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amex-destinations-may-2011.JPGAmericans are planning to head south this summer, with four Southern states among the top 10 US states for 2011 summer travel destinations, according to the May 2011 American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. Florida tops the list.

No Other Region Competes with South

The other Southern states on the list are Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina. The list also includes two Western states (California and Nevada), two Northeastern states (New York and Massachusetts) and two Midwestern states (Wisconsin and Illinois).

For those traveling outside of the US, the Bahamas and Canada are tied as the top destinations.

9 in 10 Cut Travel Costs

Almost nine in 10 consumers (88%) say that they have specific strategies to reduce their vacation costs. These include driving instead of flying (38%) and choosing less expensive destinations (24%).

6 in 10 Cut Everyday Costs

Nearly 60% of Americans with travel plans will make everyday trade-offs to afford their summer vacations such as spending less on:

  • Dining out (38%).
  • Clothing (30%).
  • Home improvements (25%).
  • Entertaining or going out with friends (24%).
  • Pampering at spa or salon (20%).
  • Gadget/tech purchases (18%).

Weekend Getaway Top Travel Desire

Americans with travel plans prefer quick getaways this summer to weeklong vacations (68% compared to 63%). Girlfriend getaways and “man”cations are on the rise compared to 2010 (15% compared to 10%).

Overall, more Americans plan to take a summer vacation this year (59%) than last (51%). Vacationing consumers plan to take an average of two week-long vacations, spending an average of $1,200 per person, and three weekend-getaways with an average spend of $300 per weekend.

More than 40% of consumers said that getting a good deal on hotels, rental cars, flights, etc. is the most important factor in planning where they go for weekend getaways. Many also cited that they choose destinations based on where friends, family or significant others have decided (32%), diversity of activities (31%) and accessibility to a beach (29%).

Visiting a beach or lake is the top activity for Americans during a weekend getaway (42%). Other activities include shopping (33%), attending family or school reunions (23%), partaking in learning activities (22%), going to waterparks (22%) and camping (22%).

All in the Family

Nearly 70% of those with travel plans say they’ll travel with their immediate families, up substantially from 45% in 2010. Among those who are planning to take summer vacations with their families, nearly two-thirds (64%) will take one or more weeklong trips, with an average of two weeklong trips this summer.

Cruise Spending Steady in Q4

Looking at another travel-related consumer spending area, both affluent and average consumers’ cruise spending remained unchanged year-over-year in Q4 2010, while small businesses decreased spend by 1%, according to previously released American Express data. Large businesses increased spending by 4%, leading this category.

American Express analysis indicates that as spending by individual consumers remained flat in this category, cruises per traveler decreased for average and affluent consumers by 3% and 6%, respectively. However, at least partially mitigating this was the fact spend per cruise was up across the board, ranging from 1% for small businesses, 6% for average consumers, and 9% for both affluent consumers and large businesses.

About the Data: American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2,025 consumers aged 18 and up. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between April 18 and April 21, 2011.

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