A fifth of Americans say being home for the holidays never meets their expectations

Photo by Catherine Zaidova on Unsplash

From Instagram-worthy turkey dinners to perfectly wrapped presents, hopes for the holidays are high — and a fifth of Americans say holidays at home never meet expectations.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans, 21 percent say their celebrations at home are a disappointment, causing them to consider traveling for the holidays instead.

And they’re not alone: Seventy-one percent of respondents — who celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas and have ever taken a trip — are open to celebrating in an “unconventional” way.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Heathrow — the busiest airport in Europe — the survey found that despite an openness to uncommon celebrations, it can still be difficult to break tradition.

Seventy-two percent of respondents have a traditional way in which they spend the holidays, and 63 percent of those would feel guilty breaking their traditions.

In addition to guilt, respondents face a variety of other barriers to breaking their holiday traditions, with the fact that they would miss celebrating with family and/or friends at the top of the list (52 percent).

Other respondents said they enjoy seeing family during the holidays (49 percent) and that they would miss eating holiday food (37 percent).

Millennials were the most willing to break tradition: More than any other age group, those aged 23–38 would like to spend the holidays traveling with friends or family.

And for those open to an unconventional celebration, the top destination was found to be Europe (35 percent), followed by The Caribbean (25 percent) and Australia or New Zealand (21 percent).

“Regardless of whether your motivation for holiday travel is traditional or unconventional, as the biggest gateway for Americans traveling into U.K. and then on to Europe, Heathrow is proud to help make it happen,” said Ross Baker, Heathrow’s Chief Commercial Officer. “We relish our airport’s role in bringing friends and family together, as well as serving as the starting point to new experiences, particularly during the holiday season when getting you to where you need to be becomes even more important.”

Interestingly enough, 43 percent believe the holidays are a good time to travel to learn about their family history.

But travel has benefits beyond learning about family and heritage — 55 percent of respondents have made new connections while traveling.

Within that, 42 percent have become friends with someone they met while traveling, 22 percent have made plans to meet again and 11 percent have even gone on a date with a fellow traveler.

And these connections are long-lasting: Sixty-eight percent are still in touch with someone they met while on a trip.

The most common way to make lasting connections was through activities (46 percent), but others met through coffee shops (16 percent) or even at the airport itself (11 percent).

And 80 percent agree: Traveling is a great opportunity to meet new people.

“We know from experience that airports are more than travel hubs — they can be the starting point for holidays of a lifetime, and the place for wonderful, serendipitous moments leading to lifelong friendships,” said Heathrow’s Ross Baker.


  1. Seeing new places 72 percent
  2. Experiencing new activities and adventures 51 percent
  3. Having a break from my day-to-day life 49 percent
  4. Experiencing new cultures 37 percent
  5. Meeting new people 23 percent


  1. Would miss celebrating with family and/or friends 52 percent
  2. Enjoy seeing family during the holidays 49 percent
  3. Would miss holiday food 37 percent
  4. Wouldn’t want to miss out on my holiday traditions 34 percent
  5. The cost/expense of flying around the holidays 34 percent

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<

NOTE: All news copy and multimedia on this SWNS account is free to use as you see fit. Where research has been conducted, we ask that you credit the company which commissioned it.

SWNS is a UK and US-based news and media content agency with a proud 40-year history.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store