ROCKVILLE, Md., June 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The outlook for family summer travel is bright, according to a new national survey by Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH) and FamilyFun magazine. With the economy improving, more than four out of five respondents (83 percent) said they plan to take an overnight leisure trip of more than 100 miles roundtrip this summer, up from last year's survey (78 percent). In fact, the majority of these travelers (53 percent) expect to take two or more leisure trips this summer.
Shrinking regional air routes and rising airline fees may drive a return of the classic American road trip. Fully nine in 10 respondents (90 percent) planning summer holiday trips will make the journey by car, the survey found.
"The great American road trip is back," said Steve Joyce, president and CEO, Choice Hotels. "I believe people are becoming more confident about their jobs, and they're planning to hit the road this summer. At the same time, travelers are looking for value, like free breakfast and free Wi-Fi, so they can spend that extra money on theme park tickets or an additional meal out with families and friends."
"Road trips have always been a great way for families to create memories together," said Ann Hallock, editor-in-chief, FamilyFun magazine. "The editors of FamilyFun are excited to see families are making the most of this precious time together with great ideas, from the latest apps and mobile devices to tried-and-true car trip pastimes that are fun for the whole family."Here is a snapshot of this summer's family traveler, according to the survey.
- Why Road Trips Rule. Priorities on getting good value, taking charge and bonding with family are among the key reasons for choosing road trips, the survey revealed. Identifying the main influential factors in their decision to drive instead of fly, most families said driving is less expensive (54 percent). Nearly half the respondents pointed out that "driving gives us more control over our schedule (46 percent), while more than two in five noted car trips "let us take as much luggage/gear as we like" and allow us to "take in scenery/attractions along the way" (42 percent and 41 percent respectively). Among the other reasons cited: Driving is easier" (30 percent), and it "gives us better family bonding time" (22 percent).
- Famous Family Travel Companions. Which famous family would respondents most want sharing the backseat (or minivan) with them? The frontrunners for famous families to take on a road trip are the Obamas and Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck and family, chosen by more than one in five respondents (23 percent and 22 percent respectively). Third on the list, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and family, trailed far behind, as the first choice of 8 percent of families surveyed. Topping the list of Worst Celebrity Family Road Trip Companions: Honey Boo-Boo's family and the Kardashians (33 percent and 21 percent respectively).
- Are We There Yet? Getting stuck in traffic is the No. 1 pet peeve for vacationing families on the road (57 percent), followed by drivers who are rude or dangerous (39 percent), car trouble (36 percent) and kids squabbling (33 percent). Rounding out the list of Top 5 Pet Peeves for Families on the Road: Children complaining about the length of the drive (29 percent).
- Tech Toys. Most families (56 percent) think technology makes road trips more fun. The majority (61 percent) plan to take three to five tech/media devices on their trips, including smartphones (68 percent), GPS navigation system (49 percent) and laptops (42 percent). Reflecting the explosive growth of tablets during the past few years, more than a third (37 percent) plan to take an iPad or other tablet on vacation.
- Bypasses to Backseat Boredom. In an interesting juxtaposition, families rank both technology and classic road trip diversions high on the list of most effective ways to keep kids carefree on the road. Bringing along plenty of snacks and drinks is by far the preferred way to keep children happy while in the car, cited by nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of families surveyed. Other favorite activities reflect a mix of media, technology and oldies but goodies, including:
- Watching DVDs on a portable player (59 percent)
- Playing video games and other electronic toys (51 percent)
- Listening to music on MP3s (36 percent)
- Stopping for frequent breaks so kids don't get too fidgety (32 percent)
- Playing classic car games like I Spy as a family (27 percent)
- Singing along to music as a family (20 percent)
- Playing with small non-electronic toys (20 percent)
- Telling funny family stories (18 percent)
- Coloring and doing arts & crafts projects in the car (18 percent)
- Affordability: King Of The Road. "Families are looking for affordable fun," Joyce explained. "This sentiment echoes throughout our survey, suggesting the lessons learned during the downturn remain top-of-mind for family travelers this summer." For example, affordability is the most influential factor in hotel selection, the survey found. Nearly three in four families (73 percent) cite "is affordable for my budget" as the top consideration in choosing a hotel. Approximately half of the respondents also place a premium on having complimentary, engaging amenities and being close to the action, including: free breakfast (50 percent), a pool (49 percent) and a location near attractions and restaurants (48 percent).
- Staycation: In the Rear View Mirror . Overall, many families have put the staycation trend that emerged during the Great Recession behind them. Compared to last summer, they are planning to take longer vacations (33 percent), travel farther from home (29 percent) and go on more trips (24 percent). In a departure from travel planning scenarios of the recent past, nearly one in five families (19 percent) will take a summer holiday trip that they have been putting off for a year or more, a clear sign of the improving outlook for family travel.
- Top Trip Picks. Classic road trip destinations still have their allure. Beach vacations are the top pick, selected by a majority (58 percent) of families. Nearly half (48 percent) plan to take theme/amusement park vacations, while many anticipate visiting family and friends (43 percent), state and national parks (30 percent) and lakes (30 percent). Cities are a big draw too, chosen by nearly three in ten families (28 percent).