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Almost Half of Americans Will Not Take a Vacation This Summer

by Mark Gillespie

As the summer vacation season enters its final few weeks, a new Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll shows a majority of Americans prefer traveling to new places on vacation, and most prefer vacations filled with activities instead of lounging in a beach chair.


PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the historic tradition of summertime vacations, almost half of Americans interviewed in a recent Gallup poll will not be taking a vacation this summer. According to a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll conducted the weekend of July 16-18, only 53% of Americans have already taken at least one vacation so far this summer, or plan to do so before the end of the summer. The rest will apparently stay put or keep working. Of those that will be taking a vacation, a lucky 50% said they would manage to sneak in more than one vacation. August is the most popular month for vacations, with 44% of those planning a vacation this summer scheduling it for this month.

The Average American to Spend 13 Days Vacationing This Summer
Thirty-seven percent of Americans taking a vacation this summer will take between one and seven days off. Another 35% will take up to two weeks, and 26% have the good fortune to be able to take more than two weeks off. The average family will spend $1,820 on vacation this summer -- up from $1,368 in a 1991 Gallup poll -- and 64% will travel outside their home state. Only 12% will travel outside the United States, however. When Americans were asked which of the 50 states they would most like to visit on vacation, Hawaii (17%) and California (12%) were the most popular choices, followed by Alaska and Florida at 10%. All four states fell in popularity from Gallup's 1991 poll, when 21% selected either Hawaii or California, 13% chose Alaska, and 12% selected Florida.

The Big Choice: Rest or Play?
What do Americans want to do when they go on vacation? One of the big choices in planning vacations is between going to one area and sitting, or traveling around from place to place. Americans seem to prefer the latter, more active option. Two out of three Americans say their ideal vacation would be to keep moving, while 31% say they'd prefer to spend it in just one place. Similarly, two-thirds would prefer to be involved in activities and sightseeing in their ideal vacation, while just one-third would prefer to rest and relax.

Americans would also prefer to travel to a place they have never been before, as opposed to going back to a familiar place, and to spend time with just the immediate family or a close friend, rather than being with a large group of family or friends.

Not surprisingly in these fast-paced times, a perfect vacation for two-thirds or more of Americans would involve seeking out good food and restaurants, spending time with friends or family not normally seen, seeing museums, plays or other cultural activities, meeting new people, and shopping. Less than half of Americans, on the other hand, would define a perfect vacation as engaging in vigorous exercise or getting a suntan.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,031 adults, 18 years and older, conducted July 16-18, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you plan to take, or have you already taken, a vacation this summer?

  Yes No No opinion
99 Jul 16-18 53% 46% 1%
91 Apr 25-28 59 36 5
55 Jun 3-8 44 49 7
54 Jul 2-7 37 51 12

Are you taking one single vacation this summer, or are you taking several different vacations at different times during the summer?


  One single vacation Different vacations No opinion
99 Jul 16-18 49% 50% 1%
91 Apr 25-28 46 53 1

During what month or months are you vacationing this summer? [ACCEPT MULTIPLE MENTIONS]


  May Jun Jul Aug Sep No opinion  
Taking Single Vacation
99 Jul 16-18 8% 21% 26% 38% 9% 6% =108%
91 Apr 25-28 6 21 39 29 9 5 =109
All Vacationers
99 Jul 16-18 11 31 40 44 15 5 =146
91 Apr 25-28 10 26 37 27 10 6 =116

How much money do you think you and your family has spent or will spend on your summer vacation this summer?


  Apr 25-28 1991 Jul 16-18 1999
$300 or less 10% 10%
$301-500 16 14
$501-1,000 27 26
$1,001-1,500 8 6
$1,501-$2,000 11 15
$2,001-2,500 3 4
$2,501-$3,000 4 7
$3,001 or more 7 16
No opinion 14 6
  100% 100%
MEAN $1,368 $1,820

Next, we'd like you to think for a moment about what your perfect vacation away from home would be. First, ... . Next, ... .[RANDOM ORDER]

A. If you had to choose, would your perfect vacation be one in which -- [ROTATE: 1) You spend most of your time resting and relaxing or 2) You spend most of your time involved in activities or sightseeing]?

Resting and relaxing 32%
Activities or sightseeing 67
No opinion 1

B. If you had to choose, would your perfect vacation be one in which -- [ROTATE: 1) You stay in one area the whole time or 2) You travel around and see a number of different places]?

Stay in one area 31%
Travel around 68
No opinion 1

C. If you had to choose, would your perfect vacation be one in which -- [ ROTATE: 1) You travel to a place you have been to in previous years or 2) You travel to a place you have never been to before]?

Return to place you've been before 26%
Travel to new place 73
No opinion 1

D. If you had to choose, would your perfect vacation be one in which -- [ROTATE 1) You go with just a close friend, spouse or immediate family or 2) You go with a large group of friends or family]?

Close friend, spouse or immediate family 83%
Large group of friends or family 16
No opinion 1

E. If you had to choose, would your perfect vacation be taken in the winter, spring, summer or fall?

Winter 19%
Spring 21
Summer, or 32
Fall 27
No opinion 1

Suppose you could go to any of the 50 states in the U.S. In which one would you especially like to take a vacation?

  Apr 25-28 1991 Jul 16-18 1999
1. Hawaii 21% 17%
2. California 21 12
3. Alaska 13 10
4. Florida 12 10
5. Colorado 8 7
6. Washington state 6 4
7. Maine 6 4
8. Arizona 5 3
9. Montana * 3
10. New York 4 2
11. Nevada * 2
12. Tennessee * 2
13. Vermont * 2
14. Oregon 4 2
Other -- 16
None -- 1
No opinion -- 3
  100% 100%

If you were trying design to a perfect vacation on a trip away from home, would each of the following be something you would try to do, or not? First, ... . How about ... ?[RANDOM ORDER]

  Yes No No opinion
A. Read a book 58% 42% *%
B. Get a suntan 43 57 *
C. Engage in vigorous exercise 39 61 *
D. Shop 72 28 *
E. See a museum, play or other cultural activity 82 18 *
F. Seek out good food and restaurants 92 8 *
G. Try to meet new people 73 27 *
H. Spend time with friends or family you normally don't see 80 20 *
I. Participate in a sport or hobby you regularly engage in 63 37 *
J. Participate in a sport or activity you don't normally have the chance to do 59 40 1

* less than 0.5%


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