Most Popular International Destination, from Each US State


Orbitz recently published a map showing the most popular international travel destination for each of the 50 US states. It was an interesting map, but of course, me being the Graph Guy, I had to pick it apart and create my own version. Follow along, and explore this interesting data, while also learning some data-mapping tips!

Before we get started, here's a photo from my friend Joy to put you into the mood for some world traveling. Can you guess what country this is? (Here's a hint -- it's one of the "most popular" destinations mentioned in the maps below!)

Here's the original map that caught my eye.

I found the map very interesting, but I had to work really hard to understand the information in the map. Here is a list of the problems that jumped out at me:

  • The map was prominently colored by US region, but region had nothing to do with the travel data that the map was trying to convey.
  • It wasn't easy for me to recognize the country maps, and it was difficult to read the small country labels beside each map.
  • It was difficult to know exactly what this data represented, because the titles and explanatory text were a bit wordy, and split into different sections above the map.
  • The region and colors on the map competed with the country flags, for my visual attention.
  • And although I'm pretty good with world geography, I'm embarrassed to admit, I wasn't sure exactly where some of these destination countries were located.

So I set about creating a SAS dataset of the information in their map, so I could create my own map. In doing that, I found one additional problem - some of their labels didn't align properly with the states (see the ones circled in red below). For example, the label for Massachusetts is pointing to New Hampshire.

In my version of the map, instead of using the flags I color the states based on the destination country. This way you can look at the map and quickly see which states have the same destination. I labeled each state with the destination country, and used a text size and color that is easy to read. You can also click this link to see the interactive version with HTML mouse-over text:

I liked my new version of the map, but it still didn't help me know where these destination countries were located. I know that Guatemala and Colombia are "somewhere south of Mexico", but I wasn't exactly sure where. And where exactly is Thailand again? So I decided to create an additional map to augment my first one (remember, I always recommend looking at the same data in several different ways). This time I show the data on the world map, and color-code the destination countries the same as they're colored in the US state map. I had to resize the image below a bit small to squeeze it into the blog, but you can click through on this link to see the full-sized version:

If you click the image above, and then mouse-over the destination countries, you'll see a list of all the US states for which the country is the favorite destination. Here's the mouse-over text for the Philippines, for example:

And now the big (fun) question. Why?!? Why are certain countries the most popular destination from certain states? Feel free to leave comments with your theories on this topic!

[Click here to see the original posting of this blog as it appeared on SAS Learning Post.]

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/30/2017 1:16:18 PM
NO RATINGS

Ha! I really do not travel often and this bit of missed info proves it. :) Good for them requiring passports from everyone. I always thought they should even though we are very close neighbors.

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/30/2017 11:58:30 AM
NO RATINGS

Yes,, Canada and Mexico both require a passport for entry and for entry to the US you need a passport as well. The reality is that only 40 will actually travel internationally over an 8-year span.

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/26/2017 10:10:40 PM
NO RATINGS

Michelle, I believe Canada requires passports now for US citizens to enter. They're fearful of their less fortunate neighbor to the south flooidng their borders with refugees seeking political shelter and a better healthcare system.

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/26/2017 3:26:31 PM
NO RATINGS

I'm not surprised by that number. You can get into Canada with just a birth certificate if you're American, right?

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/26/2017 3:25:37 PM
NO RATINGS

Does it accurately describe your visit too?

I don't travel a lot so all travel feels like a very big deal to me :)

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/26/2017 1:22:29 PM
NO RATINGS

Yes but even with Canada being a safe option for travel Americans remain as one of the lowest passport penetration countries in the world! I read recently that  60% of Americans do not have a passport.

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/25/2017 9:06:13 PM
NO RATINGS

Robert, I wonder what a graph based on which State other States travel to most would look like ?

I swear California has to be among the leaders but as we are learning, it is not always as one might think once the question is put to graph.

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/25/2017 9:01:18 PM
NO RATINGS

Funny,  Having recently consulted for a Canadian based company, the sentiment strikes a chord..........

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/25/2017 2:05:55 PM
NO RATINGS

Ha! I haven't seen travel to Canada described this way. I like it.

"international travel done informally"

Re: Visits and vacations
  • 10/25/2017 2:04:40 PM
NO RATINGS

I say it's both! I hadn't thought the graph could be badly designed *intentionally*. You may be right about that. AND good for us for being skeptical of the final data.

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