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Holiday Season is Here: Travel Spending and Gifting on the Rise

Posted December 7, 2015


Across the world, travelers and travel companies brace for one of the busiest travel times of the year. With the average traveler expected to venture 275 miles for Christmas and 214 for Thanksgiving, the roads, rails, and air will be packed with holiday travelers.

Holiday Travel in America

According to the 2015 holiday survey, 71 percent of Americans are planning to take at least one trip between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, up 6 percent from last year. With this, travelers are budgeting more, spending $2,195 on holiday travel compared to $2,177 in 2014.

Related: Two Ways Travel Brands Can Resuscitate an Abandoned Travel Cart

Noting this, the “Insider Index” highlighted average spending, top destinations, and changes from the 2014 survey:

  • Airfare Prices are Down: For those traveling to the top 10 destinations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, the cost of travel is down. For thanksgiving, travelers are seeing a 9% decrease in travel prices ($369), with Christmas ($493) and New Years ($416) airfare prices down 4% and 12%, respectively.
  • Hotel Costs on the Rise: Considering the top 10 destinations, prices are on the rise. A Traveler will spend, on average $181 for a hotel on Thanksgiving, $201 for Christmas, and $229 for New Years, up 5%, 2%, and 14%, respectively.
  • Busiest Days: Looking to avoid the rush? Avoid November 25, December 23, and December 30.
  • Hotel and Flight Booking: Eighty-six percent of Americans plan to stay at a hotel over the holidays, as seventy-one percent of respondents find that staying at a hotel is less stressful.
  • Vacations are Hot this Holiday Season: Vacation packages are hot this year - 34 percent of respondents have already booked a holiday vacation package rather than booking travel products separately.
  • The Experiences over Objects Trend Continues: Sixty-four percent of Americans plan to spend more on holiday travel-related expenses than gifts.

See the top ten destinations for each holiday, the pricing trends, and more insights from the press release.

On the Road: Gas Prices Decline

With 91 percent of holiday travel by car according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, travelers should be happy to see that gas prices continue to drop. Down another $0.10, gas prices continue to nosedive, according to the WEX Index. At a national average of $2.19 per gallon, gasoline is nearly $0.80 lower than in 2014, with nine states currently having an average price less than $2.00 per gallon, with South Carolina in the lead at a price of $1.84.

Dining, Travel, and other Experiential Gifts on the Rise

According to a PwC study on holiday shopping trends, although traditional gifting remains strong (68% plan to buy physical gifts, 20% plan to buy gift cards), 12% of holiday shoppers are looking to experiential gifting, with 7% purchasing travel and vacations for loved ones, and 5% spending on entertainment and dining.

This trend follows the continued increase of millennial purchasing power, with more becoming selectionists—those with household incomes of $50,000 or more who will spend nearly twice that of survivalists (those making less than $50,000).

Related: Mobile and Millennials: How Travel Brands Must Accommodate

Noting this, millennials—those aged 18-34 according to PwC, will spend 52% of holiday budgeting on travel and entertainment, compared to just 39% of their Generation X and Boomer counterparts.

For more in terms of holiday shopping and travel trends, see the PwC Holiday Shopping Report.

Travel spending is on the rise, travel by both air and land will be cheaper, and more people are choosing the gift of experiences this holiday season. We look forward to sharing with you all the latest news in travel and travel payments. Follow WEX Travel on Twitter and LinkedIn, and learn more from the following:


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