Amex Survey Predicts Increase in American Holiday Travel Spending

Forty-two percent of Americans plan to increase their holiday travel budget compared to last year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. The average family of four intends to spend $2,636 on holiday travel, or $659 per person, an increase of nearly $200 from last year.

No matter where consumers choose to go, there is a clear interest in getting more out of travel, according to the study. From dining to adventure, it’s all about making memories. More travelers are flying, with just over one-third (36 percent) flying to their destination (versus 26 percent last year). More consumers also plan to dine out (31 percent versus 20 percent in 2010) and take part in entertainment-focused activities (24 percent versus 20 percent in 2010).

Twenty-one percent are taking a longer trip, 19 percent are staying in better accommodations and 17 percent are traveling with more people. Twelve percent are choosing a more-expensive destination and 6 percent are flying first or business class.

A growing number of consumers expressed interest in doing more while they’re away this holiday season. When asked how they would spend an extra $500 if it were available, nearly one quarter (24 percent) of consumers said they would rather use the extra funds for new experiences than to extend the length of their stay (18 percent).

When asked which travel experiences they would be most interested in trying, consumers ranked outdoor adventure first (19 percent), followed by a mystery vacation (16 percent), culinary-focused experience (13 percent), holistic spa retreat (12 percent), volunteerism trip (5 percent) and a ski holiday (4 percent).

Even though consumers expressed a desire to have more unique travel experiences, budget (40 percent) still trumped all as the key decision making factor when making holiday travel plans. Destination (25 percent) and experience (11 percent) came in second and third.

The majority of consumers will pay for travel with credit or charge cards, and 26 percent of travelers are turning to rewards points or miles as a primary way to pay for all or part of their trip. Fifty-six percent of Americans do not plan to travel this holiday season, significantly down from 61 percent in 2010. On average, Americans are early birds when it comes to booking holiday travel, with most booking their holiday travel three months in advance. However, 21 percent will book less than a month before their trip, with the vast majority of late bookers (73 percent) waiting until one week or less before holiday vacation. Late-bookers are also more likely to purchase using online travel engines and drive to their destinations.

Consumers are also looking to travel experiences as a source for creative gift giving this holiday season. More than one in four consumers have received and given a vacation as a gift. Many affluents and young professionals similarly have given a vacation as a gift (41 percent and 38 percent, respectively).


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