Domestic travel in U.S. heats up during summer

With summer vacation just around the corner, the hospitality, lodging, and travel industries are looking forward to a steady stream of domestic vacationers, many of whom have a bit more money to spend this year than last. To help these industries prepare for summer, Experian Simmons has some interesting insights into the characteristics of Americans on holiday this year.

Retirees Spend More Time & Cash On Vacations

Approximately 65% of adults say they have traveled domestically within the past 12 months. These travelers take an average of 3.8 trips and spend an average of 5.2 nights away from home per trip. Married couples (72%) are significantly more likely than singles (54%) to have traveled domestically.

Nearly 65% of adults with children at home made at least one domestic trip in the past 12 months.

Nearly 65% of adults with children at home made at least one domestic trip in the past 12 months. These families report that they took an average of 3.7 trips, stayed away from home for an average of 4.9 nights per trip, and spent an average of $556 per trip. Just over 6 out of every 10 adults say they took at least one domestic trip for a vacation. Sightseeing (57%), dining and shopping (49%), going to the beach and participating in water sports (45%), and spending time outdoors camping, hiking, and fishing (41%) are among the most popular activities that domestic travelers say they like to do when on vacation. Attending a specific event is cited by 24% of travelers as a primary vacation activity.

The average amount spent per trip by domestic vacation travelers is $559. This is part of a continuing trend downward from a high of $612 spent per trip in the Spring of 2008, just prior to the economic downturn. Singles spend the least amount per trip ($478).

Retirees appear to have the most time for vacationing. They spend an average of 6.4 nights away from home per domestic trip. They also tend to spend more per trip ($631) compared to domestic vacationers overall.

4 Out 5 Prefer To Travel by Car

Whether by plane, train, car or bus, domestic travelers have many options for reaching their favorite destinations.  4 out 5 vacation by carThe primary mode of transportation for domestic vacationers is the family automobile. Among those who have taken a domestic vacation, 81% say they traveled by car. This has been relatively stable over the course of the past five years and supports the notion that a plain old-fashioned road trip is the best way to enjoy the sights.

Air travel among domestic vacationers has been on the decline since autumn 2007 when 50% of travelers taking at least one domestic trip said they arrived at their destination by plane. By the fall of 2010, airline transportation was used for at least one domestic trip by 44% of domestic vacationers. Domestic vacationers who are college educated are most likely to say they traveled by plane for at least one trip (58%). In contrast, adults with children at home are least likely to fly for a domestic trip (38%).

Transportation by bus or train is least preferred. Only about 6% of domestic vacation travelers say they made a recent trip on a bus or by rail.

Go By Air – Stay Upscale

The majority of domestic vacation travelers say they stay overnight at a hotel or motel (67%). Friends and family members also provide overnight accommodations for a large percentage of travelers (50%). Married couples have the greatest likelihood to say they stayed at a hotel (72%) while single adults and retirees have the greatest likelihood to say they stayed with friends and relatives (54%).

Plane travelers are more likely than those who travel by car to stay at upscale hotel properties such as Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, Hyatt, Westin, Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton. More specifically, domestic travelers who arrive at their destination by plane are 1.8 times more likely to say they stayed at a Ritz-Carlton compared to domestic travelers overall. As would be expected, a variety of traditional roadside type motels including Sleep Inn, Baymont Inn, Red Roof Inn, Quality Inn, and Howard Johnson’s are heavily favored by those hitting the road by car.

For those seeking a more luxurious and well-rounded lodging experience while vacationing, all-inclusive resorts provide an enticing option. About 7% of domestic vacation travelers say they stayed at these types of properties. This is down from 9% in the Fall of 2007.

The more adventurous and likely more frugal domestic travelers choose to stay at campgrounds. Camping has nearly doubled in popularity since the Fall of 2008 when slightly under 7% of domestic vacationers said they stayed at a campground. This increased to over 12% in the Fall of 2010. The economic advantages of trailer camping or pitching a tent in the great outdoors might partly explain the overall decline in domestic travel spending.

The South Is The Top Vacation Destination

The southern and western states are the most popular destinations among vacation travelers. About 55% and 42% of domestic travelers say they made at least one trip to the South and West respectively.

Since the bulk of domestic vacationers say they travel by car and because travel times for reaching various areas of the country are vastly different depending on the point of departure, it is important to examine regional differences.

Residents of the western states are more inclined to stay within their region when traveling compared to residents of other regions of the country. About 9 out of every 10 vacationing Westerners say they stay within the western region when traveling domestically. Southerners are the next most likely group to travel and stay within their own region (81%).  This is followed by Midwesterners (65%) and those from the northeast (64%).

Due to shorter travel distances, northeastern residents are the most likely group to travel for vacation outside of their area (75%). Those living in the western states have greater distances to travel and are therefore least likely to venture outside of their region (37%).

The southern states are the most favored destination among domestic vacationers who say they traveled outside their home region.

The southern states are the most favored destination among domestic vacationers who say they traveled outside their home region. About 61% of Northeasterners say they traveled to the South. The corresponding percentage of Midwesterners and Westerners who say they traveled to the South is 47% and 21% respectively.