Vacations and Travel

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chapter 7

Americans love to take vacations. Their destinations may vary from a trip to a national park for camping, fishing, boating, or hiking, to a visit to a theme park such as Disneyland. A vacation can also be a flight to Egypt, a cruise to the Virgin Islands, a romantic three-day weekend in New York, or staying home to read a book. The way Americans vacation and travel and their expectations of vacation time have been changing as U.S. society has evolved. Unchanged, however, is Americans' conviction that travel and vacationing improve the quality of their lives.

The perception that Americans work more and have less vacation time than people in other countries around the world has its basis in fact. Data gathered on twenty countries by Catherine Valenti in the report "Vacation Deprivation—Americans Get Short-Changed When It Comes to Holiday Time" (June 25, 2003) showed that Americans, who averaged just 10.2 vacation days per year, took the least vacation time of workers in the countries surveyed. Many European countries, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, and Norway, had an average of thirty days per year, while residents of the United Kingdom averaged twenty-five, and even the hardworking Japanese had 17.5.

Perhaps because of this reduced amount of vacation time, Americans often try to pack as much activity as possible into their trips. This desire to make the most of a vacation can sometimes backfire, however, as a 2002 Gallup poll found. Rather than returning rested and relaxed, 54% of Americans who had taken a vacation trip during the previous twelve months reported they had gotten back feeling tired, while 19% said they were "very tired" or "exhausted."

In part, this was because many had started their trip with too little sleep—32% reported that the night before their vacation, they got to bed at least two hours later than normal because of a lack of advance planning, while 54% said they got up earlier than normal the next day to get an early start. Although some may have been awake because they were excited about going away, 46% said they were up late packing things the night before they left, while 10% packed the day they left. Once on vacation, the majority of travelers said they had stayed up too late on at least one night of their trip, and 22% of vacationers on ten-to fourteen-day trips said they went to bed later than normal nearly every night.


Where Do Americans Travel?

According to a poll of travel agents conducted by Fodor's and the American Society of Travel Agents, published online by, the top ten domestic vacation destinations for Americans in 2004 were Orlando, Las Vegas, New York City, San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles, the Hawaiian Islands, Miami, New Orleans, and San Diego. A poll of visitors to the TravelSense Web site revealed a similar list, with their top responses consisting of Las Vegas, Hawaii, Orlando, New York, San Francisco, Alaska, Miami, Maui, Florida, and Disney World.

The top states to visit in 2003, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), were California, Florida, and Texas. Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois made up the rest of the TIA's list of top ten destination states.

The U.S. Department of Transportation periodically conducts surveys of the travel habits of Americans. The most recent such effort, the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, (NHTS; 2003), reported that Americans took nearly 2.6 billion trips of fifty miles or more during that year. Almost 98% of these trips were to destinations in the United States, with only 2.2% to destinations out-side the United States. More than 62% of trips were to locations within the traveler's home state. (See Table 7.1 and Figure 7.1.)


Long-distance trips and miles by destination, 2001
source: "Table A-25. Long-Distance Trips and Miles by Destination, in Percent," in National Household Travel Survey Highlights Report, U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2003, (accessed September 10, 2004)
Different region10.933.3
Different state, different division, same region7.59.9
Different state, same division17.013.8
Same state62.426.7

Means of Travel

The NHTS reported that the total of domestic miles traveled by U.S. citizens taking long-distance trips in 2001 was 1,360 trillion. Of this total, more than half were taken by personal vehicle (760.3 billion), with air travel accounting for most of the remainder (557.6 billion). Bus travel (27.1 billion) and trains (10.5 billion) were used far less. (See Table 7.2.)

The mode of travel varied with distance. For trips of 100–299 miles, 97.2% of trips were taken by personal vehicle, with just 1.6% by bus and 0.9% by train. These proportions were similar for trips of between 300–499 miles and 500–999 miles, with 10.3% of the latter trips taken by air, but for trips of between 1,000 and 1,999 miles, vehicle (53.9%) and air (42.4%) were in closer competition. Almost three-quarters of trips over two thousand miles were taken by air. (See Table 7.3.)

air travel declines. The entire travel industry, including hospitality and other tourism-dependent businesses, was hit hard following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After four airplanes were hijacked and used as missiles to attack New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and (unsuccessfully) one other target in Washington, D.C., numerous gaps in airplane security were discovered, and the number of Americans willing to travel by air dropped sharply.

On November 19, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (PL 107-71), which established the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) within the Department of Transportation (later shifted to the Department of Homeland Security). The agency soon began implementing a number of new maritime, ground transportation, and aviation security programs, which included replacing private airport security screeners with TSA employees and requiring strengthened cockpit doors on planes. The organization was later charged with training airline pilots who


Long-distance trips and trip miles by mode, 2001
Total trips (millions)Median milesTotal miles (millions)
source: "Table A-22. Long-Distance Trips and Trip Miles by Mode, in Millions," in National Household Travel Survey Highlights Report, U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2003, (accessed September 10, 2004)
Personal vehicle2,336.1194760,324.7

wished to carry weapons in the air, and the first group of forty-four such pilots was deputized on April 19, 2003, after a week's training.

While these and other new security measures had been implemented, many Americans remained nervous about flying. A Gallup poll taken in November 2003 showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans felt it was likely that terrorists would either blow up a plane or hijack one within the next five years. Slightly more than half believed terrorists would shoot one down with a shoulder-fired missile. (See Figure 7.2.)

In 2003, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), 587.3 million passengers boarded (or "enplaned") large commercial and regional commuter airplanes, an increase of 2.2% over the 2002 figure of 574.5 million, but equal to the level of 1998. Large carrier enplanements declined by 0.8%, while regional/commuter enplanements rose by 18.7%. International enplanements increased by 5.7% in 2003, to 54.1 million, but this number was slightly below the 1998 level.

The FAA found that landings and takeoffs dropped 3.3% in 2003 and were at the lowest level since 1996. The airline industry remained in a state of financial depression during the year, with total losses of $5.3 billion reported, although this was less than the $10.5 billion lost in 2002. No major air carrier had reported an annual profit since 2000, with just Continental Airlines posting a quarterly profit during that time. Philip Baggaley, the managing director for airlines and aerospace companies at credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's, estimated in 2004 that only three or four of the six major air carriers (American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, and U.S. Airways) would still be solvent by 2010. Both U.S. Airways and United had sought bankruptcy protection from the courts in the aftermath of September 11, and American and Delta had officially given notice that they were in danger of going under.


Looking to the future, the FAA forecast an average annual growth rate of 4.2% between 2003 and 2015, with boarding expected to return to pre–September 11 levels by 2005. By 2014 the total number of passengers boarding commercial planes in the United States was expected to reach one billion.

In 2003 the U.S. large air carrier passenger fleet consisted of 4,090 aircraft, and this number was projected to grow to 5,732 by 2015. More planes were expected to be operated by low-cost carriers in the future, however, with older airlines projected to decline in size over time.

Reasons for Travel

Research done by the TIA found that of the 1.1 billion "person trips" Americans took during 2003 (defined as one person traveling on a trip of fifty miles or more, oneway, away from home), 82% were for pleasure. Of the remaining trips, 12% were for business, and 6% combined business and pleasure.

In 2003, the TIA reported, 30% of travelers shopped while on a trip. Other popular activities included attending a social or family event (27%), outdoor activities (11%), city or urban sightseeing (10%), rural sightseeing (10%), and going to the beach (10%). Activities engaged in by fewer than 10% of travelers included visiting historic places/sites or museums (8%), gambling (7%), visiting a theme/amusement park (7%), visiting a national or state park (7%), attending seminars or courses (6%), nightlife/dancing (6%), and attending a sports event (6%).

Weekend Travel

The growing number of two-career families has made it increasingly difficult for families to schedule


Long-distance trips by mode and distance, 2001
100–299 miles300–499 miles500–999 miles1,000–1,999 miles2,000+ miles
source: "Table A-23. Long-Distance Trips by Mode and Distance, in Percent," in National Household Travel Survey Highlights Report, U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2003, (accessed September 12, 2004)
Personal vehicle97.294.385.953.922.2


long trips. Weekend trips, especially three-day weekends, have become the practical, if not ideal, solution for such couples.

According to the TIA, the most common type of travel in 2003 was short trips involving either no overnight stay at a destination (reported by 24% of travelers) or short stays of one to two nights (34%). Just 29% of domestic travelers took three-to six-night trips, while 14% were away for seven or more nights.

Americans began taking increasing numbers of weekend trips in the late 1990s, according to the TIA. Nearly half of U.S. adults (103 million) took at least one weekend trip per year, and close to 30% of Americans took five or more per year. Destinations for weekend trips included cities (33%), small towns (26%), beaches (16%), mountain areas (10%), and lake areas (4%).

Not all travel is planned in advance. According to the TIA, in 2001 more than eighty-three million American adults took last-minute trips. Most last-minute travelers (70%) used their own cars, 15% used air transportation, and 8% took recreational vehicles (RVs). About one-third of these trips involved overnight stays of three to four days, just 12% were longer than eight days, and 9% of last-minute travelers made day trips.

Type of Lodging

Of travelers who spent one or more nights away from home in 2003, the TIA reported that 39% stayed with friends or family, while more than half (55%) stayed in a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast. Five percent stayed in RVs or tents, 4% found lodging in condos or time-shares, and the remaining 7% found other accommodations.

Who Travels?

The TIA reported that baby boomers (categorized for the study as those aged thirty-five to fifty-four) generated the highest volume of domestic travel in 2003, with the average head of a traveling household forty-seven years of age. Slightly less than two-thirds of domestic travelers were married, while 22% were single or never married, and 16% were divorced, widowed, or separated.

Of the travelers who headed their households, 58% held college degrees. Eighty-one percent were employed full-or part-time, while 14% were retired. The average annual household income of travelers increased from $68,800 in 2001 to $69,500 in 2003.

taking the kids along. According to the TIA, more adults traveled with children during 2003 than they had during 2002—more than 167 million household trips included a child or children. Not surprisingly, children accompanied adults on more pleasure trips than business


Information sources that influenced last vacation choice, 2003
(Representative sample)CruisersVacationersDestinationLuxuryPremiumContemporary
Base: Cruises/vacationers
source: "Information Sources That Influenced Last Vacation Choice," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
Word of mouth45%41%46%30%38%35%41%
Always wanted to go36403432474340
Good price27312625313231
Spouse or travel companion25272527202627
Destination website16151712171217
Magazine advertisement1116812191616
Internet advertisement109107769
Travel magazine916621221814
Travel agent recommendation817415212416
Travel guide811710101211
Direct mail713515221812
Television/radio commercial6763967
Cruise website3104151212

trips, although the percentage of adults who brought children along on business trips was 10% in 2003.

planning and enjoying family travel. A family travel survey commissioned in 2002 by the car rental company Avis looked at how American families prepared for car trips and summer road vacations. Along with travel planning, the one thousand American parents who participated in the survey were asked about passenger concerns, automobile maintenance, and entertaining children while on the road.

The survey found that many families (46%) planned summer vacations that would enable them to spend quality time with one another. Other motivations for planning family trips included visiting family and friends (25%) and exploring new parts of the country (14%).

Nearly half of parents surveyed said they would prefer to take several short trips during the summer, as opposed to one long trip. When families took to the road, fathers typically handled more of the driving (62%), while mothers drove just 33% of the time.

Rather than relying on digital videodisc (DVD) and videocassette recorder (VCR) players to amuse children, as they might when they were at home, respondents said they preferred to entertain children during car trips by engaging them in traditional pastimes, such as sing-alongs, reading, and made-up games. Only 14% of parents used DVD and VCR players to entertain children in the car.

choosing where to go—who decides? According to research performed in 2003 by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), many sources influence a family's decision on where to vacation. For all respondents, as well as the subsets of cruisers and "vacationers" (defined by CLIA as those who took leisure trips away from home of at least three days' duration), the most influential source of information was word of mouth, which had an impact on almost half of respondents in each category of travelers. Almost as many respondents, more than a third in each case, said they chose a vacation destination where they had "always wanted to go." A quarter or more were influenced by a spouse or travel companion, while close to one-sixth chose their destination based on information they saw on a Web site. (See Table 7.4.)


National parks are one of America's biggest tourist attractions. The United States has set aside more than eighty-three million acres of land for national parks. The National Park System includes parks, monuments, historical and military areas, parkways, recreation areas, nature preserves, rivers, seashores, and lakes. For additional information on the U.S. National Parks system, see Chapter Three.

According to the TIA study The National Parks Traveler (2004 edition), in 2002 U.S. households generated eighty-seven million person trips (that is, individuals who traveled more than fifty miles) to state or national parks. Twenty percent of international travelers also visited U.S. national or state parks. Forty percent of U.S. adults had visited a national park at least once during the preceding five years.

Reasons for visiting the parks included experiencing nature, cited by 92% of visitors, educational benefits (90%), experiencing culture and history (89%), and spending time with family (89%). Activities visitors engaged in included outdoor sports (44%), outdoor recreation (39%), tourism and sightseeing (39%), water recreation (17%), and National Park Service programs (11%).

Planning for National Park visits in 2002 was done via the Internet by 38% of visitors, with 47% planning their trip one month or more in advance. One-quarter of visitors did not decide where they would stay before making their visit. Three-fourths of visitors stayed overnight in the parks, or within ten miles, on their most recent trip.

The TIA reported that 7% of U.S. domestic travelers visited a national or state park in 2003, down from 10% in 2001. Participating in outdoor activities, including visits to national or state parks, was the third most popular activity cited by American travelers.


Americans flock to the beach in the summer. The TIA reported that in 2003 one in ten person trips, or nearly 110 million, were made to beaches. Slightly more than twofifths of trips to beaches were made with children, and 36% of beach trips lasted a week or longer.

According to the TIA, beach travelers did more than swim, sunbathe, and stroll along the shores. Nearly half of beach trips involved shopping, almost one-quarter of beachgoers visited historical sites or museums, about a fifth enjoyed national or state parks, and a sixth went to an amusement or theme park while on their beach trip.


The TIA reported on its Web site ( that seventy-nine million trips of fifty miles or more were taken by domestic travelers to visit theme and amusement parks in 2003. Overall, about 7% of domestic travelers visited a theme or amusement park while away from home. This is about the same percentage as those who participated in gambling or visited a national park. However, among households with children, 12% traveled to an amusement or theme park while on vacation. Amusement and theme park vacations were typically more expensive than other types of trips, costing an average of $810 compared to the U.S. average for all trips, $398. This was in part due to the fact that vacationers who visited amusement and theme parks tended to stay longer (5.7 nights) versus the average U.S. trip (4.1 nights). About 60% of households vacationing at an amusement or theme park included children, compared to about one quarter of vacationing households overall.


A New Generation of Cruisers

For many travelers, few experiences compare to sailing to exotic destinations on a cruise ship. According to the Cruise Lines International Association, an organization of


Annual cruise ship passengers, 1980–2003
Actual (in thousands)
source: "Annual Passenger Growth," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7,2004)
Average growth rate 1980–2003+8.1%

nineteen member cruise lines, the cruise industry grew by an average of more than 8% each year from 1980 to 2003. In 1980 1.4 million Americans took cruises. In 2003 about 8.2 million people went on a cruise. (See Table 7.5.)

Although the North American cruise industry suffered in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, according to the CLIA the industry had already rebounded by February 2002. Several of the CLIA's member cruise lines reported record numbers of reservations made in the first three weeks of January 2002, the period known in the cruise industry as the "wave period" because it usually provided a good indication of booking activity for the balance of the year.

CLIA research has found that cruising appeals to Americans seeking to be pampered and to enjoy fine dining, as well as to those who wished to visit several destinations. Cruising was also considered better than other vacations in terms of ease of planning, being a good value, and offering quality entertainment. Historically, most cruise passengers were over the age of sixty. Modern cruise vacationers were generally younger, more active, and adventurous. The CLIA looked at the demographic characteristics of its target market—Americans age twenty-five and older, who had household incomes of more than $20,000 per year. (See Table 7.6.) They found that typical cruisers within this sample of the population were:


Demographic profile of cruise passengers, 2003
(Representative sample)CruisersVacationersNon-cruise/non-vacationer
source: "Table 4. Demographics Summary," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
$20,000 to less than $40,00027%18%29%49%
$40,000 to less than $60,00027262730
$60,000 to less than $80,0001921199
$80,000 to less than $100,0001114104
$100,000 to less than $150,00081083
Average (in 1,000s)$64$71$63$45
Median (in 1,000s)$50$57$49$34
Marital status
Employment status
Educational attainment
College grad or higher49%56%49%27%
Post graduate1824175
  • Nearly evenly distributed among all age ranges. One-fifth were under forty, nearly two-fifths were forty to fifty-nine, and the remaining two-fifths were over the age of sixty. The average age was fifty-two years
  • Almost equally male (50%) and female (50%)
  • Predominantly married (78%)
  • Spread among all income ranges, but with an average income of $71,000
  • More than twice as likely to be retired (37%) as other vacationers (17%)

According to the CLIA, from 1997 to 2003 cruises sailed, in general, at about 90% of capacity. In 2003 the average length of cruises was 6.9 days. (See Table 7.7.) Cruises ranged in cost from approximately $75 to more than $500 per day per adult, depending on cabin choices, upgrades, and other features, but nearly all included meals and entertainment. Children often traveled free or at reduced cost. Growth was predicted in all types of cruises, especially short cruises (one to five days).

Unprecedented Cruise Options

According to the organization's Web site (, CLIA-member lines visited 1,800 ports of call around the world during 2004. From Antarctica to the Caribbean, and Africa to the Mississippi River, cruises reached virtually all waters of the world. Cruise ship passengers could visit ancient Buddhist temples in Indonesia, sip cappuccino in Venice, watch whales on the Pacific Coast, scuba dive in the Caribbean, or shop in Turkey. Cruises were sometimes organized around a particular theme, which could include big band or jazz music; arts and crafts; wine and food; or film. For passengers who preferred relaxing, as opposed to stimulating vacations, the opportunity to simply lounge in a deck chair or read was enjoyable. Cruise ship cuisine is legendary, as is the pampering most cruisers experienced.


Average length of cruises, 1981–2003
Average length of cruise (days)Percent of total passengers in 2–5 day category
source: "Average Length of Cruise," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)

The most popular cruise locations in 2004 were the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Alaska, the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, western Mexico, Europe, and Bermuda. (See Table 7.8.) Short cruises were popular, with 32.9% of those who cruised in 2003 going on two-to five-day excursions. (See Table 7.9.) Many people also enjoyed day trips, also known as "cruises to nowhere," which typically included gambling.

In an effort to attract families, many ships offered extensive youth facilities and programs that included kids-only shore excursions. The CLIA reported that about 18% of people going on cruises in 2003 traveled with children, up from 15% two years earlier. Cruise lines such as Disney's Big Red Boat were designed and outfitted to appeal to families.


Heritage tourism seeks to draw visitors to historic and cultural sites. Although historic and cultural destinations were not as popular with leisure travelers as cities, visits to friends and family, beaches, and lakes, a significant number of travelers choose educational experiences.

According to the TIA/Smithsonian magazine report The Historic/Cultural Traveler (2003 edition), nearly 118 million American adults attended at least one cultural, arts, heritage, or historic activity or event while traveling in 2002. Many travelers prolonged their trips solely to participate in cultural or historic events and activities. Four in ten historic/cultural travelers said they added extra time to their trips to enable them to attend a historic activity or cultural event.

The TIA/Smithsonian report found that these travelers spent more—an average of $623 per trip, compared to $457 for all U.S. travelers, excluding transportation to their destinations. The report also distinguished historic/cultural travelers from other travelers, describing them as more inclined to take longer trips (seven nights or more), and more likely to utilize air travel, a rental car, and a hotel.

The TIA/Smithsonian survey found that 39% of historic/cultural travelers said that trips that included cultural, arts, historic, or heritage activities or events were more enjoyable to them. Visits to destinations with historical significance were preferred by 38% of travelers, while 29% felt that it was important that the trips they took for vacation or leisure provide cultural experiences. Slightly more than a quarter felt that a vacation or leisure trip away from home was not complete without visiting a museum, historic site, or landmark, while 17% felt a trip was not complete without attending a cultural event or arts performance.

The list of most-visited destinations for historic/cultural travelers was topped by Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Boston. Other cities in the top ten included Las Vegas; Norfolk, Virginia; Atlanta; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco; and Los Angeles.

Consumer interest has led many corporate sponsors to invest in programs promoting heritage tourism. Travel services companies have invested in projects by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help communities develop and maintain their historic and cultural sites. Some hotels and car rental agencies have contributed to school programs to educate children about historic sites across the United States.

Mock Combat—Civil War Reenactments

A growing number of people enjoy participating in reenactments of historical events, often involving military battles. A group of Massachusetts residents have reenacted the events of April 19, 1775 (which marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War) for more than seventy years, and other groups dress as English knights, Spanish conquistadors, Roman gladiators, or Vikings.

One of the most popular eras to reenact is the U.S. Civil War (1861–65). Estimates of the number of these hobbyists have varied. In 1996 a reenactment of the Battle of Antietam drew thirteen thousand costumed people to Maryland. In 1997 almost twenty thousand costumed soldiers and civilians went to Gettysburg for the 134th anniversary of that battle. In 2003 an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune estimated that there were as many as


Cruise destinations, 1987–2003
Destination1987 Total bed days1989 Total bed days1995 Total bed days1999 Total bed days2000 Total bed days2001 Total bed days2002 Total bed days2003 Total bed days2003 Percent2004 Total bed days2004 Percent2004 vs. 2003 change
Note: Current destination classifications were established in 1994. Prior to 1985, Bermuda was included in Bahamas/Caribbean; Mississippi and Coastal East were not reported. Prior to 1992, Indian Ocean and Africa were part of unclassified. In 1993 Mexico East was changed to Western Caribbean.
source: "Geographical Destination/Application," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
Trans Canal970,191979,6912,277,2013,036,2082,573,4442,396,4242,092,7233.94%3.94%2,930,5283.79%5.26%
Mexico West1,131,4621,628,8241,754,3122,529,1062,680,9341,166,7563,386,4753,390,7684.80%4,827,2626.24%42.36%
South Pacific352,983383,210574,218947,3821,155,2171,158,044835,4641,099,0561.55%683,5060.88%‒37.81%
South East Asia272,592207,405430,123150,107244,620429,550346,196123,3500.17%20,3720.03%‒83.48%
Canada/New England283,714219,992334,735681,6891,107,6891,138,9751,150,9501,105,2741.56%1,488,5851.93%34.68%
Far East (Orient)465,608238,630327,009188,038201,582215,022360,022219,3580.31%403,5380.52%83.96%
South America620,396458,246255,834657,992825,6701,422,7551,394,8081,653,5352.34%1,088,5691.41%‒34.17%
U.S. Coastal West22,18564,444108,09265,108217,5181,944,752216,338376,7090.53%643,7920.83%70.90%
Indian Ocean0084,00940,572120,698227,48393,70823,1480.03%10,5440.01%‒54.45%
Trans Pacific17,904113,68442,61086,15052,40067,120143,02078,9300.11%11,6000.02%‒85.30%
U.S. Coastal East132,79484,92042,480113,3871,402,42980,312147,422837,5401.18%60,0720.08%‒92.83%
Party cruises85,336140,6583,60259,84668,20356,01043,29610,6350.02%14,8880.02%39.99%


Category shares of cruise passengers, by length of cruise, 1980–2003
(In percent)
19802003% Point change
source: "Growth by Length of Cruise—North American Market-Share," in The Cruise Industry—An Overview, Cruise Lines International Association, Spring 2004, (accessed July 7, 2004)
2–5 days24.3%32.98.6
6–8 days59.156.3−2.8
9–17 days15.410.4−5.0
18+ days1.20.4−0.8

forty-five thousand military and civilian Civil War reenactors in the United States. When they attended a reenactment, they were often accompanied by their families.

Reenactors may visit school classrooms, march in parades, teach seminars, hold public demonstrations, or participate in weekend battle games. Groups also meet in a number of overseas countries, including England, Germany, Taiwan, France, Belgium, Spain, Japan, Sweden, and Norway. Dozens of reenactment groups have Internet sites.

Civil War reenactments began during the 1960s at the time of the Civil War's centennial. A love of history and a desire to educate are the primary motivations mentioned by reenactors. Interest in reenactments has tended to increase after mass-market films about the war are shown on television or in movie theaters.

Civil War reenactments are not for everyone, however. Just getting started requires buying period clothes, boots, a tent, mess equipment, and a gun, at a cost of $1,000 to $1,500. The investment can reach $2,000 for members of groups that strive for high levels of authenticity. These groups can be so exacting that they do not allow members to use modern speech or eyeglasses. An estimated two hundred businesses have grown to satisfy the need for authenticity in costumes, including "great coats" and brogans (heavy, ankle-high shoes) and equipment. Participating in reenactments requires physical strength, vigor, and endurance. Young men typically serve as soldiers because the average age of soldiers fell from twenty-five in 1862 to eighteen in 1864. Some older adult enthusiasts may remain involved in the activity as spectators when marching long distances in inclement weather becomes too physically demanding.


Many Americans dream about romantic getaways with a spouse or other love interest to ignite or rekindle romantic feelings in the relationship. According to the 2002 TIA Travel Poll, more than forty-two million American adults said they had taken a romantic vacation in the prior year. Many of these romantic vacations consisted of honeymoons or anniversary celebrations.

Not surprisingly, the TIA survey found that Americans without children in their households took more romantic vacations than parents with children. The poll revealed that romance-related travel was most popular among baby boomers—four out of ten (41%) romance travelers were aged thirty-five to fifty-four. One-third (33%) of these travelers were aged eighteen to thirty-four. The majority (67%) of romance-related travelers were married. Many of these travelers (38%) had above-average annual household incomes of $50,000 or more.

A 2002 poll by America Online (AOL) and Travel + Leisure magazine asked AOL members to rank their "favorite way to spend a dream honeymoon or special anniversary." The top responses were a luxury cruise in the Caribbean (34%) and a visit to an island in the South Pacific (32%). Other popular choices were spending time in a country inn (16%), in the heart of a European city (14%), skiing in the Rocky Mountains (3%) or on an African safari (2%). When asked what, in their "wildest dreams," would be their most romantic trip, 53% said they wished they could rent out an entire private-island resort. Another 18% said they dreamed of chartering a yacht to sail to all seven continents, while 12% said they'd like to lease a castle with a full staff.


Americans love to shop, and for many, shopping means "heading to the mall." According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), in 2003 there were 46,990 shopping centers in the United States, which contained a total of 5.9 billion square feet of leasable retail space. California had the most shopping centers, with 6,243, and Wyoming the fewest—fifty-five.

An estimated 203.1 million adults visited shopping centers each month in 2003, up from 201.1 million in 2002. The average customer spent $68.20 per mall visit. The ICSC estimated that 76% of all nonautomotive retail sales (nearly $2 trillion worth) were generated by shopping centers, and that 17.6 million Americans were employed by them, or 14% of all nonagricultural workers in the United States.

According to the ICSC, the five largest shopping centers in the United States in 2003 were the Mall of America (Bloomington, Minnesota), King of Prussia Plaza (King of Prussia, Pennsylvania), South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, California), The Galleria (Houston, Texas), and Woodfield Mall (Schaumburg, Illinois). Although many of the largest ones were enclosed, 95% of shopping centers were open-air—according to the ICSC, there were just 1,130 enclosed malls in the United States.

Outlet Malls

Outlet shopping malls have become major attractions for American travelers. Outlet stores typically offer bargains on overstocked, discontinued, or slightly imperfect merchandise from major brand names. In 2003, according to the ICSC, there were 230 outlet malls, which had generated an estimated $16.5 billion in retail sales during 2002. The 2000 TIA Travel Poll reported that out of all travelers on trips of one hundred or more miles away from home, almost 40% visited an outlet mall. Of the visitors, 46% were men and 54% were women. One out of ten respondents cited outlet shopping as the primary reason for the trip. Most said it was the secondary reason, and about 10% said it was not an original reason for the trip, although they did visit an outlet mall.

The Mall of America

Opened in 1992, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, was America's largest shopping mall in 2004, and the second largest in the world. More than 4.2 million square feet in size, it had more than 520 shops, sixty restaurants, eight nightclubs, a walk-through aquarium, and Camp Snoopy, the world's largest indoor family theme park. Built at a cost of $650 million, the mall employed more than eleven thousand people year round and was visited by approximately forty million people per year. Many were tourists who visited for a weekend of shopping. Tourists, 73% of whom drove there by car or bus, spent an average of $129 per visit in 2002, according to Mall of America officials.


Family reunions provided incentive for about one-third of Americans to travel, according to the 2002 TIA Travel Poll. Thirty-four percent of U.S. adults (seventytwo million) had traveled to a family reunion during the three-year period preceding the poll, and one in five had traveled to a family reunion in the year before the poll.

Married people were more likely to take a trip to attend a family reunion than unmarried people (38% versus 30%). Similarly, adults with children under eighteen were more inclined than those without children to take a family reunion trip (39% versus 32%). There was a widespread willingness to travel great distances to reconnect with far-flung family members: 34% of surveyed respondents reported traveling five hundred or more miles one way away from home. Another 34% traveled between 150 and 499 miles, while 32% traveled less than 150 miles to attend reunions.

Family reunions were most often held in a private home (52%). The TIA poll found that other popular locations for reunions were city or town parks (12%) and national or state parks or forests (6%).


"Green" (advantageous to the environment) travel is important to many travelers. The 2002 TIA/National Geographic Traveler report Geotourism: The New Trend in Travel classified more than fifty-five million Americans as geotourists. This term was defined as people whose travel was intended to sustain or enhance the geographical character of the place being visited (including its environment, culture, aesthetics, and heritage) and the well-being of its residents.

According to the report, although most travelers were concerned with price and value, 58.5 million Americans said they would pay more to use a travel company that strove to protect and preserve the environment. Of these, 61% said they would be willing to pay 5% to 10% more. Almost a third of respondents said they believed it was important for travel companies they used to employ local residents and to support the local communities of their destinations, while 30% said they were "very" or "extremely" likely to buy products and services from companies that donated part of their proceeds to charitable organizations.

The TIA/National Geographic Traveler report also found that 71% of the traveling public felt it was important that their visit to a destination not damage its environment. Nearly two-thirds (61%) believed that their travel experience was better when a destination preserved its natural, historic, and cultural sites and attractions. Seeing and doing something "authentic" was also important, with 41% of travelers saying it made their experience better.

More than half of travelers were aware of at least one practice that travel companies employed to preserve and protect the environment of destinations. These included reusing towels and sheets, reducing energy use, and recycling, or using local vegetation on property grounds.

A late 1990s study by the Vermont-based Ecotourism Society reported that nearly half (48.1%) of the more than 3,340 surveyed participants indicated a degree of enthusiasm for activities such as biking, hiking, canoeing, and visiting parks, as well as observing animals and other wildlife when they vacationed. Of these nature enthusiasts, more than 30% were termed either "heavy users" (those who planned trips that involved nature-based recreation the majority of the time) or "moderate users" (those who planned trips that entailed some time spent pursuing nature-based activities).

The Ecotourism Society characterized the typical ecotourist as between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-four, a college graduate, and as likely to be male as female. Experienced ecotourists preferred trips of longer duration, from eight to fourteen days, and were willing to spend more on travel than general tourists. The activities ecotourists favored included visiting parks, hiking, exploring preserved areas, and wildlife viewing.

A further trend in travel includes those foregoing traditional tourist excursions in favor of service trips that combine work and leisure, often in a foreign country. For example, Habitat for Humanity International offers a Global Village program that combines volunteer home-building activities with the opportunity to live with a host family abroad. Trips planned for July 2005 include building cement block homes near Lusaka at Tiyende Pamodzi in Zambia and building timber homes in Papua New Guinea.


According to the TIA, business travel volume in 2003 was 210.5 million person trips, a drop of 2% from 2002. Business travel comprised 18% of total U.S. domestic person trips. The most common purposes for business trips were general business (meetings/consultations/presentations/sales), which accounted for 44% of trips, and conventions/conferences/seminars (22%). One-third (34%) of business trips were made for combined business and pleasure purposes. One in ten business/convention/seminar trips included multiple adults from the same household, and 5% included children.

According to the 2001 TIA report Business and Convention Travelers, half of trips that combined business and pleasure were taken by solo travelers, one-third were taken by multiple adults from a household, and one in five included a child. Baby boomers were the most likely to take combined business and pleasure trips, and households with at least one college degree took two-thirds of combined trips. About half of these travelers were professionals or employed in managerial capacities. One-third of combined business and pleasure trips were taken by households with children who lived at home.


Elderhostel, a nonprofit organization that arranges trips that combine learning and recreation for people fifty-five and older, grew from 220 participants and six programs in its founding year of 1975 to 170,000 participants and ten thousand programs in 2003. In 2004 Elderhostel offered 8,300 programs in the United States and Canada and 2,000 in over ninety countries overseas.

Along with exotic travel adventures around the world, Elderhostel has developed a popular group of intergenerational programs that pair grandparents with their grandchildren in a range of learning adventures. It has turned ships and barges into floating classrooms and created service programs that offer participants the chance to volunteer for worthy causes around the world.


The TIA's 2004 Travelers'Use of the Internet survey reported that sixty-four million travelers used the Internet in 2003, about the same number as in 2002. Use of the Internet for travel planning had risen dramatically since 1997, when just twelve million Americans planned and researched travel online. The rate of growth in the online travel planning market slowed in response to the slower rate of growth of "wired" (Internet-connected) households.

Although the overall number of people doing travel planning online did not increase from 2002 to 2003, consumers were doing more travel research and planning online than ever before. Twenty-nine percent of surveyed respondents said they did all of their trip research and planning online, up from 23% in the previous year. During 2003 more than forty-two million people booked travel using the Internet, an increase of 8% from 2002. The Internet was also used more frequently to make reservations—more than two-thirds of respondents (70%) did at least half of their travel booking online, up from 56% in 2001.

The TIA report speculated that the Internet was responsible for changing booking patterns—more consumers booked later to take advantage of low prices on last-minute travel and specials available exclusively online. Airline tickets were the most frequently purchased travel products online, reported by 75% of all online travel bookers, followed by accommodations (71%) and rental cars (43%). The average amount spent online increased in 2003 to $2,600 from $2,300 in 2002. Travel companies found e-mail to be a useful promotional tool, with thirty-five million travelers signing up with supplier Web sites or online travel services to receive special offers, and ten million acting on an offer to take a trip they might not have otherwise taken, according to the TIA.

The study highlighted problems facing travel agents, who had seen a substantial portion of their business taken by online services. According to the TIA, in 2002, 26% of Americans, or fifty-four million adults, said they had used a travel agent to book at least one business, pleasure, or personal trip, flight, hotel room, rental car, or tour in the preceding three years. This figure was down from the reported 32% in 1999. One bright spot for travel agents was the continuing growth of the cruise industry, according to the 2004 CLIA report. The CLIA found that 88% of cruisers booked some or all of their trip with an agent, compared to more than half of all vacationers who said they never used a travel agent.


Americans like to travel abroad, though many are not able to or can only do so occasionally because of the expense involved. A 2003 Harris poll of countries Americans would choose to visit if cost were not a factor found that the number one choice was Australia, followed by Italy, Great Britain, France, and Ireland. Australia had topped the poll for seven years running, although Italy moved up from fifth place in 1997 to second in 2003. Lower down in the poll were Germany (sixth), New Zealand (seventh), Japan (eighth), Spain (ninth), and Greece (tenth). Interest in Japan had grown since 2002, when it did not place in the top fifteen, while New Zealand had risen from thirteenth place, possibly because of interest in the Lord of the Rings films, which were shot there. Between 2002 and 2003 Canada fell from third to twelfth, while Jamaica and Barbados dropped off the list entirely, after sharing ninth place in 2002.

According to a poll of travel agents conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents and Fodor's and published online in 2004 by, the top international destinations were London; Rome; Cancun, Mexico; Paris; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Aruba; Dublin, Ireland; Frankfurt; Montego Bay, Jamaica; and the Caribbean. Visitors to's Web site were polled as well, and their top ten choices were Cancun, Paris, London, Jamaica, the Caribbean, Aruba, Europe, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Puerto Vallarta.