Changes in family travel give rise to ‘flexcation’ trend

US: Research carried out by vacation rental online marketplace Vrbo has highlighted a new emerging travel trend, the ‘flexcation’,  whereby families booking vacation rental trips outside of the peak holiday seasons consider staying longer to mix work and play, and, in some cases, get higher value in high-demand locations.

Surveying 887 US travellers in July, Vrbo based its flexcation report on comparisons of searches on Vrbo over designated periods in 2019 and 2020, as well average nightly rates and demand for Vrbo vacation rentals in the space of a year.

Key findings from the nationwide US Vrbo survey of families reveal that:

  • 50 per cent of those surveyed agreed that flexible school schedules provide more flexibility in vacationing, while 48 per cent said they can work from anywhere
  • 21 per cent of respondents said that working from anywhere creates big opportunities for travel during the second half of 2020
  • 67 per cent said “I just need a change of scenery” when asked why they might take a family vacation this year, suggesting new motivation for getting away apart from traditional seasonal trips
  • Vacation rentals ranked first among types of vacations that respondents say they want to take now through to December, specifically to “spend time with family and friends [they] have not seen”

Vrbo president Jeff Hurst said: “This summer, we’ve seen countless families switch to road trips and rent private vacation homes instead of taking traditional vacations. What’s interesting is the shift in when people are traveling and how families are blending vacation time with working from home or remote learning.

“Families can use this flexibility as an opportunity to travel outside of peak seasons and try new experiences, like seeing the mountain leaves change, catching the first snow of the season, or visiting the beach when it isn’t as hot,” he added.

Vrbo travel data indicated that families are wanting to take longer vacations. Interest in one-week and three- or four-week stays have grown relative to the total number of searches, up 25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, compared to the same time last year.

‘Flexcationers’ who wait until later in the season to visit sought-after destinations are also experiencing more attractive prices, with drops of at least 20 per cent in average nightly rates and lighter crowds from August to October, compared to prime summer travel dates. Prices for vacation rentals typically drop during off-peak seasons, which will appeal most to families who are not tied to strict in-person school or office commitments

In addition to allowing families to get away during months they might not traditionally travel, a flexcation can also provide them with a break and an opportunity to relax. After months of sheltering in one place during lockdown, a change in scenery is seen by some as an ideal way to re-establish a sense of balance.

Lish Kennedy, vice president of brand marketing at Vrbo, said: “Though this year has been incredibly difficult for families, it’s inspiring to see how they have become resilient and resourceful by choosing alternative ways and dates to take vacation. More flexibility in our work and school schedules is allowing families to enjoy a welcome change in their surroundings and a relaxing break together.”