ExpediaExpedia.com, one of the world’s largest full-service online travel sites, today (Sept. 30) released the results of a survey of American parents examining the joys and perils of family travel.

According to a release, the study examines the issues parents face when planning family vacations, the difficulties that can arise while traveling, and why travel is such an important feature of their family lives. The study was commissioned by Expedia and conducted by GfK, an independent global market research company.

Expedia’s Family Travel Study consisted of 1,002 interviews of randomly selected U.S. adults with children under the age of 17. A full analysis of the study can be found here.

The study found that 94% of American parents who have traveled with their children take at least one trip with their family per year, 27% take two trips per year and 10% take three or more. At the recent Family Travel Association Summit, the organization reported that family travel now accounts for a full one-third of all leisure trips booked in the United States.

“Family travelers tell us all too often that traveling with kids involves more mystery and mayhem than magic,” says Expedia Senior Editor Sarah Gavin. “We care about researching and improving the family travel experience, because many of us at Expedia are family travelers ourselves, and we want to ensure that all families can find travel magic the way the experts do.”

Tears on the Tarmac

Traveling during the holidays is already hectic and is even more difficult with children in tow. Getting a full family through security, with all of the shoe-removal, baggage search and liquid disposal it requires is particularly challenging, and one struggling family slows the line for every passenger that follows.

The same challenge holds true within the tight confines of a plane, which can disconcert children and disrupt their neighbors. Unsurprisingly, Expedia’s 2014 Airplane Etiquette Study found “Inattentive Parents” to be the second most offensive airplane passengers. To that point, 3% of American parents who travel admitted to having “temporarily lost track” of a child while on vacation.

Family Travel is Worth the Challenge

Despite the challenges, the majority of respondents agree that the reward of family travel is well worth it.

  • 70% of parents who travel “agree or strongly agree” that their favorite childhood memories involve a family vacation.
  • 76% of U.S. parents say that traveling with their children is “more play than work.”
  • 89% of parents say that it is more important for their children have fun on vacation than themselves. Approximately 10% feel a parent’s fun is paramount.
  • 4% of families bring a babysitter with them to share in the child-care responsibilities.
While unruly children pose an etiquette (and safety) challenge, the study found high levels of commiseration and sympathy among fellow parents who travel. In particular:
  • 80% of parents “agree or strongly agree” that they have grown more sympathetic toward parents who are traveling with children since having kids of their own.
  • 23% of American parents reported that vacations with children feel “more like work than play.”

Nonetheless, aggravation still abounds. Seventy-six percent of American parents who travel report having received “annoying parenting advice” from strangers while on vacation.

Planning for family travel is also, by definition, more challenging than for couples or solo travelers. A majority (61%) of parents who travel begin planning family trips a couple of months in advance. A quarter of American parents plan family travel roughly one year in advance, while 12% book last minute, less than one month early.

Ten percent of parents who travel spend more than 10 hours searching for flights before booking, while 57% spend between two and five hours or more. Sixty-four percent of parents say that they would prefer to travel with family by car, if possible, while 35% prefer to fly.

The Family Travel Study also found that:

  • 35% of American parents who travel have taken their children out of school for a vacation.
  • 76% of parents say they would rather travel solely with their immediate family, versus 23% who say they would rather travel with other families.
  • 31% have let their children choose the vacation destination.

And these are the most popular vacation types selected by American families:

  • Beaches – 23%
  • Theme Parks – 19%
  • Outdoors (camping, national parks) – 18%
  • All-inclusive resorts – 13%
  • Cruises – 9%
  • Road trips – 7%
  • Cities – 5%
Expedia.com offers tools to make travel easier and more affordable for families during every step of the booking and travel process. Expedia’s signature packages, defined as booking a flight and hotel simultaneously, allow Expedia users to save up to $540 on average.