Out-of-State Vacation Days Exceed U.S. Average : West Coast Residents Like to Travel, Study Says

Times Staff Writers

West Coast residents spend more leisure time traveling than other Americans and are more likely to vacation abroad, according to a study of national travel trends conducted for Travel & Leisure magazine.

The study is based on interviews with 1,480 Americans who took at least one personal trip outside their own state in the last year. The report, “A Survey of Traveling Americans,” was released Tuesday. Pollster Louis Harris conducted the survey.

The data showed that respondents living in California, Oregon and the state of Washington spent an average of 17 nights vacationing outside their states in 1988. The average for respondents living in other regions was 16 nights.


More West Coast residents took extended vacations, according to the survey. In all, 18% took vacations of 30 days or more in 1988. Residents of the Northeast region ranked second, with 16% of respondents taking excursions of at least 30 days.

The West Coast also has the highest percentage of globe-trotters, according to the survey. The data showed that 14% of the respondents from the region traveled abroad in 1988, compared to the Northeast’s 12%. The plains states--with 2%--had the lowest percentage of foreign-traveling respondents.

Many traveling Americans dream of going to Europe, but--as in 1988--an overwhelming number of them will take trips only within the United States this year, according to the survey report. Insights into the sometimes-conflicting attitudes of the American traveling public, as shown in the magazine’s summary of the findings, include these points:

* About 10% of Americans who travel abroad have at some time canceled trip plans because of fears of terrorism. Airport security was called “very important” in selection of a foreign destination by 79% of the respondents who have traveled abroad, receiving more votes than any of the other 18 criteria.

* Europe was mentioned as at least one of the “dream” destinations by one-third of the respondents, but only 5% of traveling Americans went there in the last 12 months. However, 11% said they plan to do so in the next few years.

Early bookings for foreign travel this summer are promising, according to Ray Greenly, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, a trade association based in Arlington, Va.


“Bookings are quite strong,” Greenly said. “That suggests that Europe will be an appealing destination. It also suggests that Americans are putting terrorism into perspective.”

* While 94% of those interviewed said their most recent trip was as good as or better than they anticipated, 20% to 25% have experienced “serious” foul-ups related to hotel accommodations, airline reservations or lost luggage in the last five years. The magazine deduced that such problems seem to “fade in the positive afterglow” of the trip.

* The trend in weekend traveling at the expense of the traditional long vacation may be reversing itself. Although one-third of all personal travelers expect to take more weekend trips, 24% plan to increase the number of long vacations in the next few years.

* Seven out of 10 traveling Americans planned their most recent personal trips for themselves. Travel agents are most often used for ticketing and hotel reservations--but only after decisions are made on where to go and how to get there.

* Top U.S. destinations by American travelers in the next few years were listed as Florida (21%), California (15%) and Hawaii (8%). Travelers, however, say they plan to avoid Washington, D.C., this year, with only 2% planning to visit the capital, compared to 5% who went there last year. A total of 66% of all trips over the next year or two will be within the continental United States, the study said.

The study also showed that the 24% of Americans who are frequent travelers--those with three or more personal trips or one foreign trip during the year--are the driving forces behind the growth in longer vacations.


Also, the study suggests that the typical household surveyed had spent an average of about $3,000 last year for travel, which was nearly 10% of the pretax household income for a majority.

The magazine said the survey was conducted by telephone between late January and early March of this year.


Bars show percentage of survey respondents citing a criterion as being “very important.” Survey was taken between late January and early March, 1989. Good airport security: 79% Stable government: 79% People who welcome tourists: 63% Good transportation system: 61% Low crime rate: 59% Favorable exchange rate: 55% Open attitude toward minorities: 40% Good beaches, water sports: 39% English as main language: 38% Famous cities to visit: 33% Sympathetic government policies: 31% A familiar language: 27% A totally different culture to experience: 26% Good night life: 24% Food that’s not too different: 19% Famous art museums: 15% Religious shrines to visit: 11%

Source: Louis Harris & Associates; Travel & Leisure