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US Holiday Travel Market Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Holiday Travel market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

For the purposes of this report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

  • Holiday travel: Any leisure travel that occurred in the summer season (eg between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend) or winter season (eg for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s).
  • Holiday traveler: Any traveler taking a leisure trip during the summer or winter season.
  • Obligatory travel: A holiday trip where the traveler visited a friend or relative or attended a social function like a wedding or
  • Obligatory Traveler: A holiday traveler who participated in obligatory travel in the last year and agrees that “holiday travel is more of an obligation than something I want to do.”
  • Multigenerational travel: Any trip in which the traveling party includes two nonconsecutive generations (eg kids and their grandparents)

Readers of this report may also be interested in Vacation Planning – US, April 2019, which details the planning considerations of vacationers.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Mike Gallinari, a leading analyst in the Travel & Leisure sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Seven in 10 Americans travel during the summer or winter holidays. These trips have varied methods and motivations, whether it is a family piling into the car to visit Grandma at Christmas or married retirees taking a long summer vacation to Hawaii. However, travelers’ attitudes around how they spend their time and money on vacation are changing. In addition, trips are getting shorter and more spread out across the holiday season, forcing a reconsideration in the way travel providers should approach their cycle of ad spending Mike Gallinari
Travel & Leisure Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definitions
      • Executive Summary

        • Overview
          • The issues
            • There’s a reticence to travel over the holidays
              • Figure 1: Sentiment about holiday travel, by generation, February 2019
            • Some holiday travelers travel because they have to
              • Figure 2: Obligatory Traveler demographics, February 2019
            • Parents are at the mercy of two schedules
              • Figure 3: Share of households with children, by age group of children, November 2018
            • The opportunities
              • Two peaks of seasonal travel
                • Figure 4: Length of trip, by season, February 2019
              • Activities are central to vacation enjoyment
                • Figure 5: Opinions of holiday travel, by number of activities done, February 2019
              • Summer travelers tend to be older
                • Figure 6: Summer trip length, by generation and parental status, February 2019
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • Slowing macroeconomic factors can limit travel
                  • Work and school schedules dictate vacations
                    • Employees angling for more time off
                      • Most Americans are already close to home
                        • Per-vacation spending has increased
                        • Market Factors

                          • GDP healthy, but stagnation is on the horizon
                            • Figure 7: GDP change from previous period, Q1 2007-Q4 2018
                          • DPI increases, but may face headwinds into summer
                            • Figure 8: Disposable personal income change from previous period, January 2014-January 2019
                          • Fuel prices remain relatively stable
                            • Figure 9: US gasoline and diesel retail prices, January 2007-March 2019
                          • High employment dictates travel times
                            • Figure 10: Unemployment and underemployment, January 2007-February 2019
                        • Market Perspective

                          • Vacations are getting shorter, more frequent
                            • Per vacation spending high
                              • Figure 11: Spending on domestic vacations, 2014-18
                            • One third of households are bound by school rules
                              • Figure 12: Share of households with children, by age group of children, November 2018
                            • Workers want more time off
                              • Out the driveway and down the street to mother’s house we go
                              • Industry Trends – What You Need to Know

                                • Multigenerational travel provides a way for families to get together
                                  • Seeking tidings of comfort and joy
                                    • Travel supplier creatives are on trend . . .
                                      • . . . but timing could be better
                                      • Holiday Travel Trends

                                        • Multigenerational travel remains a strong trend
                                          • Friendsgiving
                                            • Hygge put in its place by pyt
                                              • Figure 14: VisitDenmark’s “Hygge” page, April 2019
                                              • Figure 15: Pandora “Sound On,” December 2018-January 2019
                                            • New LCC provides XTRA options outside of cities
                                            • Holiday Travel Creatives

                                              • Norwegian lets travelers customize their discount package
                                                • Figure 16: Norwegian Cruise Line direct mailer, December 2018
                                              • Disney has a smart local focus
                                                • Figure 17: Disney holiday email, November 2018
                                              • Southwest encourages flying for more holidays
                                                • Figure 18: Southwest Airlines Obscure Holiday email, April 2019
                                              • Wisconsin leans into good feelings
                                                • Figure 19: Travel Wisconsin, “Gemütlichkeit: The Spirit of Wisconsin,” March 2018
                                            • Digital Ad Spending

                                              • Spending by industry should reflect year-round travel
                                                • Airlines
                                                  • Hotels
                                                    • OTAs
                                                      • Figure 20: Monthly digital ad spend of airlines, January-December 2018
                                                      • Figure 21: Monthly spend of hotels, January-December 2018
                                                      • Figure 22: Monthly spend of OTAs, January-December 2018
                                                  • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                    • Summer vacations aren’t for the young
                                                      • Changing peak cycles
                                                        • One fifth of holiday travelers feel their trips are required
                                                          • Hotels rule the holidays
                                                            • Holidays are traffic jam sessions
                                                              • Activities are connected to fulfillment
                                                                • People like (but dread) holiday travel
                                                                • Traveler Segment: The Obligatory Traveler

                                                                  • Demographics of Obligatory Travelers
                                                                      • Figure 23: Obligatory Traveler demographics, February 2019
                                                                    • General sentiments of Obligatory Travelers
                                                                      • Figure 24: Attitudes toward holiday travel, Obligatory Travelers vs all, February 2019
                                                                  • Timing of Holiday Vacations

                                                                    • Summer and Christmas are the most common holiday trips
                                                                      • Figure 25: Occasions for holiday travel, February 2019
                                                                    • Different lengths for different seasons
                                                                      • Figure 26: Holiday trips by length and season, February 2019
                                                                      • Figure 27: Length of trip, by holiday, February 2019
                                                                    • Twilight travelers own summer vacation
                                                                      • Millennials least likely to take long summer trips
                                                                        • Figure 28: Summer trip length, by generation and parental status, February 2019
                                                                      • Obligatory Travelers try to get out of Dodge
                                                                        • Figure 29: Length of trip, all holiday travelers vs Obligatory Travelers, by season, February 2019
                                                                    • Where Holiday Travelers Stay

                                                                      • Hotels are still the accommodation of choice
                                                                        • Still, travelers are open to other options
                                                                          • Figure 30: Outside Together ™, May 2018
                                                                          • Figure 31: Holiday lodging, February 2019
                                                                        • Airbnb can’t beat free
                                                                          • Figure 32: Holiday lodging – Select items, by age, February 2019
                                                                        • Homeshares offer parents space
                                                                          • Figure 33: Holiday lodging – Select items, by parental status, February 2019
                                                                        • Summer is for hotels, winter is for family
                                                                          • Figure 34: Lodging used for summer and fall/winter travel, February 2019
                                                                        • Obligatory Travelers try various lodging
                                                                          • Figure 35: Lodging used for holiday travel, all holiday travelers vs Obligatory Travelers, February 2019
                                                                      • How People Travel Over the Holidays

                                                                        • Most use a personal vehicle
                                                                          • Figure 36: Types of transportation used for holiday travel, February 2019
                                                                        • Is “rail and hail” the future?
                                                                          • Figure 37: Types of transportation used for holiday travel, by generation, February 2019
                                                                        • Urbanites have travel options, rural dwellers rely on own vehicles
                                                                          • Figure 38: Types of transportation used for holiday travel, by residential area, February 2019
                                                                        • Rural fliers may take off, but fly low
                                                                          • Figure 39: Travel habits and sentiment, by area, February 2019
                                                                        • Black travelers more likely to rent cars
                                                                          • Figure 40: Types of transportation used for holiday travel, by race and Hispanic origin, February 2019
                                                                      • Holiday Travel Companions

                                                                        • Holidays are family time
                                                                          • Figure 42: Holiday travel companions, by generation, February 2019
                                                                        • Couples retreats fall in the summer season
                                                                          • Figure 45: Holiday travel companions, by season, February 2019
                                                                      • Holiday Travel Activities

                                                                        • Family visits are an integral part of the holiday travel experience
                                                                          • Figure 44: Activities done during holiday travel, February 2019
                                                                        • Fall and winter trips could use an activity boost
                                                                          • Figure 45: Activities done during holiday travel, by season, February 2019
                                                                        • The family that stays together, plays together
                                                                          • Figure 46: Holiday travel accommodations, by number of activities, February 2019
                                                                        • Activities are connected to fulfillment
                                                                          • Figure 47: Opinions of holiday travel, by number of activities done, February 2019
                                                                        • Do stuff!
                                                                          • Figure 48: Opinion of holiday travel as an obligation, by number of activities done, February 2019
                                                                      • Holiday Travel Attitudes

                                                                        • Holiday travel is generally positive
                                                                          • Figure 49: Sentiment about holiday travel, by generation, February 2019
                                                                        • People want to travel for the holidays, but dread it
                                                                          • Figure 50: Sentiment about holiday travel, by generation, February 2019
                                                                        • Travelers generally prefer their “own” vacations
                                                                          • Figure 51: Sentiment around visiting relatives, by generation and Millennial parent status, February 2019
                                                                        • Family visits become less appealing as children age
                                                                          • Figure 52: Attitudes toward visiting relatives, by age of children, February 2019
                                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                        • Data sources
                                                                          • Consumer survey data
                                                                            • Direct marketing creative
                                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                                  • Terms
                                                                                  • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                                      • Figure 53: Spending on domestic vacations, 2014-18
                                                                                      • Figure 54: Family households, by age of own children, 2018