Travel Research

Summer Vacation Travel: Whose Statistics are you on?

This is the season of travel surveys.  Who is traveling this summer and where are they going? Travel surveys reveal some trends, some indicators and some insightful data about which destinations are attractive or not.  Declining popularity is an indicator I view as a sign hotel bargains are to be found.

One of the most relevant statistics to me is the American Express finding that 19% of summer travelers plan to use loyalty program points and miles for 2012 summer travel. This percentage was only 15% just one year ago. That is over 25% growth in the number of travelers planning to use loyalty programs in just the past year. 

I like numbers. Mathematics was boring to me until I hit the subject of statistics in college. Proportions and probabilities really have some meaning in masses of people. Sometimes it is good to stick with the masses and other times the better road is the one you take alone.

My travels tend to be the alone type. Not always though. Alone together traveling with my wife is more methodical travel, yet still generally a cool experience too.

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.”  – H.D. Thoreau – Walden (1854).


Travel, American Style

140,000,000 Americans plan to travel this summer. That is nearly half of Americans in the country.

The average travel spend for summer is $1,180 per person. I look at that amount of spend and think that is a fair travel budget for one person. I can travel for one to two weeks on that and likely stay in some $200 per night hotels using hotel points I earned from earlier hotel travel.

$300 for gas in my car in the USA gets about 2,000 miles of travel distance. $880 for food, activities and other for 7 to 10 days looks reasonable when using hotel loyalty programs to pay for half the travel with points and earn some more bonus points with about $400 in hotel cost and about $200 in food. That leaves about $40 per day for any other stuff.

$1,200 for a week of travel in a car or on a plane (assume $300 airfare + baggage for U.S.) is traveling on a budget.

$2,400 or Honey, I’m busting the budget.

The average travel budget really is set at an amount around $100 per month per person traveling. This seems sufficient for a comfortable 7 to 14 day summer vacation once per year.

Setting $200 per month aside to travel once per year is something many of us find extremely restrictive to our American and global movement lifestyle. Either because you can’t afford $200 per month every month to set aside for a travel budget or the fact that $200 per month comes nowhere close to meeting your desired travel objectives.

I fall in the latter camp of travelers. I like to travel about 8 to 10 weeks per year.

Rather than saving to build a travel budget for a couple of vacations each year, I distribute my spending throughout the year to earn points and miles.

The cost of nearly every trip is reduced by booking the best value combinations of paid stays to earn high value loyalty bonuses at hotels and redeeming points earned from previous transactions for free nights at hotels where rates are higher than I want to pay.

Los Angeles on $500 per week

This kind of strategy allowed me to drive 800 miles from Monterey to Los Angeles and back last month with 7 hotel nights and spend less than $500 for the week including the thousands of points I spent with my Wyndham Rewards, Priority Club and Starwood Preferred Guest hotel loyalty points.

64,000 Wyndham Rewards points purchase in 2011 Daily Getaways = $200 cost to save $400 on four nights at Ramada Convention Center.

5,000 Priority Club points in 2012 Daily Getaways cost $30 to save $110 at Holiday Inn Express Simi Valley. I didn’t buy Priority Club points this year. I am still spending my Crack the Case 100,000+ points from 2011 I earned for about the same $30 per 5,000 points rate while staying at IHG hotels in 2010 and 2011.

7,000 SPG points = free cost through 70,000 points in new member referral bonuses I earned in 2010 to save $300 for one night at Four Points Los Angeles Westside and one night at Four Points Ventura.


Destination Popular: Florida, California, New York and North Carolina

The most popular destinations for summer travel in U.S. this year according to an American Express survey:

  • Florida = 19%
  • California  = 15%, up from 8% last year.
  • New York = 10%
  • North Carolina = 9%
  • 19% of travelers plan to use loyalty miles & points for 2012 summer travel; up from 15% in 2011.

Travel – International Style

The most popular destinations for summer travel in U.S. this year according to an American Express survey:

  • Cayman Islands (7%)
  • Italy (7%)
  • UK (6%)
  • Among affluent travelers Italy (10%) and UK (11%)

The Euro Crisis Opportunity for Travelers

Hotel News Nowreports southern Europe is experiencing declining rates in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Several studies cite rate drops in Portugal.

Marriott presence all around Spain and Portugal

Lisbon Marriott is under $100 per night for midweek July 2012. And I am sure the experience and service in Lisbon exceeds your typical $100 per night Fairfield Inn or Courtyard.


Marriott bought Spanish hotel chain AC Hotelsa couple years ago and there are now 78 Marriott brand hotels in Spain, many AC Hotels having rates under $100 per night.



Egypt – can these hotel rates get any cheaper?

On the strict numbers game and hotel value, the 2011 uprising in Egypt made what was already one of the least expensive countries in the world to visit and stay in upper-upscale and luxury hotels an even better deal for tourists.

Sure, Egypt is really hot in summer. Heat does not stop tourists from visiting Las Vegas in summer and I bet the swimming pools at hotels in Egypt stay open late into the evening, unlike Vegas.



Living in the Past, and planning for the future.

My travel budget has never been more than spending the minimum I can get away with while maintaining reasonable safety and comfort standards. My wife and I traveled for five weeks in 1997 to Ireland and Scotland in TWA economy and RyanAir (before RyanAir) even sold tickets online. We had our emerald isle guid to the Ireland’s B&Bs and we typically stayed 3 to 4 nights in each house around County Donegal and Northern Ireland, exploring the surroundings  and riding public busses around the countryside. The cost  was about $6,000 for everything related to the trip.

Six years later in 2003, after four years of earning miles and points in frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs, we flew British Airways First Class to London, spent a week hanging out in a Hilton hotel for free on points, flew to Melbourne, Australia via Singapore. Again in British Airways First Class.

We stayed 11 nights in Australian Starwood Hotels in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane spending about $1,900 on the hotels. We earned 110,000 Starpoints for 10 hotel nights on published rates.

The value of those 110,000 Starpoints provided something like $5,000 in free and discounted hotel rooms during our travels over the next couple of years.

We flew one-way Qantas flights around Australia with each ticket less than $100 all-in and earned American Airlines miles for the flights. We returned to London after two weeks in Australia, again British Airways First Class.

Jaunted over to Amsterdam for another week and another free Hilton Hotel stay. We burned 300,000 airline miles for six First Class long haul flights on British Airways over a 31-day trip in July.

We stayed about 16 hotel nights for free using hotel points and we paid for 12. We slept on planes several nights. All in all we earned $5,000 in hotel points for under $2,000 in paid hotel stays that trip. We traveled 31 days for about $5,000 for everything related to the trip.

And when we returned home we soon received in our hotel loyalty accounts 110,000 points for about $5,000 in future Starwood hotel travel.

Oh yeah, we also unexpectedly received at least $200 in Tumi gift certificates. I use my Tumi camera bag regularly to this day.

What’s the point?

Just saying, there are travel opportunities to get you around the USA on a $1,200 budget for a good two weeks of travel in nice hotels by yourself or with another.

And with some airline miles to get you overseas on the cheap, then your travels can include global experiences without busting your annual budget.


  • CodeAdam10 May 12, 2012

    Great post!

    I believe if one a solo travelling if he/she desires to stay in mid-to-upper class hotels in a popular city, a $1,200 all-in budget may prove to be difficult, UNLESS at least one major part of the expenses is covered by points/miles (such as air travel or hotel stays). Although I have learned that for visiting expensive cities, group / family travelling works well at times as you effectively reduce the cost of things such as hotel stays, car rental, or other shared expenses.

    My budget (goal) for our family’s vacation (of 5) in 2 weeks is $5,000 – but that is only possible because all airfare was fully covered by miles (and front of the cabins, no less). I don’t think I would have been able to plan a multi-city trip for anywhere near that budget if I had to pay for airfare out of pocket too. Although I suppose in such case the hotels would have been scarified, in terms of location/luxury. Nonetheless, miles/points plus cash travelling works well. Like most here, it has allowed me to take so many trips that I could’ve never imagined.

    To all travelling this season, be safe and enjoy !

  • […] this article: Summer Vacation Travel: Whose Statistics are you on? – Loyalty … Comments […]

  • Matt May 12, 2012

    How did you earn 110,000 Starpoints with 10 nights? That’s quite good!

  • DavidAL May 12, 2012

    Another great post. Thanks for the info.

  • Sol Erwin Diaz May 12, 2012

    I like travel but I don’t know what particular statistics I am on in this article. nice article. very informative.

  • New Girl in the Air May 13, 2012

    I think $1200/person for a week of travel is pretty tight for someone who has to include hotel expenses. I’d imagine the average traveler isn’t quite “point savvy”.

  • Ric Garrido May 13, 2012

    @Matt – in 2003 Starwood Preferred Guest ran a promotion in the Asia-Pacific region for 50,000 points for a member who stayed in 5 of 6 Starwood brands.

    Australia was the only country with five Starwood brands: Four Points Sydney, W Sydney (rebranded to Blue Sydney Taj hotels), Luxury Collection Sheraton Towers Southgate Melbourne (rebranded to Langham), Westin Melbourne, Sheraton Noosa.

    St. Regis in China was the only way to do the promotion without going to Australia.

    @New Girl in the Air – the $1,200 for a summer vacation is the American Express statistic.

    I didn’t really have a point to the article when I started writing, then I realized that using hotel loyalty programs I took our vacations from Ryanair and B&Bs to BA First Class and upper-upscale hotels for the same $1,200 weekly expenditure amount.

    My objective with Loyalty Travfeler is to make people more points savvy.

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