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Families Struggle to Plan and Afford Vacations

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© Getty Images PHOTO: Family on the beach in Mexico. (photo via Jupiterimages/Stockbyte)

By Janeen Christoff, TravelPulse

Following on the heels of a survey by WalletHub that found many Americans struggle to afford a vacation this holiday season is another survey from the Family Travel Association that says affordability is a key concern for families.

Nearly three out of five families in the U.S. say they are very likely to take a vacation during the next two years, but about one out of five households reported that they will find it challenging to afford and prioritize travel over the next 24 months, according to the fourth annual U.S. Family Travel Survey conducted by the Family Travel Association (FTA) and New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality.

Families consistently believe that getting away as a family is important, but finding the cash continues to be a struggle.

“Consistently through the four years of the Family Travel Survey, affordability has been a key challenge for American families, and there is no indication this problem is abating,” said Dr. Lynn Minnaert, clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies, home of the Tisch Center.

“This is despite the fact that families understand the importance of vacationing together, including the bonding time, expanding your child’s horizons and helping children grow into confident adults,” added Minnaert, who was a principal researcher for the study.

Other reasons that may be keeping families from hitting the road are lack of information on packages and destinations and finding the time to travel together. Of the 1,724 respondents with vacation days, 58 percent said they did not use all of their paid time off, and 24 percent said they used less than half.

Fifty-eight percent of families indicated that they were very likely to take a vacation in the next two years, and 21 percent said they were likely to do so, according to the study. Around 20 percent of families said they were undecided (11 percent), or unlikely (10 percent) to take a vacation in the next two years.

Of the 10 percent not planning to travel as a family, affordability was the biggest reason preventing them from hitting the road. Vacations are expensive and, this year’s survey shows, on average, families spend between $2,500 and $5,000 on vacations.

“What a family finds to be affordable depends on several factors, including income, the value a family places on vacation time and their ability to educate themselves about their options,” said FTA founder Rainer Jenss, noting how spending by the top three household income groups drops off precipitously after spending hits the $5,000-$10,000 range.

“Parents frequently aren’t aware that savings and greater value for money are available because they don’t have the time to wade through and consider all their options,” Jenss added.

Families were asked what they needed in order to more efficiently plan a vacation. The top four responses were:

—More family-focused promotions and discounts.

—Clearer pricing information and fewer surcharges.

—More domestic U.S. travel package options.

—More extensive financing options.

“With all the priorities families have in their lives, putting aside the income as well as the time to thoroughly investigate their options can be difficult,” said Peter Bopp, FTA strategic director. “Providing more package deals and a wider range of ways to finance vacations will allow families to take greater advantage of travel’s incomparable possibilities.”

When families were asked to grade suppliers, travel agents and cruise lines received the highest marks, getting a grade of B-plus. Restaurants also received a B-plus while hotels and online travel agencies received a B. While often hyped as convenient for families, vacation rentals were graded a B-minus and airlines received a C-plus.

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