3 Sizzling Summer Insights into Family Vacation Planning, Spending

3 Ways Kids Affect Vacation Plans and Spending

"Are we there yet?"

With vacation spending expected to top $65 billion in 2015 alone, retailers and brands have many reasons to care about the vacation planning, spending, and other behaviors of American travelers. Field Agent recently surveyed 500 U.S. adults to determine the important differences between families vacationing with kids and travel parties without kids. If you sell or market to summer travelers, you'll want to soak up these 3 insights into the American family and how it vacations.

They’re out there right now…building sandcastles, eating ice cream, riding rollercoasters, buying souvenirs, and, generally, making lifelong memories.    

If it’s summer, then families are vacationing together—from Disneyworld to Disneyland, Coney Island to Alcatraz Island.

And while families are focused on making memories, companies are focused on making sales, that is, on maximizing opportunities to sell to summer vacationers. 

The marketing and selling opportunities abound. Adobe projected overall summer travel spending to exceed $65 billion this year. That’s up $4 billion over 2014 and an impressive $11 billion over 2013.  

Families will account for much of this spending. Yet, surprisingly, we know little about the planning, spending, and attitudes of families before and during vacation.

Field Agent recently surveyed 500 Americans planning (or just returning from) summer vacations in 2015. Harnessing the ability of our mobile research platform to home in on specific demographics, we targeted 250 families traveling with kids as well as 250 travel parties without kids.

Below are 3 important insights into the travel behavior of American families. It's a real family event.

 

1. Families Pack for Action-Packed Vacations.

Action-Packed Family Vacations

According to the results of our mobile survey, overall activity level is one area where those vacationing with children differ in important ways from those traveling unaccompanied by kids. In general, families are simply more active—that is, more activity-based—than singles, couples, and groups of friends.

Top Family Activities with Kids

When presented with 12 traditional summer vacation activities, families indicated they would participate in 6 of them at a rate at or above 55%, as follows: 

  1. Swimming - Natural Body of Water: 72%
  2. Swimming - Pool: 72%
  3. Theme Parks: 68%
  4. Shopping – Souvenirs: 65%
  5. Museums/Historical Landmarks: 57%
  6. Shopping – Clothes – 55%

An additional three activities (Hiking/Climbing, Camping, and Fishing) registered participation rates above 40%.

 

Top Activities without Kids

This is telling because no activity—not a single one—among those traveling without kids surpassed 50%. In fact, here are the top 6 activities for this respondent category:  

  1. Shopping – Clothes: 50%
  2. Swimming – Natural Body of Water: 50%
  3. Museums/Historical Landmarks: 50%
  4. Swimming – Pool: 47%
  5. Nightlife Activities: 46%
  6. Shopping – Souvenirs: 44%

Among adults vacationing without children this year, only “friends” (i.e., accompanied adults traveling without family) rivaled the activity level reported by families.

 

2. Those Traveling with Kids Face a Family of Obstacles.

Obstacles when Traveling with Kids

Financially and logistically, families must contend with a few additional obstacles when compared to travel parties without children.

 

Consider, for instance, the total cost of a vacation. In our mobile survey, families said they will spend noticeably more (mean = $1,949; median = $1,500) than those vacationing without children (mean = $1,538; median = $1,200). Families, who are likely strapped with other child-related expenses throughout the year, must fork out an approximate $400 more to go on vacation.Average Cost of Vacation: $1,949 for Families Traveling with Kids $1,538 for Families Traveling without Kids

 

Dining is one area where families spend comparatively more. While travelers in general said they’ll spend $30 per meal, when broken down by travel party composition, we learned that families will spend $45 per meal (median). Compare this to the $20 (median) those unaccompanied by children anticipate spending.

 

Additionally, from our research we found that families are less likely than other travelers to eat at restaurants and more likely to eat food prepared by themselves. More specifically, adults vacationing without children (55%) are more likely, they told us, to eat mostly or exclusively at restaurants when compared to families with kids (38%).

 

Families also face logistical challenges. For instance, we found among families a reluctance to travel as far from home as those unaccompanied by kids. As our survey suggests, vacationing families (971 miles) will travel 35% fewer miles than those traveling without children (1486 miles). Furthermore, perhaps suggesting a logistical challenge, budgetary challenge, or, most probably, a combination of the two, families (11%) in our survey showed less intent to travel by air than did those traveling without kids (25%).

 

Taken together, the challenges identified by this study suggest the road to a fun, relaxing vacation may be more difficult for some than others—namely, for families traveling with children.  

 

See Also: Does 'Made in U.S.A.' Win Customers? 4 Explosive Insights for July 4th

 

3. For Families, Vacation is Primarily “Just a Memory”

Vacation is "Just a Memory"

Consumer motivation precedes consumer spending. Consequently, it’s critical for companies to understand why their customers do what they do—to understand, for instance, what values and objectives drive their purchases and other behaviors.

We wanted to understand why families go on vacation. Survey respondents were presented 10 values and priorities frequently associated with vacation. They were then asked to rank these values/priorities by importance, to give us an idea of the reasons families go on vacation in the first place.

 

Reasons Why Families go on Vacation

The full ranking among all respondents looked like this, with the percentage of first place votes in parentheses (note: the ranking was based on total votes, not just first place votes):

1. Making memories (34%)
2. Resting/relaxing/unwinding (23%)
3. Discovering new things (14%)
4. Spending time together (10%)
5. Reconnecting with distant family/friends (5%)
6. Entertaining/occupying/pleasing kids (7%)
7. Staying within budget/saving money (3%)
8. Romance (3%)
9. Travel Time/Distance (1%)
10. Partying/Nightlife (1%)

For all travel parties, whether families, singles, couples, or friends, both (a) making memories and (b) relaxation were top-level vacation priorities.

But families were the only group in the study to put “making memories” ahead of “rest and relaxation.” 47% of families assigned making memories the top spot in their ranking, compared to only 22% of those not traveling with kids.

This means many families vacation today for the memories they’ll enjoy tomorrow. In a sense, for families, vacation is primarily “just a memory.” 

 

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