Stats: Road Trips Top Americans' Travel Plans

Americans are planning to hit the road for their late spring and summer vacations this year, with 43 percent of households choosing road trips as their top travel plan, according to new consumer research from TransUnion.

Overall, 46 percent of respondents said they planned to travel more this spring and summer than they did last year, with 47 percent planning to travel the same amount, meaning only 8 percent are planned to travel less. Notably, there was not much variance across income levels; however, children were a major influence for travel preferences.

Families With Children Seek More Getaways

Most households (54 percent) plan to take one or two trips over the spring and summer travel season, with 45 percent planning to be away four to seven days and 33 percent planning to be away more than eight days. Interestingly, as household size increased, so did their likelihood to take more trips—regardless of income level.

Spring break was the most popular travel period for families with children, with 48 percent planning to travel during this time. As more school districts begin classes in late August, Labor Day came in last for families with children, with only 23 percent planning travel during the end of summer holiday. For households without children, a majority (59 percent) said they were planning to avoid traveling during holidays this spring and summer.

In addition, 42 percent of families with children were more likely to prefer traveling to a new destination, compared to 37 percent of those without children. In addition, 26 percent of families with children plan to go camping, compared to just 21 percent of adults without children. A cruise or all-inclusive vacation was also much more likely among families with children, at 17 percent versus 9 percent of those without.

When asked to rate the importance of various factors in flight and accommodation experiences, 81 percent of consumers identified cost as the priority for their satisfaction with flying, while 85 percent said cleanliness was the top determining factor in satisfaction with their lodging accommodations. However, there were several differences between households with children versus those without. Notably, rewards and loyalty points were seen as much more important among households with children versus those without.

Looking for Ways to Save

While household budgets may be more constrained, nearly half (48 percent) of families with children plan to spend more on travel this year. That said, consumers across all income levels are looking for ways to stretch their travel budgets.

The top method for saving was to engage in more budget-friendly activities at their travel destination, while choosing a more affordable destination was a close second. While a quarter of respondents plan to book a less expensive hotel and 23 percent are opting to stay with family or friends, only 15 percent were looking to save by booking tickets with a discount airline. Consumer prioritization of traditional air travel amidst budget constraints was recently reflected in airlines’ Q1 corporate earnings announcements, as companies such as Delta Air Lines reported record advance bookings for the summer.

Credit, Debit or "Buy Now, Pay Later"

The report found two-thirds of households plan to pay for their spring and summer travel using cash or their debit card, while 57 percent of households planned to use their credit card. High income households appear to prefer using credit to fund their upcoming travel, as 69 percent of that segment indicated they will use credit cards.

Interestingly, 8 percent of consumers plan to use a "Buy Now, Pay Later" (BNPL) loan to pay for their upcoming travel. While this did not vary much across income levels, households with children were twice as likely to use BNPL compared to those without children—12 percent versus 6 percent, respectively.

For households with children who have used BNPL for travel, more than seven out of 10 reported that using BNPL allowed them to travel when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip. More generally, the report found that BNPL payment options allowed 37 percent of consumers to travel to a more expensive destination or spend more money on lodging.

The Power of Loyalty

Gen Z and Millennials were much more likely to have a travel affiliated- or travel rewards credit card, according to the report. This could potentially be an expression of these generations’ preference for experiences over goods. In addition, households with children were more likely to be members of a travel-related brand rewards program. In fact, 61 percent of households with children participated in travel loyalty programs compared to 49 percent of households without children. Membership in such programs has significant implications for how consumers book flights and lodging. 

Those who participate in airline or hotel rewards programs were the most likely cohort to book directly on their preferred brand’s website, followed closely by households with airline or hotel brand affiliated credit cards. These affiliations also appeared to impact consumers’ propensity to fly or stay at a hotel in general.

For example, only 16 percent of households participating in an airline loyalty program said they were going to drive to their spring and summer travel destination, compared to 32 percent of households that do not participate in a loyalty program. Similarly, consumers who have hotel affiliated credit cards or participate in a hotel rewards program were half as likely as the overall population to say they were staying with friends or family.

Fear of Fraud

When asked whether they were concerned with fraud, 31 percent of households with children said they were concerned with being victimized by travel-related fraud or identity theft, compared to 20 percent of households without children. The heightened concern appears to be correlated to a higher likelihood of past experience with fraud.

Households with children were also more likely to indicate they had been a victim of fraud in the past (15 percent versus 6 percent) or to have had someone close to them victimized (11 percent versus 7 percent).

Source: TransUnion

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