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As Halloween Approaches, Americans Fall for Fall, Led by Pumpkin Patches and Trick-or-Treating

As Halloween Approaches, Americans Fall for Fall, Led by Pumpkin Patches and Trick-or-Treating

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Americans aren’t only celebrating Halloween where they live. In fact, 40% may travel in October specifically for the holiday.
A family picks pumpkins.
A family picks pumpkins. Source: Getty Images

Fall is well underway, and many Americans couldn’t be happier. According to the latest ValuePenguin survey, Americans’ favorite season is fall — and with Halloween being one of the season’s quintessential holidays, many eager Americans are interested in fun activities.

We asked more than 1,600 U.S. consumers about their Halloween plans. Keep reading to learn which activities are most popular among consumers this year, how many consumers have travel plans and where they’re going. Finally, learn how using a rewards credit card can help you save some cash while traveling for the spooky holiday.

Key findings

  • Americans’ favorite season — by far — is fall (45%). This is true across every demographic, including gender, age, income and parental status, though Gen Zers equally appreciate winter. Summer is the next closest at 24%.
  • Fall is synonymous with Halloween, with Americans celebrating the holiday (and season) in different ways. While a recent LendingTree survey found that 84% plan to celebrate Halloween this year, the most popular activities people are interested in are visiting pumpkin patches (39%), going trick-or-treating (37%) and exploring haunted houses (36%).
  • Showing Americans’ love for Halloween, 40% of consumers may travel in October specifically for the holiday. And it won’t be cheap, as they expect to spend an average of $504 on their travels. That average expected spend increases to $644 for parents with children younger than 18, who are also the most likely to potentially take a Halloween-related trip (59%).
  • A similar percentage of respondents (39%) have traveled to a specific destination in the past for the spooky season, with Las Vegas (8%), New Orleans (6%) and Salem, Mass. (6%), topping the list. As for the Halloween-specific destinations people are most interested in visiting, Salem (21%), Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. (20%), and New Orleans (20%) are at the top.
  • The spooky season doesn’t seem to scare many Americans, as 57% of consumers are open to spending a night in a haunted house or hotel. Men (66%) are more open to this than women (50%).

Across all demographics, Americans prefer the fall season

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of pumpkin spice, changing leaves and sweater weather, you’re not alone. More than 4 in 10 (45%) Americans say their favorite season is fall, beating every other season by at least 21 percentage points.

spooky-travel-season

That’s true across every demographic, including gender, age, income and parental status, with it most common among Gen Xers ages 42 to 56 (55%) and women (52%). Meanwhile, Gen Zers ages 18 to 25 equally appreciate winter, with 33% citing fall or winter as their favorite season.

Science may explain Americans’ overwhelming preference for the fall — particularly research into the concept of temporal landmarks. Temporal landmarks, which are significant moments that structure our perception of time, like how physical landmarks structure our perception of distance, help people organize or categorize their lives into chunks separated by these markers. For fall, those temporal landmarks include back to school, football and holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Recent research published by the National Institutes of Health found that experiencing a temporal landmark may feel like a fresh start, making people more motivated to pursue their goals. And preparing for the fall season may energize consumers, too. The study also found that anticipating a temporal landmark may increase motivation.

Autumn also brings thoughts of cozy fireplaces, warm drinks and snuggling under the covers on an overcast day, so many of us see it as a comforting time. On the other hand, the ever-shortening days may trigger winter-pattern seasonal depression in some Americans. That may be why nearly a quarter (24%) prefer summer instead, making it the second most loved season.

With fall underway and Halloween approaching, here’s what consumers are interested in doing this season

Of course, we’re well into the fall season now, and Halloween is just around the corner. After two years of social distancing, a recent LendingTree found that the majority of Americans (84%) plan to celebrate Halloween this year.

But how do they plan on celebrating? According to our survey, the most popular activities people are interested in are visiting pumpkin patches (39%), going trick-or-treating (37%) and exploring haunted houses (36%).

spooky travel activities

Naturally, parents with children younger than 18 are the most likely to have Halloween plans — 97% of this group have fall interests, with trick-or-treating the most popular (63%). By age group, Gen Zers and millennials ages 26 to 41 are the most likely to have interest in seasonal activities, at 94%. Millennials — many of whom could be parents themselves — also largely prefer trick-or-treating (53%). Meanwhile, Gen Zers are most likely to visit a haunted house (53%).

Trick-or-treaters may be going the extra mile to get their goods — quite literally. Overall, 66% of Americans say they’ve traveled to a different neighborhood to trick or treat before. And parents with young children are the most likely to get their candy fix from across town. In fact, 77% of this group have done so. That’s followed by 74% of millennials.

4 in 10 may travel this year for the spooky holiday

Though many Americans are interested in Halloween plans, they may not celebrate where they live. In fact, 40% of consumers may travel in October specifically for the holiday. Parents with children younger than 18 are particularly likely to do so, with 59% considering travel plans. Millennials aren’t far behind, though, at 57%.

Consumers with travel plans will be doling out for them, too — they’ll spend an average of $504 on their travels. For parents with young children, the average expected spend rises to $644. Meanwhile, millennials with travel plans are expected to shell out $562.

LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says that’s a notable amount to spend. "The average person doesn’t have a ton of wiggle room in their budget, so a $500 expense is no joke," he says. "It’s something that needs to be budgeted for and prioritized if you want to avoid taking on debt because of it."

Still, neither of those groups is expecting to spend the most. In fact, six-figure earners who plan to travel expect to shell out $921, far outspending any other group. Men who plan to travel during October for Halloween are expected to spend almost double that of women — $643 versus $325.

One reason consumers may shell out so much for Halloween travel? It may be to make up for missed summer plans. In fact, an earlier ValuePenguin survey on summer travel found that 54% of Americans didn’t take a summer vacation this year — though 73% said they’d made plans for summer. Meanwhile, outside of Halloween travel, 54% of Americans said they have travel plans for the fall and/or winter. This drop could be related, in part, to recent spikes in inflation.

The majority (73%) of respondents who may travel will drive by personal vehicle. Meanwhile, 18% will fly — the second most common form of transportation.

spooky travel

It’s also worth noting that most of those who plan to travel aren’t capitalizing on their credit card points. In fact, only 39% of these respondents will use a travel credit card or rewards. Exactly half (50%) of men plan to use a travel credit card or rewards to travel — the highest of any demographic group outside six-figure earners. Meanwhile, 48% of parents with young children say similarly.

39% have traveled for Halloween before — here’s where consumers have been (and where they’d like to visit)

But what about those who’ve traveled for the holiday before? Overall, 39% have traveled for Halloween in the past. Parents with children younger than 18 (53%) and Gen Zers (52%) are the most likely to have done so, though millennials (51%) — once again — aren’t far behind.

Many consumers have visited particularly spooky destinations specifically for Halloween. That includes:

  • Las Vegas (8%)
  • New Orleans (6%)
  • Salem, Mass. (6%)

Whether they’ve traveled for Halloween before, consumers say they’re interested in visiting some key Halloween-specific destinations. Of these, Salem (21%), Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. (20%), and New Orleans (20%) top the list.

spooky-travel-destination

Parents with young children (31%) and millennials (30%) are particularly keen on visiting Salem. Meanwhile, Gen Zers want to hit the gambling capital of the U.S., as 28% of this age group say they want to hit Vegas for Halloween, 10 percentage points higher than the average (18%).

Majority are willing to spend the night in a haunted house or hotel

You don’t have to go to a Halloween-specific destination for a frightful holiday, though, and the majority of consumers wouldn’t mind an extra thrill. Overall, 57% of consumers are open to spending a night in a haunted house or hotel.

spooky travel haunted

By demographic group, men (66%), parents with children younger than 18 (66%) and millennials (64%) are the most likely to say they’d stay in a haunted house or hotel.

Schulz says this high percentage is representative of a greater shift in Americans’ priorities.

"More and more people are coming to value experiences over things when it comes to their spending choices, and this is a perfect example," he says. "Even if it costs a little bit more and maybe even takes a little extra time to pain off, the memories and experiences from having that haunted Halloween night may stay with you for years. Obviously, you don’t want to spend so much money on it that you go into long-term debt over it. However, a well-timed, well-thought-out splurge can be a really good thing every once in a while."

Traveling for Halloween? Avoid frightful mistakes with these expert tips

If you’ve got travel plans this Halloween season, save the jump scares for your trip — not your wallet. To keep costs manageable, Schulz offers the following advice:

  • Budget for it. "A good budget is also about priorities, and everyone’s priorities are different," Schulz says. "Some like to travel, some like to dine out, some love shopping and others get really passionate about Halloween. Whatever your passion, take the time to make room for it in your budget. That may require some sacrifice around this time of year, but that’s OK."
  • Utilize cash back, miles or reward points. "Whether they help you get free airfare, a night in a hotel or just some cash back that you can use to extend your travel budget, credit card rewards can be a huge help," he says. "You can maximize your rewards by using cards that give you the most return for what you’ll be spending on."
  • Fill your itinerary with low-cost activities. "It makes sense that people might try to keep costs down a bit this Halloween, since inflation has seemingly made everything more expensive than it was a year ago," he says. "The good news, however, is that Halloween is a holiday that lends itself well to lower-cost ways to celebrate, especially if you’re willing to get a little creative."

Methodology

ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,603 U.S. consumers ages 18 to 76 from Sept. 23 to 24, 2022. The survey was administered using a nonprobability-based sample, and quotas were used to ensure the sample base represented the overall population. All responses were reviewed by researchers for quality control.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2022:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 25
  • Millennial: 26 to 41
  • Generation X: 42 to 56
  • Baby boomer: 57 to 76