Which vacation memories are most enduring and why? The answers to those questions are revealed in the first-ever survey of its kind conducted by Ypartnership, the travel service marketing firm headquartered in Orlando, Florida. The nationally representative survey of adults in both the U.S. and Canada was conducted during the months of August and September, 2010 as travelers were ending their own summer vacations and time away was still top-of-mind.

The results reveal that vacation planning to create memories was the choice of nearly nine out of ten U.S. and Canadian adults surveyed. Nearly three-quarters canvassed said they think back “often” or “very often” to their vacation memories. They also identified the dramatic way in which new technology has altered the manner in which Americans and Canadians “memorialize” vacation memories, increasingly in “real time” and through postings on social media websites. And although the traditional role of the scrapbook has been diminished, souvenirs continue to play a very important role in the recall of vacation memories.

The most enduring vacation memories derive from the people with whom the vacation was taken, and vacations taken with both parents and siblings trump all others. The results also underscore the emerging phenomenon of people sharing memories in ‘real time’ as the events that create those memories actually take place. Peter C. Yesawich, chairman of Ypartnership 

Selected highlights of the survey results are provided below:

Vacations an Important Part of Our Psyche

Parents view vacations as an important way to create special family memories.

  • Almost nine out of ten (88%) U.S. and Canadian adults actively plan vacations with the hope they will result in special memories for/about their children;
  • Vacation memories occupy a prominent place in our psyche: almost three quarters of U.S. (72%) and Canadian (70%) adults think of them “often” or “very often;”
  • Vacations taken with immediate family are the most memorable, regardless of when they were taken (as a young child or after becoming a parent);
  • Vacations taken with immediate family are cited as most memorable by both U.S. (89%) and Canadian (88%) adults, while only four out of ten U.S. (43%) and Canadian (46%) family travelers state their best vacation memories “include friends;”

How We Record and Share Vacation Memories

Family vacationers have quickly adopted new social media and digital technologies to capture and share their memories.

  • Digital photos represent the most popular way to memorialize vacation memories today, cited by 82% of respondents, with over four out of ten (43%) using a smart phone to capture the images. Souvenirs play a very special role in memorializing memories, however, mentioned by almost half (46%). And the tradition of composing and keeping scrapbooks was mentioned by just one out of four respondents (25%);
  • Although fewer people appear to be keeping scrapbooks, photo albums continue to be the number one way people share memories, mentioned by 57%. It’s clear this traditional method has been replaced by the evolution of technology, as almost half (46%) family travelers now post vacation images on social media websites. Nevertheless, personal storytelling remains a preferred method of sharing memories for fully one third (36%) of family travelers;
  • New technology has also altered the immediacy with which people start sharing memories. Specifically, fully one out of five (21%) family travelers share the events that make the memories “real time” as they actually occur;
  • Kids play a very influential role in planning vacations in both U.S. (52%) and Canadian (61%) households;

On the “Must Visit” List of Travel Destinations

When it comes to creating a memorable family vacation, there are some clear “must visit” destinations.

  • The top three “must visit” vacation destinations with children less than 12 years of age include Disney Parks, Sea World of Orlando, and Hawaii;
  • The top three “must visit” vacation destinations with children between 12 and 18 years of age include Disney Parks, Europe and Washington, DC;

Respondents included non-Hispanic white, Hispanic and African American family travelers, all of whom were asked to recall the specifics of their most memorable vacations at three different life stages: 1) as a young child (less than 12 years of age), 2) as an older child (between 12 and 18 years of age), and 3) since becoming a parent.

A total of 3,600 adults (3, 000 U.S., 600 Canadian) and 600 children (U.S.) participated in the survey, which was commissioned by Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. All statistical estimates have an error interval of less than 2%.

Wrapping it Up

It is funny to me, for no real reason, that this survey was conducted by a former employer about another former employer. Ypartnership has a great research history that has been providing insights into the manner in which people travel for years. This research confirms what anyone who has spent time in a Disney park already knows – a Disney Vacation is the best vacation!