NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Airlines can't rob you for peak airfare and Hollywood studios can't charge you double for 3-D versions of bad movies if you decide to play with toys in your own backyard instead.
A TripAdvisor (EXPE) survey found that 86% of Americans plan to travel this summer, and vacation site HomeAway (AWAY) says 81% of its respondents are going on vacation. Throw in the American Express (AXP) Spending and Saving Tracker survey revealing only 59% of respondents plan to hit the road or skies before Labor Day, and a very important question emerges: What are the other 14% to 41% of Americans doing with their summer?
Increasingly, they're staying home. The $3.58 average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. is an improvement over the $4 per gallon Americans were paying in May but still 80% more than what they paid at the same time last year. Those gas prices and $10 to $30 peak travel surcharges that FareCompare says are a staple of summer flights led 15% of HomeAway respondents and 5% of TripAdvisor travelers to admit they're dropping summer vacation plans this year because of increased costs.
Their money is staying home as well. Overall retail sales were down from spring heading into Memorial Day, according to the Census Bureau, but one category kept climbing as the others collapsed: building material, garden equipment and supplies, which grew 1.2% from April and 7% from May 2010. That's a lot of outdoor home improvement and, coupled with a 2.1% month-to-month and 8.4% year-over-year growth for miscellaneous retailers, a lot more toys for the stay-at-home crowd.If summer vacationers are taking "staycations" in their own backyards, those outdoor spaces may as well be places worth visiting. TheStreet did some midsummer shopping and found 10 must-have items for people whose destination is right outside their back door:
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