeles and Orlando combined passengers traveling to two airports in or near each city.
Boyd said Florida is probably a favorite vacation spot because a low-cost airline, Allegiant, provides nonstop flights from Springfield to Orlando, Tampa Bay, Punta Gorda and Destin.
He said he was surprised to see that combining passengers going to the Los Angeles International Airport and the John Wayne Airport in nearby Santa Ana boosted the Los Angeles metro area to the top of the list.
People going to Los Angeles likely include a mix of both business travelers, tourists and relatives visiting family members, Boyd said.
Barring an economic downturn, Boyd said the Springfield airport is on track to break 1 million passengers this year. He attributes the growth to a “very robust and strong” southwest Missouri economy.
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