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Sand is thicker than blood: Summer travelers prefer beach over family, survey reveals

Beach vacations are popular, in part, because they are affordable to other getaways, according to findings from the 2012 Flip Flop Report, released Wednesday.
Beach vacations are popular, in part, because they are affordable to other getaways, according to findings from the 2012 Flip Flop Report, released Wednesday.Elizabeth Ruiz / EPA / Today

With summer starting just weeks away, you might be starting to plan that big trip to visit the folks or other family.

Unless, that is, you’re like many travelers and you’re planning on hitting the beach instead.

That’s among the findings of the 2012 Flip Flop Report, a global survey sponsored by and released on Wednesday. When asked if they could take only one holiday, 33 percent of respondents said they’d prefer the beach vs. 10 percent who said they’d want to visit family or relatives.

“Beaches are definitely top of mind right now,” said Joe Megibow, vice president and general manager. “But even if you take seasonality out of it, beach-going and travel have been best friends for years.”

The survey, which included 8,599 consumers in 21 countries, also found that:

  • 52 percent of respondents worldwide expected to vacation at the beach in the next 12 months, up from 45 percent last year, although, sadly, only 23 percent of Americans expected to do so;
  • When at the beach, 60 percent of Americans preferred doing nothing/relaxing vs. exercising (13 percent) and “posing for pictures you wouldn’t want business associates to see (2 percent);
  • 38 percent of Americans cited prevalence of sharks when picking a beach vacation vs. 67 percent of Singaporeans and 70 percent of Brazilians;
  • 2 percent of Americans have sunbathed nude vs. 8 percent of Spaniards and Indians and 15 percent of, wait for it, Germans.

Silly statistics aside, the most telling insight, perhaps, is that 77 percent of travelers (and 78 percent of Americans) cited the “estimated price of total vacation” as their top concern when choosing a beach destination.

“It’s less about whether they spend more or less; it’s more about how much buying power they have with their budget,” said Megibow. “As flights get more expensive, they don’t fly or they fly and spend fewer days.”

That impression is echoed in two other reports released this week. On Tuesday, AAA released its annual Memorial Day forecast, projecting that budget-minded consumers will still travel but that they’ll stay closer to home, take shorter trips and decide to drive rather than fly.

Also on Tuesday, a new report from Deloitte suggested that 54 percent of Americans would take a trip between June 1 and Labor Day, a slight increase over the 52 percent who did so last year. With airfares and gas prices up over last year, says the company, travelers will be on the lookout for deals, discounts and complimentary amenities.

For fliers, that may mean choosing airlines that don’t charge to check bags or use onboard Wi-Fi; for hotel guests, seeking out complimentary breakfasts and free parking. At Expedia, the priority travelers are placing on their budgets has prompted the company to launch what Megibow says is its largest summer sale ever, with some 12,000 participating hotels in 700 destinations.

As for the 77 percent of Americans who don’t expect to take a beach vacation in the next 12 months, one last study might be worth considering. Released last month, a paper by researchers at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in the UK revealed that visits to coastal environments resulted in greater calmness, enjoyment and refreshment than visits to other outdoor locations, such as rural settings and urban parks.

By that token — and regardless of the dent it may make in your budget — a beach vacation could be priceless.

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.