You may not realize it, but every time you choose to travel, attend a festival or go to a new pop-up restaurant instead of replacing your old sofa or buying a new outfit, you’re participating in the experience economy. In simpler terms, it means you value experiences more than new possessions. And why not? The thrill of a new pair of shoes dies down pretty quickly after that first scuff, but you’ll still be talking about the mishaps-turned-memories from your most recent birthday trip for years.
Now that we’ve been able to toss aside our face masks and rapid tests for a couple of years, the experience economy is really heating up. People are spending like crazy, despite inflation, and top destinations are seeing record tourism numbers. So, where is everyone headed stateside? We surveyed 2,161 Americans to find out their favorite places to travel to year-round and how they prefer to get to their destination. Find out if your preferences match theirs.
Americans’ favorite cities by size
One thing Americans have in abundance when they travel domestically is choice. From coastlines to desert sands and big cities to ghost towns, you don’t need to flex your passport to have the vacation you’ve been daydreaming about. That variety is reflected in the top 10 lists for Americans’ favorite major, mid-sized and emerging cities.
When we looked at the results, there were a few things we found particularly interesting. First, of the top 10 major domestic metropolises where Americans like to vacation, six are Eastern cities and four are in the West. Although the Midwest didn’t make an appearance, Chicago isn’t far behind at number 13.
Of the most popular mid-sized and emerging domestic metropolises, Americans really gravitate toward vacationing in Florida, with five Sunshine State cities spread between these two top-10 lists. Tennessee is not far behind, with three cities — Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville — making these lists:
How Americans’ preferences change by age
There are many reasons that our vacation preferences may change as we grow older. Our choices are affected by whether we have kids, our income and spending habits and if we are traveling with friends or partners.
When looking at preferences for major cities by age group, seven cities in the top 10 for those 25 and younger actually remain in the top 10 for those 26 and older. Of course, the experiences will be quite different, like when visiting Orlando with friends at 23 versus returning a decade later with children. And what about the three preferences that changed between age groups? Those 25 and younger are partial to Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago, while those 26 and older prefer traveling to Denver, San Diego and Washington, DC.
Where young professionals are traveling
The two generations that travel the most for pleasure are Gen Z adults and Millennials. We wanted to see not just where they are headed, but whether they choose different destinations based on their income level. What we found is that no matter the household income of young professionals, Miami is the #1-ranked destination when they travel to a major city. Orlando, New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are always in the top 5, too.
How Americans like to travel
Americans love to take control of their journey. When asked to select their preferred methods of travel, 75% chose road trips, while just 49% selected airplane travel, 17% by train and 11% by bus. But we found, too, that if they had to choose just one method of transportation, American travelers would go by plane (56%), followed by car (41%) and train (3%). With so many people traveling by plane and being without a car at their destination, it’s no wonder car sharing is becoming more popular.
All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Avail conducted online via survey platform VisionSuite by InnovateMR from July 14-18, 2023. In total, 2,161 American adults were surveyed. This survey was conducted over a five-day span and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities.