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SpringHill Suites Annual Travel Survey

Executive Summary


Kelton, a leading global insights firm, has completed an online survey of 1,048 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and over on their vacation travel habits and attitudes.  This research was commissioned by SpringHill Suites, Marriott International’s all-suite brand, for the fourth year in a row.  Consumers were surveyed on a wide variety of topics surrounding travel, from packing to vacation personalities, from social media to cultural influences, and from financial to destination trends. The survey data provides a complex portrait of the state of American attitudes, and several trends emerged from the questions posed to participants.

Americans are past-due for a vacation.

Americans are not getting vacations as often as they feel they need them, as these breaks from everyday routines are needed to relax and recharge.  One in five (20%) Americans say they can’t even go one month before they feel like they need a vacation. On average, Americans feel they can go about their daily routine for approximately 6 months (173 days) prior to feeling like they need a vacation.  

Unfortunately, many have to wait much longer to get a break, as the average American goes about 11 months (47 weeks) between such breaks. Men, however, go longer between vacations than women (about 1 year or 52 weeks vs. about 10 months or 43 weeks).  And travelers without kids vacation less often that those with kids. On average, there is just over 1 year (14 months) between vacations for travelers without kids, and about 8 months (31 weeks) between vacations for those with kids.

So when Americans do find the opportunity to get away, they want to enjoy several days of relaxation. The average American thinks the perfect length of a vacation is 12 days.

No vacation time for some….

To make matters worse, millions in the workforce aren’t allotted any paid vacation time, and those who are feel they deserve more.  Close to one in four (23%) employed Americans don’t get any paid vacation days.  And nearly half (49%) of those who do get this benefit are allotted less than 15 days of paid vacation.  

This amount of paid vacation isn’t satisfying to most. Nine in ten (90%) employed Americans say they want or feel they need more allotted vacation days.  These folks would like an additional 17 paid vacation days, on average.

Vacationers like to visit off the beaten path destinations.

Over half of Americans (53%) are likely to visit a U.S. city or town in the next five years that might be considered off the beaten path. More parents than those without kids (63% vs. 48%) are likely to visit a U.S. town that’s off the beaten path in the next five years.

With a majority of travelers thinking staycations are no longer popular, they will be seeking out-of-town vacations. 57% of Americans believe that with the economy improving, staying home or local for vacation is a thing of the past.  That’s good news since almost half of Americans agree that they must leave their town in order to be on vacation (49%). 

No matter how far from home they go, a majority will be driving there.  Over half (54%) of those planning a summer vacation in 2013 will most likely use a vehicle as their primary mode of transportation. Less than two in five (37%) will be flying to their destination.

Vacationers want to see local art and bring it home.

Once they get to their chosen spot, Americans want to soak in the local experience. Over nine in ten (94%) would want to experience local art or culture while on vacation.  They seek out these experiences in various places, including galleries and museums (64%), restaurants (56%), parks or beaches (54%), shops (43%), theatres (28%), coffee shops (23%) or bars (20%).  Many also like to take this local culture with them when they leave. Nearly one-third (30%) like to buy local art to take home as their souvenirs. Parents are likely to be sharing this cultural experience with their kids. More parents than non-parents (38% vs. 31%) try to experience local art while vacationing and like to buy art as souvenirs (36% vs. 26%).

While many vacationers don’t pack far in advance, they are precise about what they put in their bags.

Many vacationers are procrastinators when it comes to preparing for their trips. Half (50%) of them wait until the day before they leave or the day of to pack.  And men are worse offenders than women.  More than half of men (54%) pack within a day of leaving vs. 46% of women.

Still, many go into the task prepared. Over half (56%) of vacationers are likely to make a list of what they need for their trip.  Far fewer go drawer by drawer pulling out what they need (32%) or throw a bunch of items in a suitcase and hope for the best (12%).

Hotels are the accommodations of choice for summer vacationers. And while Americans appreciate hotel offerings, many wouldn’t tip housekeeping staff.

Over nine in ten (92%) summer vacationers plan to book a hotel for their trips this season, and plan to stay for an average of 7 nights. Those with kids will be staying a few nights longer than those without little ones, averaging nine nights vs. six nights, respectively.

More than one in four (26%) Americans don’t think hotel housekeeping staff should be tipped.  But those who do think they deserve money believe $8, on average, is a suitable tip for each night’s stay.

Hotel amenities are appreciated. Over four in five Americans (84%) would miss at least one convenience offered at a hotel after leaving. Of these travelers, 38% are most likely to miss the convenient, ready to-go breakfast in the lobby.  In-room amenities are also noticed.  Over two in five (39%) Americans who have stayed in a hotel have liked something they used there so much that they purchased the same item and brand to have it at home, including shampoo and conditioner (43%), lotion (42%), soap (42%), pillows (38%), towels (34%), and sheets (28%).

Many Americans set vacation budgets, but tend to splurge. 

In order to reduce the stress the cost of these trips can produce, millions of vacationers set vacation budgets.  However, many tend to spend more than they plan, likely due to not being able to resist splurging on certain items.  Four in five (81%) vacationers set a budget, with more women than men (86% vs. 76%) doing this. In fact, over three in four (77%) of those who don’t consider themselves to be budget conscious in their everyday life set a vacation budget.

However, more than one-third (36%) budgeters spend more than they plan for.  Over half (55%) typically manage to stick to their budget, while nine percent come in under budget at their end of their trips.  Having any money left over would be surprising since 93% of Americans are likely to splurge on vacation, and meals (71%)  top the list of things to splurge on.

Sticking to a budget doesn’t trump the need for our smartphones. Over four in five (85%) Americans would be willing to give something up during their vacation for 25% off their hotel stay. Less than three in ten (26%) of these folks would be willing to give up their mobile device for 25% off their hotel stay. In comparison, close to half (54%) of those 21 and over would forgo alcoholic beverages and 40 percent would go without housekeeping for the same discount.

Americans turn to social media for vacation destination ideas and advice

Social media sites are proven to be a useful tool for gathering vacation advice and ideas from friends. More than two in five (44%) Americans who use social media agree that seeing vacation pictures or posts on such sites media would make them want to go to that destination. In fact, over one-third (35%) who use social media have learned about new vacation spots from seeing posts from their friends on these sites. And nearly one-third (29%) have gotten pleasure out of the number of likes or comments on their vacation posts or pictures on social media.

Travel marketing and advertising is hitting the mark with some demographics.

Marketers and advertisers in the travel industry prove to be doing their jobs when it comes to getting attention from key segments.  Over four in five (82%) Americans pay attention to travel marketing and advertising, and 57% of those who pay attention believe it is targeted to families.  In fact, 28% of Americans admit that travel industry marketing or advertising helps incentivize them to go on vacation.  This is even true for more women than men (33% vs. 23%) and more parents than non-parents (37% vs. 24%). And Americans ages 18-64 are more likely than those 65 and over feel this marketing or advertising incentivizes them to go on vacation (31% vs. 14%) and to say it relates to the type of travel they like (28% vs. 17%).