There’s no time like summer time to take a break from the daily grind in favor of pristine beaches, secluded high-desert retreats, and historic cities bathed in sunshine. And, according to AAA, a whopping 100 million Americans are embarking on summer getaways with family this year.
Thousands of people in the U.S. only have 10 precious days off per year, so choosing where and when to take their long-awaited—and very well-earned—vacation can prove challenging. While some travelers have their go-to spots, others crave the experience of discovering somewhere new.
To get to the heart of what guests want most for their summer getaway, we first identified top vacation rental destinations, then polled U.S. travelers on their likes and dislikes. The end result is Vacasa’s Summer Travel Trends report, which reveals compelling insights and tips to help you plan the perfect summer vacation.
So, what are the hottest, most coveted vacation rental destinations during the summer months, you ask? We combed through a comprehensive set of Vacasa and partner data to find the top 10 summer vacation destinations in our markets—looking at combined occupancy during June, July, and August, spanning 2017 through 2019.
But, we know that some prefer the road less traveled. That’s why our travel experts also identified undiscovered towns and smaller cities near our popular summer getaways, with a similar look and feel. These hidden gems allow travelers to escape flocks of tourists, endless lines, and crowded restaurants. Plus, they can score some deals.
Featured Vacasa home: Casa Chirò Prati
Buzzing with activity, Italy’s capital city is full of ancient ruins, globally renowned art, and breathtaking architecture. With the Colosseum, Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon, it’s no wonder Rome is at the top of our list.
Featured Vacasa home: Casa Giana
Less than four hours from Rome, Senigallia is a stunning, laid-back little beach town. Like Rome, it’s rich with history, stretching back more than a thousand years, but travelers won't have to pay through the nose for food or a place to stay.
Featured Vacasa home: Seafoam Sunset
In San Diego, visitors will find bars and restaurants overflowing with bikini-clad tourists—even at 1 p.m. on a Sunday. Visitors and locals alike love SD’s boardwalk, Mexican food, surfing waves, and zoo.
Featured Vacasa home: San Clemente Trestles A
Known as the “Spanish Village by the Sea,” San Clemente is north of San Diego, and while it doesn't have the same party scene, it boasts unbeatable ocean views and sunshine that persists 300 days out of the year.
Featured Vacasa home: Porta Romana Design Loft
Revered as the fashion capital of the world, Milan is one of the best-known cities in Italy. It’s packed with high-end shopping malls like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, historical buildings, and mouth-watering food.
Featured Vacasa home: On the Lake
Nearly as upscale as Milan, Lake Como is nestled against the foothills of the Alps, with gorgeous natural scenery. If visitors really want to see Milan’s perfect blend of old and new, it’s an easy day trip from Lake Como.
Featured Vacasa home: The Heart of Capitol Hill
Surrounded by water and lush forests, Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. It’s perfect for outdoorsy foodies who have a passion for pop culture.
Featured Vacasa home: Founder's Home
Boise is widely considered to be up and coming in the Pacific Northwest, featuring an active arts community and a lively downtown filled with shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
Featured Vacasa home: Island Colony 4218
Famed for its stunning beaches, volcanic Diamond Head crater, and many hotels, Honolulu is the most active cosmopolitan city among the Hawaiian islands.
Featured Vacasa home: Keoniana Kai
Travelers who cringe at the thought of crowds will love Oahu’s neighbor, Kauai—an island known for its wild beauty and cliffside views overlooking the sea.
Featured Vacasa home: Castle Beach: Aqua Condo
Nicknamed Magic City, Miami grew rapidly to become the cultural center of Florida. Miami’s skyline is ranked the third most impressive in the U.S., starkly contrasted by its beautiful beaches.
Featured Vacasa home: 3843 S. Atlantic Ave
About four hours north of Miami, you’ll find sunny Daytona Beach. Lively yet less populated than Miami, Daytona has tons of rides, arcades, concerts, and clubs.
Featured Vacasa home: St. Claude Avenue
People flock to the Big Easy during Mardi Gras, but it’s a hot destination year-round. Not only can visitors tour swamps and hold gators, they can also take a haunted tour through St. Louis Cemetery and enjoy upscale French dining.
Featured Vacasa home: Savannah Porch
Like NOLA, Savannah is known for its historic district and antebellum architecture. Tourists can ride a horse-drawn carriage through cobblestone streets, while soaking up the sunshine.
Featured Vacasa home: Casa Sofia Xcalacoco
Along the Yucatán Peninsula's Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline, Playa del Carmen’s beaches lined with palm trees are adored by tourists from all walks of life.
Featured Vacasa home: Tao Lago
Only an hour from Playa del Carmen, Tulum is much less commercialized than the popular resort town, and travelers will discover more authentic restaurants and stores.
Featured Vacasa home: Encantada Escape
Since many families in the U.S. embark on vacations while school is out, it’s no surprise Kissimmee made the list. Home to dozens of theme parks, the nearby city of Orlando’s primary claim to fame is Walt Disney World.
Featured Vacasa home: Oakwood Oasis
Just 10 miles from the magic of Disney, sleepy, quiet Davenport has plenty of accommodation options and it’s often more affordable than Kissimmee or Orlando.
Featured Vacasa home: Tabor Haus
Known for iconic breweries and eco-friendly culture, Portland is an outdoor playground for travelers. Though it rains more than half the year, Portland is beautiful during the summer, making it hard to beat.
Featured Vacasa home: Sawyer Reach Ct
With a similar focus on art, music, and craft beer, Bend is a less busy and perhaps even more outdoorsy version of the larger Portland.
For this next portion of our Summer Travel Trends report, we teamed up with Allison+Partners in April 2019 to survey 1,017 Americans over the age of 18. Fielding was conducted on the Qualtrics Insight Platform and the panel was sourced from Lucid. Respondents were given the opportunity to select multiple answers to each question.
Those who are staying in a vacation rental this summer say location (57%) is the most important feature, followed by views and natural scenery (20%). But what else did we learn about our summer travelers? Let’s dive right in.
It’s clear the primary mission for most summertime travelers is to escape the stress of day-to-day life in favor of some major R&R.
Most people are staying in the U.S. and keeping it local.
It’s no surprise that the beach trumps all during the summer time. But, we were intrigued to see that National Parks and ideal hiking spots came in as a close second for travelers at 69%, followed by retreating to the countryside (47%), and exploring a city (40%).
This is one equation we didn’t see coming. More people are traveling on July 4th than Memorial Day and Labor Day combined. July 4th is on a Thursday this year, so it’s a safe bet that most will be using their PTO to make it a long weekend—or just calling in sick. We call that vacation fever (and we get it).
Americans are using the bulk of their PTO over the summer, with the majority taking one week or more for their vacations.
Jack Kerouac-inspired road trips are trending for everyone this year—well, except Gen Z-ers. Seventy percent of Gen Z will fly compared to 56% of Millennials and even lower numbers for other generations. Only 53% of Gen Z will drive compared to 76% of individuals 74 years of age or older.
With the average full-time worker in the U.S. earning about $905 per week according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it appears people are budgeting nearly three weeks’ worth of pay for their summer vacation. Given that more people described themselves as super savers (19%) than high rollers (16%), this shows how much travelers value their time away. When it comes to high rollers, they’re spending upwards of $6,000 on their vacations this year. Keep in mind, some are only taking weekend trips while others are investing more time.
Interestingly, we found that women tend to be more cost-conscious on vacation than men. Fifty-three percent of women indicated that cost/expense was one of the most important factors in selecting a vacation destination for a summer getaway, while only 41% of men said the same. Likewise, men plan to spend more, budgeting $2,958 on average compared to $2,410 for women.
The majority of our survey sample described themselves as married, so it’s a good thing they’re planning on bringing their S/O along. Runners-up included children (38%), followed by friends (27%).
Overall, respondents with summer travel plans said that the primary driver behind their vacation was spending quality time with family (28%). But, it’s worth noting that individuals who are separated or have never been married chose fun as their number one priority (at 37% and 30%, respectively).
Only a handful of people are traveling this summer for a special occasion like a wedding or a concert, coming in at 6%.
Travelers are most drawn to the local scene where they’re staying, including museums and iconic parks. It’s evident they want to immerse themselves in the culture and scenery, and more than a quarter agree that staying in a vacation rental helps them do just that.
To recap: some Americans are hitting up international hotspots like Rome, Italy, while others are digging the California shores. The majority are filling up their gas tanks and curating Spotify playlists to unwind with their S/Os on a beach not too far from home, or they’re going for wanderlust in a National Park. They’re taking as many days off as they can and crunching the numbers to enjoy time with their loved ones, experience the local scene, and let loose.
One thing is for sure: summer travel is heating up, and if you haven’t planned your vacation yet, you’re already behind. But there’s no need to stress, because we’re here for you—whether you’re seeking an unbeatable European sunset or a cabin retreat in the mountains.
Lock down your summer getaway with Vacasa today. Or, if you’ve already made reservations for a summer vacation, book another. Honestly, you deserve it.
Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.