3 in 10 Americans Plan Holiday Travel

October 31, 2011

amex-holiday-trip-oct-2011.JPGThree in ten Americans plan to travel for the holidays this year, with 42% of these travelers planning to up their holiday travel budget compared to last year, according to the October 2011 American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. The most popular reason to increase holiday spending compared to 2010 is taking a longer trip, with 21% of those planning to spend more citing this reason.

Other popular reasons for increased holiday spending include staying in better accommodations (19%), traveling with more people (17%), choosing a more expensive destination (12%) and flying first or business class (6%). The average family of four intends to shell out $2,636 on holiday travel, or $659 per person, an increase of nearly $200 from last year. Fifty-six percent of Americans do not plan to travel this holiday season, down 11% from 61% in 2010.

Flying, Dining Out on Rise

Significantly more travelers will fly for the holidays this year than in 2010 more than one-third (36%) will fly to their destination (38% more than. 26% last year). Roughly 50% more consumers also plan to dine out (31% compared to. 20% in 2010), while 20% more plan to take part in entertainment-focused activities (24% compared to 20% in 2010).

Consumers Seek Holiday Experience

A growing number of consumers expressed interest in doing more while they’re away this holiday season. When asked how they would spend an extra $500 if it were available, nearly one-quarter (24%) of consumers said they would rather use the extra funds for new experience, 33% more than the share who said they would use it to extend the length of their stay (18%).

When asked which travel experiences they would be most interested in trying, consumers ranked outdoor adventure first (19%), followed by a mystery vacation (16%), culinary-focused experience (13%), holistic spa retreat (12%), volunteerism trip (5%), and a ski holiday (4%).

Budget Beats All Other Considerations

Even though consumers expressed a desire to have more unique travel experiences, budget (40%) still trumped all as the key decision making factor when making holiday travel plans. Destination (25%) and experience (11%) came in second and third.

The majority of consumers will pay for travel with credit or charge cards, and 26% of travelers are turning to rewards points or miles as a primary way to pay for all or part of their trip.

Other Findings

  • Americans plan to travel with an average of three people for the holidays and many will take an average of two trips between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
  • More than one in four consumers have received and given a vacation as a gift.
  • One in five (21%) travelers will book less than a month before their trip, with the vast majority of late bookers (73%) waiting until one week or less before holiday vacation.

Gallup: Holiday Spend Looks Flat

Americans forecast they will spend $712 on Christmas gifts this year, nearly identical to the $715 they estimated they would spend on Christmas at this time last year, according to data released by Gallup in October 2011. More specifically, Gallup data shows about one-quarter of Americans plan to spend at least $1,000 on gifts, another quarter say they will spend between $500 and $999, and about one-third will spend between $100 and $499.

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