Family Travel Trends: 2019 Vacation Survey Results

Family travel trends survey

Alamo Rent A Car recently released its fifth annual Alamo Family Vacation Survey*, which explores the travel trends and behaviors of Americans. Brand new data revealed that unplugging from the pressures of work, devices and social media during vacation appeals to the majority of Americans, and many are doing it to better enjoy the number one benefit cited by vacationing families: The ability to spend quality time together.

The following Alamo Rent A Car 2019 Family Vacation Survey statistics provide a detailed picture of U.S. family travel trends, including current feelings and habits surrounding vacations and vacation planning:

Alamo 2019 Family Vacation Survey: Family Travel Trends and Detailed Statistics

 

First Things First: Why Take a Family Vacation?

  • “Spending quality time as a family” remains the No. 1 benefit of traveling together as a family – for the fifth year in a row, cited by 45 percent of respondents.
  • Similarly, “spending quality time with my spouse/partner” remains the No. 1 personal benefit, again for the fifth year in a row, cited by 25 percent of respondents.

Unplugged Vacations Have Almost Universal Appeal – and Many are Doing It

  • Most workers (54 percent) would prefer to completely unplug from work while on vacation.
  • Nearly half of families (48 percent) sometimes wish they could take a vacation from social media.
    • Generation Z and millennials feel social media pressure more than older generations, stating that they wish they could take a vacation from social media (59 percent and 55 percent, respectively).
  • An overwhelming 91 percent of families find the idea of an “unplugged” family vacation appealing.
  • More than a third of families (37 percent) said they’ve actually committed to unplugging from computers and mobile devices while on vacation, and of that group, 92 percent were successful.
    • This unplugging commitment is led by Generation Z (62 percent) and millennials (48 percent), followed by Generation X (37 percent) and baby boomers (26 percent).
  • Even if they’re not unplugging completely, over half (56 percent) of social media users say they use family vacations as a time to take a break from social media.
  • Of those who committed to an unplugged vacation, 41 percent enjoyed themselves more, 40 percent had better conversations, 38 percent felt more relaxed and 36 percent felt closer as a family.

Though Appealing, Obstacles Remain for Unplugged Vacations

  • Most workers (61 percent) say they put pressure on themselves to work during family vacations.
    • This is particularly true of parents (64 percent) versus non-parents (56 percent).
  • In addition to the pressure put on themselves, half of workers (53 percent) say they feel guilty for taking time off to go on a vacation because their co-workers have to take over their job duties, up from 51 percent in last year’s survey.
    • Generation Z (83 percent) and millennials (69 percent) are more likely to feel guilty than Generation X (48 percent) and baby boomers (30 percent).
  • In addition, 27 percent of families say they sometimes feel pressured to post photos of their vacation on social media to show they’re having a good time (up from 20 percent in last year’s survey).
    • The pressure is particularly strong among parents (34 percent) versus non-parents (18 percent).
  • These pressures may be contributing to the 41 percent of families who say they often feel like they need additional time off to “recover” from vacation, up from only 29 percent just a year ago.

Find lots more resources for taking an unplugged vacation in our Unplugged Family Vacation Toolkit.

Social Media use Affects Vacationing Families, for Better and Worse

  • Travel Trends: Planning for a Vacation
    • Nearly half (49 percent) of families indicate they’ve decided where to go or what to do on vacation based on the pictures they’ve seen on social media, up 10 percentage points from a year ago.
      • Generation Z (77 percent) and millennials (68 percent) lead the way versus Generation X (54 percent) and baby boomers (31 percent).
      • Parents seem to be especially influenced at 61 percent versus 36 percent for non-parents.
    • However, 28 percent have planned their vacation based on how good they think their vacation pictures would look on social media, up 12 percentage points from last year.
      • Generation Z (55 percent) and millennials (46 percent) again lead the way compared to Generation X (27 percent) and baby boomers (14 percent).
      • Parents are again very susceptible (36 percent) versus non-parents (20 percent).
  • Travel Trends: While on Vacation
    • Of social media users, 21 percent say they use it more than usual, compared to 15 percent in last year’s survey.
      • Generation Z (39 percent) and millennials (28 percent) lead Generation X (21 percent) and baby boomers (11 percent).
      • Parents are more likely to say they use social media more than usual while on vacation (24 percent) compared to non-parents (16 percent).
    • More than half of social media users surveyed post vacation photos on social media to keep family and friends updated (58 percent) or to record fun memories (55 percent).
    • And around a fourth of social media users say social media can enhance a family vacation by providing research, ideas or inspiration (28 percent) and sharing moments with others (24 percent).
    • However, a third (34 percent) admit that they post their vacation photos on social media simply to “show off” the places they visited or the things they saw or did (up from 27 percent in last year’s survey).
      • Parents say they do this more (40 percent) than non-parents (26 percent).
    • For others, it causes anxiety during a time meant for fun: 21 percent express concern when followers don’t like or comment on their vacation posts.
    • A third (33 percent) say they’ve seen social media actually ruin a vacation, citing examples such as:
      • Too much time spent on the phone (42 percent)
      • Arguments or hurt feelings (24 percent)
      • Letting would-be robbers know when they’re out of the house (5 percent)
      • Catching a cheating spouse (2 percent)

After a Decline Last Year, Vacation Shaming is On the Rise

  • This year’s survey reveals that 48 percent of workers said they feel vacation shame – being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt by co-workers, their supervisor or others for taking time off to go on vacation – an increase from 41 percent last year.
    • Generation Z (76 percent) and millennials (63 percent) are especially susceptible compared to Generation X (44 percent) and baby boomers (24 percent).
    • Parents also feel more vacation shame (55 percent) than non-parents (36 percent).
  • What’s more, half (50 percent) believe their co-workers are serious when vacation-shaming, up from 41 percent last year.
  • Some own up to it: 36 percent of workers say they vacation shame others at work (up from 27 percent last year), and alarmingly, 53 percent of those say they’re serious about their shaming – the highest percentage in four years.
  • This has a direct impact as workers have taken shorter vacations (28 percent) or taken fewer vacations (26 percent) as a result of being vacation shamed. These figures are up from 24 percent and 21 percent respectively just a year ago.
    • In fact, only 45 percent of workers reported using all of their vacation days last year, compared to 51 percent a year ago.
    • Those with unused vacation days are more likely to feel vacation shame (66 percent) than those who used all their paid time off (36 percent).
    • What’s more is that those with unused vacation days (52 percent) are more likely to vacation shame others than those who used all their paid time off (27 percent).

When it Comes to Vacations, Which are You? Planning vs. Spontaneity

  • Though 90 percent of families say they personally enjoy planning family vacations, most (59 percent) only plan “the basics” and tend to leave other things for spontaneous decisions.
  • Planners are far more likely to wish they were more spontaneous (85 percent) than those who identify as spontaneous are to wish they are better planners (69 percent).
    • Parents seem especially hard on themselves! Of parents who are planners, 90 percent wish they were spontaneous versus 80 percent of non-parents. Likewise, 78 percent of parents who identify as spontaneous wish they were planners compared to just 61 percent of non-parents.
  • Despite the younger generations’ affinity for travel, it appears they could use some travel planning tips. Generation Z (92 percent) and millennials (86 percent) who describe themselves as spontaneous types are more likely to wish they were planners, as compared to Generation X (72 percent) and baby boomers (57 percent).
  • Survey respondents say mothers in their family are far more likely to be planners (33 percent) than spontaneous (18 percent). The difference is less stark with fathers (23 percent versus 21 percent, respectively).

* The Alamo Rent A Car Family Travel Trends 2019 Vacation Survey was conducted from Jan. 2-12, 2019, with 1,502 adults from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was fielded using the Research Now online consumer panel. At the time of the survey, participants had to have been at least 18 years of age or older; be married/in a domestic partnership or have a child/guardian under the age of 22; and have taken one or more trips with their immediate family and/or their extended family in the past five years. Age and gender data is reflective to the adult population based on U.S. Census data. Generations are defined in accordance with Pew Research’s parameters.

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