The FINANCIAL — Whether to Grandma’s house or an all-inclusive resort they go, half of all Americans plan to travel this holiday season (52%, on par with 2015), expecting to spend an average of $1,521, a whopping 151% increase from 2015 ($605), according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.
Consumers site the top reason to travel this holiday season is to visit family or friends (53% vs. 58% in 2015), followed by treating oneself or family members to a vacation (31% vs. 30% in 2015). The average American is expected to travel with five people, putting the overall cost of a family holiday vacation at $9,129.
“The holiday season has always been one of the most popular times to travel, but this year, Americans plan to spend significantly more,” said Claire Bennett, Executive Vice President of American Express Travel. “One reason for an increase in spend can be attributed to their desire for shared experiences and therefore their willingness to spend on activities and events with family and friends.”
While traveling, Americans anticipate spending more on dining out (36%), activities and entertainment (33%) and upgrading their accommodations (25%) this holiday season. Upgrades seem to be the name of the game, with significantly more consumers choosing a more expensive destination (18%) and more flying first or business class (15%).
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Among those traveling this holiday season, the majority of Americans will stay within the U.S. (75% vs. 81%), ranking the Northeast as the top destination (30%), followed by the Southeast (26%) and Southwest and Midwest (both 19%). A smaller percentage will travel abroad (12% vs. 10% in 2015) or travel both domestically and internationally (11% vs. 8% in 2015).
When it comes to mode of transportation this holiday season, intentions to go by car have decreased (58% vs. 65% in 2015), those planning on flying has increased significantly (50% vs. 43% in 2015) and still fewer plan to travel by train (10% vs. 9% in 2015) or bus (8% vs. 9% in 2015).
Travel Splurges and Trade-Offs
While a majority of Americans will take trips over the holiday season, Americans generally find travel to be worth the splurge, according to 63% who would take a trip if the opportunity arose (vs. 60% in 2015). In fact, 87% of Americans are willing to exceed their travel budget, despite a specific season, and they’re willing to go over budget specifically for:
Unique experience relative to location (62%)
Local cuisine (45%)
First-class airfare (13%)
While consumers are willing to exceed budgets for certain travel experiences and items, they will work to offset holiday travel costs by researching deals online (59% vs. 62% in 2015) and using loyalty or rewards points for all or partial payment of their travel (34% vs. 34%). In a sign that travel agents are growing in popularity, 17% of consumers say they will work with a travel agent who can navigate holiday fares (vs. 13% in 2015).
When deciding how to pay for their travels, 27% of Americans say they’ll pay with credit/charge cards, followed by debit cards used (24% vs. 20%) and credit card rewards points (15% vs. 12%). And, if you are hoping for someone to “gift” you that getaway you deserve, you’re not alone, considering that almost three in four (71%) consumers are willing to forgo holiday gifts to take a vacation (similar to last year’s 70%).
Still Plugged in While “Out of Office”
As much as Americans unplug, they’re still connected—either to their jobs or to their social networks. When traveling for leisure, only one in three employed Americans are willing to respond to work emails (33%) – versus 46% of Millennials who would respond to work e-mails on vacation.
Staying plugged in isn’t always about staying on top of work. Social sharing is a big reason why travelers are locked to their mobile phones, with 26% of American’s posting more than usual on their social channels while traveling. In fact, of those who post more on social media while on vacation, 62% say they share twice as many social media posts while on vacation.