What travelers want in a vacation

Survey shows what travelers prefer, how they behave

Lodging provider Wyndham Worldwide has declared July National Vacation Rental Month and recently released results of a survey that shows what travelers who prefer vacation rentals want in a vacation.

“With July marking National Vacation Rental Month, there’s no better time to look at why vacation rental travelers choose this way to vacation,” Mary Lynn Clark, president of Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America, said in a statement accompanying the survey results.

The online survey, which was conducted from April 6 through May 3, sought the opinions of more than 11,000 travelers in Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ database who had stayed in a vacation rental property in the past three years. Logic dictates that, when you ask your own customers what they prefer in terms of the type of product or service your business provides, some of the results are going to be pretty predicable. Others, not so much. So it is with the Wyndham survey.

According to the survey, 92 percent of respondents found vacation rental stays more relaxing than other types of lodging accommodations such as hotels. No surprise there; if you didn’t find it relaxing – which is pretty much universally acknowledged as the purpose of a vacation – you’d find an environment that was. The survey found the reasons respondents said the accommodations were more relaxing included cost savings, peace of mind and flexibility.

Looking at those responses critically, “peace of mind” is the most difficult to quantify because peace of mind is in the eye of the beholder. A consumer may find that purchasing a certain item – whether that is insurance, a certain brand of automobile noted for its safety ratings, or a stay at a vacation rental property – gives them peace of mind. However, no vendor can honestly say that they sell peace of mind because what gives one person peace of mind may not do the same for another.

The other items are easier, with cost savings the simplest to quantify.

A huge percentage of those who used vacation rental properties said that having a kitchen is a major plus, with 94 percent of vacation rental travelers agreeing that having access to a kitchen while on vacation reduced their stress level. Of those travelers, 73 percent attributed the lower stress to being able to save money, the survey showed.

“While you might think you’d never cook on vacation, it can be a tremendous source of savings,” Clark said. “That added value along with the extra space and flexibility a vacation rental offers can make for a more relaxed vacation experience.”

On average, vacation rental travelers reported having saved $742 over the course of a week by preparing some meals in their rental. They tended to prepare an average of 12 meals during a week-long stay, including breakfast five times, lunch four times and dinner three times, the survey showed.

My wife and I have stayed in lodgings that allowed us to prepare our own meals and we have indeed appreciated the additional flexibility. In part, that is because we love to cook; it’s one of the ways we play. Having a kitchen means we can explore local stores and farmers’ markets, then create meals with the local ingredients we find. Any cost savings are an added bonus. On another level, we are self-confessed “breakfast snobs,” so a kitchen ensures that we will be able to enjoy a tasty, satisfying breakfast before starting our day’s activities.

The survey’s respondents also said that a kitchen saved aggravation. Of the 94 percent who agreed it reduced stress, 60 percent said not having to get ready to go out allowed for a more enjoyable experience. Similarly, 36 percent appreciated being able to avoid the wait times at restaurants and other stresses associated with eating out.

Diets and allergies were also cited as concerns; 59 percent said that a kitchen enabled them to better address diets and allergy restrictions, and to prepare healthier meals as well.

Fellow travelers

When choosing who to bring on vacation with them, travelers’ priorities tended to vary based on gender and age. Women are less likely than men to bring their in-laws. Perhaps to stack the odds in their favor, women are more likely to want to take their own parents, extended family and friends on vacation before adding their in-laws to the list. Men are more likely to bring additional helping hands, including bringing a housekeeper and a babysitter on vacation.

Perhaps surprisingly, the older vacation rental travelers get, the more likely they are to want to bring friends on vacation. Of those ages 25-34, 26 percent expressed a desire to bring friends with them on vacation, compared to 29 percent of those ages 35-54, and 36 percent of those ages 55 and older.

Travel behavior

The view from our rental condo on Maui
The survey showed the long road trip is alive and well. Nearly 90 percent of those who plan to hit the road this summer said they will spend an average of 12.3 hours driving to their vacation destination.

Women are the more aggressive drivers, according to survey results. They are more likely to describe their driving style as “pedal to the metal” (49 percent of women vs. 41 percent of men), while men are more willing to take the “long and leisurely” route (29 of men compared to 21 percent of women).

Travelers in the younger age cohort were more than twice as likely to claim the best bedroom for themselves as those 55 and older. Finally, 60 percent of vacation rental travelers checked out the entire facility before doing anything else while 33 percent said they rushed to the nearest window to check out the view.

Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the world’s largest professional manager of vacation rental properties and part of the Wyndham Worldwide family of brands (NYSE: WYN).

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Photo by Carl Dombek