For many, the best part about vacation is not the planning or making arrangements–as was discussed in part one of this summer vacation series–but rather the vacation itself. From lodging to transportation, how U.S. adults experience their time away can shed light on the role money plays in vacation purchases. CivicScience looked deeper into where U.S. adults stay, how they get around, where they eat and how they shop while out of the office. 

As it turns out, hotel chains are popular even amongst those who tend to choose more alternative lodging options, such as an Airbnb. By comparison, boutique hotels do not come close to capturing the same diverse audience–appealing to a minority of hotel-goers and Airbnb-users. This suggests that hotel chains may have an exceptional pull on vacationers this year. 

Where one stays and how one gets around are often highly intertwined. The data confirms this. Cars are the most popular transportation option, across the board. Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft appeal largely to those staying with friends and family, while walking is most popular amongst those roughing it in a tent, cabin or RV or staying in an Airbnb. 

This data is not necessarily shocking. America is a country highly dependent upon cars. And of course, some of where people stay and how they move around on vacation is determined by the type of vacation they’re taking. Those camping in the woods, for example, will have different options than those traveling to a major metropolitan area.

What is especially notable, however, is the use of rideshares by U.S. adults who are having a more ‘local’ experience–staying in the home of someone they know or renting the home of someone they don’t. 

The More (Restaurants) the Merrier 

When traveling, food can often be a high priority. As the data show, when it comes to a vacation meal, U.S. adults prefer to eat out.

Keep in mind, vacationers won’t eat just anywhere. Independent or locally owned restaurants are most popular, regardless of dining out frequency. A close second in all categories are casual restaurants–suggesting travelers may enjoy venturing into new dining scenes, while also having the comfort of a familiar meal. 

While the prevalence of eating out may not be shocking–it is a convenient way to experience a new place, after all–what is surprising is that eating out has very little to do with income. 

It also has little to do with advance planning. While those who plan their vacation three to six months in advance do eat out slightly more than their last-or-later-minute counterparts, the percentage difference is marginal. 

This suggests that U.S. adults may simply enjoy eating out as part of the vacation experience, regardless of the expense or the amount of time to save up. 

Vacation Spending, For Better or Worse  

Souvenirs are another element of the vacation experience that can make or break a budget. And yet, the majority of U.S. adults are at least somewhat likely to reward themselves with a gift from their travel spot, while on vacation.

Women do buy souvenirs at a higher rate than men. But, considering the fact that they do the majority of the planning, this seems reasonable. 

Those who are very likely to buy souvenirs tend to make less money overall. However, once again, the difference between income levels–specifically low and middle-level earners– is minimal. 

Simply put, when U.S. adults set out to enjoy a vacation, money is by no means the largest concern. Given the fairly even split across income levels in some of the larger trip expenses–dining out and souvenir buying–the data suggests that purchase logic may take a backseat to pure enjoyment, for better or worse. 

Those with debt are also the most likely to buy a souvenir on vacation. 

So while vacation spending brain may make frequent restaurant trips and gift buying feel like a good idea at the time, the view in hindsight might not be as rosy.