In the 1970s, some of the hottest vacation spots for people venturing outside the U.S. included Burma and—incredibly—Tehran, Iran, according to Travel and Leisure magazine. At the same time, Cancun was still a “deserted beach” and New York had just sprouted a brand new art neighborhood called “Soho.”
Obviously, the world looks a little different today. Travel preferences can change fast, and they can have an impact on everything from changing air travel to a rise in new popular cuisines. We used SurveyMonkey Audience to ask over 500 people across the U.S. about why they travel, what their experiences are like, and where they’d like to go next.
Top travel destinations for Americans in 2019
Our survey included one open-ended question where we allowed people to write in the places that they were most excited to check out. The most popular response? The land down under.
Oceania in general caught a lot of attention from our respondents, in addition to some of the more classic European destinations, Japan, Africa (generally), and Hawaii.
The 10 places respondents listed most commonly were:
- New Zealand
Answers varied in specificity, but each of these appeared more than 20 times as a top destination for one of our respondents. (Australia was chosen 43 times). We also asked respondents about the type of vacation that they’d like more generally, with the following results.
We used the top responses from question to create a new filter, and see which locations different types of traveller gravitate to. Each of these responses was written in at least 3 times.
- Among those who picked “outdoorsy vacations,” the most popular destinations were: Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand
- Among those who picked “beach vacations,” the most popular spots were (unsurprisingly): Hawaii, Greece, and Australia
- For “arts and culture” folks: Australia, Japan, and Italy
- For foodies: Japan, France, and Italy
- Among nightlife aficionados and partiers: Australia (Greece and Florida both appeared twice)
- Among sports fans: Australia, France, and the Netherlands
Americans’ travel preferences
We also asked about preferred ways to travel. It turns out that most people (52%) like to get around by car, while 21% would rather fly. Only 8% would take a train, and less than 2% would prioritize bus or boat travel.
The majority of people prefer to travel with family (39%) or a significant other (33%), but there 12% of people enjoy solo exploration the most.
What holds people back from traveling?
Americans are infamously conservative about taking time off to travel, compared to countries in Europe where up to 6 weeks is the norm. Our study really drove this home: 61% of people take 2 weeks of vacation or less, and 30% take only a single week or less.
Besides work restrictions, what keeps people from exploring more? Mostly—cost. Even in the era of Google flights and Airbnb, travel is still prohibitively expensive for most people. Finances were the #1 reason that people passed up another vacation.
The #wanderlust generation?
One possible side effect of the high cost of travel is that millennials are taking fewer long-haul vacations. Even though less than 3% of people under the age of 30 say they have “no interest” in traveling, only 29% take more than two weeks of vacation per year, compared with 41% of people 45-60.
Young people aren’t missing out entirely though—59% of them leave their hometown at least once per month—the definition of weekend warriors. Only 42% of people over 45 can say the same.
And finally, the age group most likely to clap when a plane lands? 30-44, apparently. 37% of respondents clap at least sometimes. Only 26% of 18-30 year olds and 27% of people over 45 were equally enthusiastic.