Summer has always been the easiest time to travel: the kids are out of school, businesses are typically quieter during this season than the rest, and it's also the top season for weddings, making honeymoons one of the biggest travel experiences of these three months, but with ease doesn't always mean cheap.
Signs that the economy is picking up is clear in this latest report from American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.
According to the latest poll, summer travel plans are up 17% from last year, as more than two-thirds of consumers plan to get away during the key summer months of June, July and August.
The survey shows that affluent consumers are leading the way, with 81% (vs. 73% in 2012) visiting U.S. destinations, and 38% (up from 29%) traveling to international destinations. Showing signs of financial security: 31% of travelers plan to spend more than $1,000 per person on their summer adventures (up from 27% in 2012) with the total expected summer travel spend averaging $1,145 per person.
Where are they going and for how long? According to American Express, almost two-thirds of summer travelers (66%) are planning at least one week-long trip (up slightly from 64% last year), and 26% are planning a trip of two weeks or longer (vs. 24% in 2012).
This is a great shift for American workers, who typically leave unused vacation days on the books at the end of the year because they don't spend enough time out of the office.
"With Americans willing to spend more this year on summer travel, there's a bit more inclination to make each and every vacation moment count," said Claire Bennett, executive vice president at American Express Travel. "Whether it's a historical tour of Europe's capitals or a family beach vacation, consumers are spending the time or money it takes, and relying on expert resources like travel agents, to create authentic experiences with those that matter most."
As for what they'll spend on: dining out ranked the highest among travelers (53% vs. 44% in 2012) while opting for activities and experiences (44% vs. 37% in 2012) came in a close second.
One of the most interesting aspects of the survey revealed what travelers are taking into consideration when booking their vacations. Thirty-six percent said they want to immerse themselves in local culture, while 30% want to go somewhere that offers local shopping trips.
Food, education activities and historical sites and monuments rounded out the top five travel experiences for 2012.
As for where they're going, the sky is the limit. Most Americans are choosing to stay domestic, planning trips to Florida (21%), California (15%), Bahamas (11%), and New York (10%).
Readers: What's on your summer travel list?This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.
Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com