Summer Travel Trends

Nearly Seven in Ten Americans (68%) Have at Least One Leisure Trip Planned for Summer 2015

Americans’ outlook on the economy isn’t acting as a barrier when it comes to summer travel.
Image from Harris Poll on Summer Travel Trends
Summer Travel Trends

HTrends With the weather finally on the upswing after what was a harrowing winter for many, Americans are undoubtedly looking to make the most of their summers. Some are predicting that summer travel on U.S. airlines will reach an all-time high this year, and a recent Harris Poll sees similar highs ahead for the U.S. travel industry. Nearly seven in ten Americans (68%) have at least one leisure trip planned for summer 2015 (May through August), a slight increase from the 66% who planned one last year and an overall steady growth rate since the six in ten (60%) who planned a trip three years ago for summer 2012.

Americans' outlook on the economy isn't acting as a barrier when it comes to summer travel. More than half of Americans (53%) say their outlook on the U.S. economy has no impact on their likelihood to travel this summer – an overall 13% improvement from when this question was first asked six years ago (40% in 2009) – and an additional 9% say their outlook on the economy will make them more likely to travel. Twenty seven percent still say they're less likely to travel this summer due to their outlook on the U.S. economy, but that percentage continues to decrease year over year.

These are among the findings from a Harris Poll of 2,215 U.S. adults (aged 18 and older) surveyed online from April 16-20, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Business travel, however, has yet to make a similar recovery, with just 15% of Americans planning at least one business trip. While relatively unchanged from last year's 14%, it's a cumulative eight-point drop compared to six years ago (23% in 2009).

Regardless the type of travel, Americans plan to spend upwards of $1,500 on their trips, on average. Those planning summer leisure travel anticipate spending an average of $1,722 on their trips while those anticipating a business trip plan to spend $1,513, on average.

Location, location, location
When those planning at least one leisure trip over the summer are asked what types of destinations they plan to visit, beach locations (43%) rise to the top. In a distant second place, vacationers will visit the downtown/center of a city (32%), followed by a national/state park (24%) and countryside/rural locations (22%). Two in ten are planning to hit a mountain location (21%), a suburban area (20%), or a theme park (19%), and 16% plan to find themselves on a leisure/discovery vacation (e.g., spa, wine country, golf or other unique attraction).

  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to be planning a downtown/center of a city vacation (40% vs. 27% Gen X, 28% Baby Boomers, & 26% Matures).
  • Not too surprisingly, adults with mini vacationers in tow have some differing preferences: those in households with children are more likely than those without to be planning a trip to a beach (52% with, 38% without) or theme park (31% with, 13% without) location.
  • It's unclear whether convenience is key or if there's just no such thing as too much fresh air, but those living in rural areas are more likely to be planning trips to a national/state park (35% rural vs. 22% urban & suburban).
Ups and downs of air travel
It's well known that traveling by air isn't always smooth sailing. Nineteen percent of air travelers say they had at least one airline trip cancelled or severely disrupted by weather during the past winter, and 15% plan to take a vacation this summer to "make up" for one cancelled or affected by winter weather.

However, this certainly doesn't stop Americans from taking advantage of the ability to fly and some of these flyers might be in for a new in-flight experience. Recent rule changes now allow use of some electronics during takeoff and landing. Just over one-third (35%) of adults and air travelers alike agree this new rule makes them nervous.

Meanwhile, 38% of adults and 44% of air travelers want even more leeway, agreeing that airlines should allow passengers to use their mobile phones on flights. Not everyone agrees on this sentiment, however. Over half of adults (53%) and over six-in-ten air travelers (63%) agree the ban on cell phone calls on airplanes gives them a much-needed reprieve.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between April 16 and 20, 2015 among 2,215 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

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