Holiday travel: When, where and how

Hot on the heels of our article offering tips for smooth(er) holiday travel comes a survey about how, where and when we intend to go. The results may surprise you. Or not.

The survey was conducted by research and data provider Fluent and asked more than 4,700 American adults including 1,084 holiday travelers about their holiday travel plans and attitudes.

TSA Pre-Check Security Checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma Airport SEA
TSA Pre-Check Security at SEA
The majority of those surveyed plan to travel during the upcoming holiday season.

A total of 78 percent of those queried will be on the move, though frequent travelers won’t be as eager, with 61 percent saying they’ll go somewhere compared to 82 percent of infrequent travelers. In contrast with this year’s plans, only 48 percent of those responding say they travel every year during the holiday season, while 52 percent do not.

The most popular holiday to travel? Christmas, with 35 percent planning to travel during the yule season, 19 percent planning to travel, and 28 percent planning to travel during both holiday seasons. The majority of travelers, 54 percent, are planning only a single sojourn.

Nearly half of those surveyed plan lengthy excursions. International travel is on the agenda of 22 percent of respondents while 24 percent are planning cross-country trips. Another quarter, or 27 percent, plan to go only a few hours from home.

Also not surprisingly, the majority of travelers - 59 percent - plan to visit family, while less than half that number, 28 percent, are planning non-family vacations.

The most popular method of travel during the holidays is by car, favored by half of the respondents. Air travel was a close second, at 45 percent. Trains and buses were a distinct minority, at three and two percent, respectively.

A statistic I found interesting, perhaps because it runs counter to my personal preference, was lodging. A full 50 percent said they mostly stay with family and friends, while only 29 percent stay mostly at hotels or other hired accommodations. Facilities like AirBnB or similar were not particularly popular among travelers, with only two percent of respondents stating that type of accommodations as their preference.

Choosing travel providers

Even with the prominence of social media, paid advertising is still the most effective way to reach consumers, according to the survey. Email, TV and online ads in general had the greatest impact on which airlines and hotels the travelers chose for their trips, totaling 69 percent. The remainder cited ads on social media, direct mail, radio ads, print ads and text messages as affecting their travel choices.

By contrast, some 80 percent of respondents said emails from online travel and travel booking sites had little to no impact on their likelihood of booking through such sites. Given my recent experience with one such site, I understand. The survey showed similar results about emails from hotels and car rental agencies.

When it comes to booking travel, vacationers were evenly split over the use of mobile apps. A total of 42 percent said they used such apps all, most or some of the time while 41 percent said they have never used a mobile app to book travel.

Staying loyal?

Nearly seven out of 10 travelers, or 69 percent, said they did not regularly use travel loyalty programs such as American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) AAdvantage program or Marriott (NYSE:MAR) Rewards program. In fact, 66 percent of travelers said they do not even belong to travel loyalty programs

Loyalty program numbers varied significantly between frequent and infrequent travelers. Among frequent travelers, 66 percent both belonged to and frequently used such programs, while only one-fourth of infrequent travelers belonged and frequently used loyalty programs.

Respondents apparently felt safety was not an issue; 69 percent said recent terrorist attacks and mass shootings have not caused them to change travel plans, and 94 percent said they did not change travel plans because of the Zika virus.

Finally, when asked whether they would rather take an airline flight during the upcoming holiday travel season or visit the dentist, respondents were almost evenly split, with 49 percent of those not planning to travel opting for a flight and 51 percent choosing the dentist’s chair.

Wishing you safe and pleasant holidays, whether you are traveling or not.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek
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