Americans Pare Vacations; Shack with Relatives

July 9, 2009

After years of costly, “keep-up-with-the-Jones” trips to exotic locales, research from Mintel reveals that today’s economy is forcing Americans to buckle down on finances, take less-expensive car trips and stay with people they know.

A recent survey revealed that more than six in 10 people drove their own car – instead of flying – to their last vacation destination. Moreover, the majority say they did not go anywhere too glamorous and/or are changing their behavior because of the recession:

  • 57% are vacationing closer to home because of the bad economy.

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  • 56% are taking shorter trips because of the economy.
  • 64% say they are using less-expensive forms of transportation now.
  • 62% say they spent recent vacations with family and friends.
  • Only 30% went to beaches.
  • Only 30% visited cities.

These numbers represent much more financially conseervative behavior than in 2007 when the economy was stronger, Mintel noted. In a similar survey conducted two years ago, 56% reported vacationing with family and friends and 42% visited cities – vacations which generally come with higher pricetags.

Of the 40% of survey respondents who didn’t travel domestically at all, many cited financial reasons, the survey found.

Staying with Friends & Family

Once at their vacation destinations, two in five people (42%) this year said they lodged with friends or relatives, while just more than half (51%) stayed in a hotel. This represents a 29-percentage-point decrease from the 80% that reported staying in hotels in 2007.

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“The recession is undoubtedly making more Americans shop aggressively for travel deals and cut corners,” states Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel. ‘As people try to save money, we see a rising trend toward simpler, more ‘homespun’ vacations. We’ve even seen an increase in zoo and local theme park attendance.

Haack added that people appear to be able to justify shorter trips with fewer excesses, as long as they still have the opportunity to relax and have fun. In fact, the survey points to relaxation as the number one goal of vacationers: Nearly three in four (72%) said they consider being able to relax completely as an essential vacation element. In contrast, only one in three (34%) ranks a “high standard of accommodation and facilities” as essential to their enjoyment.

About the study: The research is part of Mintel’s “Leisure Travel – US – June 2009” report, which can be purchased online.

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