Americans' Vacation Habits

by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup Poll Managing Editor

About one in five traveled abroad in past year

In the recent annual Lifestyle poll*, Gallup asked Americans about their vacation travel. The results show that most Americans took vacations away from home in the past year, but slightly fewer did so in 2005 than in 2001. Travel outside the United States is far less common. Vacations and foreign travel are much more common among wealthier Americans.

The Dec. 5-8 Lifestyle poll finds 64% of Americans saying they have taken a vacation away from home in the past year. That is down from 70% who said this in 2001. Nineteen percent of Americans say they have traveled outside the United States in the past year, the same percentage who said this in 2001.

One's economic resources and one's likelihood to take a vacation away from home are strongly related. Ninety percent of Americans whose annual household incomes are $75,000 or more took a vacation away from home in the past year. The percentage decreases steadily by income category and only 29% of those whose household incomes are less than $20,000 vacationed away from home last year.

Generally speaking, those who are married (72%) are more likely to have taken a vacation away from home than those who are not married (52%), and those who have children under age 18 (71%) are more likely to vacation than those who do not have young children (60%). But the data suggest these relationships are somewhat complex and life situation interacts with household income when it comes to vacationing.

At the lowest level of household income ($30,000 or less), those who are married or who have children under age 18 are less likely than those who are not married or do not have young children to take a vacation. However, in the middle ($30,000 to $74,999) and upper ($75,000 or more) household income categories, the relationship reverses and those who are married or who have young children are more likely to vacation away from home.

The data also show that younger and older Americans are less likely to vacation than are those in the middle age categories. Fifty-seven percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 and 47% of those aged 65 and older have taken a vacation away from home in the past year. That compares with 73% of Americans aged 30 to 49 and 67% of those aged 50 to 64.

These age differences are apparent in the lower and middle income categories, but at the highest income category ($75,000 and up), there are essentially no age differences.

Travel Abroad

Traveling outside the United States is not something many Americans have taken the opportunity to do in the past year. Only about one in five Americans have done so.

As with vacationing away from home, income and the likelihood of traveling outside the United States are strongly related. Slightly more than one in three Americans at the highest income level ($75,000 or more) have traveled abroad in the last 12 months. That percentage drops sharply at the next income category ($50,000 to $74,999) and levels off from there. Only 7% of Americans whose household incomes are less than $20,000 have traveled outside the United States in the past year.

While Americans under age 30 are less likely than middle-aged Americans to vacation away from home, they are no less likely, and possibly more so, to have traveled outside the United States in the past year.

Twenty-five percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 have traveled abroad in the past year, compared with 22% of those aged 30 to 49, 16% of those aged 50 to 64, and 12% of those 65 and older.

Also, those living in the eastern (24%) or western (24%) regions of the United States are more likely to travel abroad than those living in the South (13%) or Midwest (17%). This may be because it is easier and likely more affordable for those living on the coasts to fly to other countries.

*Results are based on interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 5-8, 2005. For results based on this sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

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