Economy Be Darned: I'm Taking a Vacation!

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Times may be tough, but Americans aren't about to let a bad economy ruin their vacation plans.

More than half of those surveyed by American Express say they've marked their calendars for a summer getaway, planning to spend an average of $1,000 per person for fun in the sun.

Doesn't anyone take "staycations" anymore?
Back in 2008, a survey from the Y Partnership found that roughly 40% of Americans intended to change their travel plans because of the worsening economy, with 36% of those saying they planned to cancel or postpone trips that were already planned.

That's the year the word "staycation," the stay-at-home-vacation, joined the popular lexicon.

Well, people must not be feeling as pinched as they were back then. Only 11% of respondents to American Express's May survey said they planned to spend their days off sightseeing locally. The majority of folks are packing up the kids for a full-blown family excursion (52%), followed by couples getaways (26%), "girlfriend getaways"/"mancations" (10%), and "experiential" retreats (7%), like taking leave to hike or learn to cook.

Traveling the 2010 way
Instead of trying to convince the kids that the spiral slide at the McDonald's down the street is just as fun as The Great American Scream Machine (it didn't work in 2008, and they're not falling for it now), Americans are using other strategies to stretch travel budgets. According to survey results:

  • 33% are driving instead of flying to their destination
  • 30% plan to shorten the length of their stay
  • 27% say they'll spend less on activities or excursions
  • 20% will use points/rewards to help foot the travel bill
  • 13% will stay put until the summer peak travel season passes
  • 12% are downgrading their accommodations

Save $240 on your next vacation
Before you pack your bags and line up a dogsitter, spend some real time doing some vacation savings reconnaissance. Concentrate first on ways to save on the most costly getaway expenses, typically airfare and accommodations. Then work your way down the list to see what costs you can cut (or cut down) to leave some money left over for souvenirs.

Airline travel is certainly one of the costliest vacation items, particularly when you add in the luggage fees for hitching a ride on most airlines these days. And then there's the fear of getting booted off a flight for being, um, out of shape. (Remember when Southwest (NYSE: LUV  ) booted actor/director Kevin Smith off a flight, supposedly for being size XL?)

Last year we wrote about how to save $240 on your next vacation, listing specific sites to help you track fares, comparison-shop for transportation and lodging, make the most of your points and score last-minute deals. Check it out.

The good news for budget travelers? Passengers of at least two low-cost carriers rate them highly. A recent survey from J.D. Power and Associates notes that customer satisfaction with airlines is actually on the rise (despite all the restrictions and travel glitches getting headlines). JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) snagged the No. 1 spot for the fifth year in a row (among the low-cost airlines), followed by Southwest. AirTran (NYSE: AAI  ) , however, has some improvements to make. It came in below-average for the segment.

If you're planning an actual getaway -- that is, one involving tan lines and tourist trinkets -- there's no time to waste if you want to save money.

More news you can use before you head out of town:

Dayana Yochim has a black belt in packing. She can do Europe for two weeks with just a carry-on. She owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Southwest Airlines is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (7)

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  • Report this Comment On June 18, 2010, at 9:07 AM, TravelHero wrote:

    I think the best deal I have seen to save tons on travel (really) is the American Hero Card. It gives access to programs reserved for govt. employees and military.

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