The FINANCIAL — After a long winter, Americans are itching to get away this summer. The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker reveals that 85% of Americans, or 198 million people, are planning time away in the coming months, up 13% from 2014.
Although the majority (68%) of these Americans are planning at least one week-long trip, (on par with 2015), more are opting for extended vacations and setting out for at least two weeks this year (36% vs. 32% in 2014). The historically busiest travel days will likely remain the most popular, as more than half (53%, on par with 2014) continue to plan to travel over major summer holiday weekends, such as the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Saving For a Summer Escape
While more are traveling, they’re not necessarily spending more. On average, those taking a summer vacation in 2015 expect to spend less per person this year than last ($1,005 vs. $1,246).
The vast majority of Americans (81%) set aside money to travel this summer, and they want to make the most of those dollars. Consistent with last year, nine in 10 Americans (91%) have employed strategies to save money or reduce their summer vacation costs. One such strategy is tapping into points and rewards from loyalty programs to offset the cost of summer travel. Twenty-six percent of summer travelers said they planned to use rewards for travel this summer, up slightly from 2014 (24%), but a 53% increase from just four years ago in 2011.
While driving instead of flying still ranks as the top strategy for saving money on summer vacations, that option has seen some drop off this year (36% vs. 44% in 2014).
“Americans live for summer travel, it’s a reward for hard work and braving the cold winter months,” said Claire Bennett, Executive Vice President, American Express Travel. “What we are seeing from our travel customers is a passion for enriching experiences. From up-close encounters with nature across America to pizza- and gelato-making classes in Italy, we are serving travelers who want to see and experience more during their time off.”
Staying Close to Home
As the number of summer travelers increases, more and more are opting for domestic destinations over crossing international waters and borders. More than three in four Americans (77%) with vacation plans intend to travel within the US this year, an increase of 40% from 2011 (55% in 2011). Almost one in five (18%) plan on traveling abroad this summer (vs. 17% in 2014), and 11% are planning to do both (vs. 13% in 2014).
For those traveling outside the country, Europe ranks as the most popular destination (59%), followed by Asia (30%) and South America (29%). In addition, nearly nine in ten Americans (85%) who plan to travel to Europe stated that the current exchange rate between the Dollar and the Euro is favorable. Making travel abroad even sweeter, virtually all (96%) consider no foreign exchange fees on the credit card they bring on vacation outside of the U.S. important.
The Online Expedition
Traveling abroad or not, 61% of traveling Americans will do their research online before they book travel. Nearly half of total respondents (46%) visit at least five websites before booking their travel, up 12% from 2014, while 25% visit seven or more sites, up 39% from 2014.
Millennials are significantly more likely to visit seven or more sites (35%) before booking travel arrangements (vs. 23% of Gen Xers and 18% of Baby Boomers). Resourcing friends for travel recommendations on social media sites is also skewed toward Millennials (78% vs. 60% of Gen Xers and 24% of Baby Boomers). However, a growing trend among American summer travelers is that more are feeling “overwhelmed” by all the travel information available online (38% vs. 34% in 2014 and 29% in 2012).
With so many booking options, summer vacationers are using travel agents more so than in years past. In fact, 16% of those traveling this summer will use a travel agent, compared to 11% in 2014 and 8% in 2011.