The same pattern holds for fliers.
Domestic traffic is projected to grow 0.7 percent this summer, while the number of people buying more expensive international tickets will climb 2.6 percent, according to Airlines for America.
"Expect luxury travel to continue to rebound â¿¿ consistent with luxury across all industries â¿¿ while the rest of summer travel will be flat" as the economy still weighs heavily on middle-income families, says Adam Weissenberg, who heads the travel and hospitality consulting group at Deloitte.
But some less-expensive destinations are seeing a recovery.
Campgrounds fared well during the downturn because they are relatively affordable. Some are now doing better business than ever because the operators have retooled their facilities to entice visitors beyond the typical outdoor types.
Steve Stafford, general manager of North Texas Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Burleson, Texas, has attracted a broader swath of people with "homesteads." These are recreational vehicles that look like cottages. Now the camp can accommodate campers with tents who only have to pay $32 a night for an empty patch of ground and those who want to stay in the comfort of the largest homesteads for $209 a night.
The 37 existing homesteads were booked solid last year. So Stafford is adding a dozen new ones. Those are already booked, even though they are still being installed.
In recent years, the campground has added activities such as arts and crafts, live bands, laser tag, outdoor big-screen movies and theme weekends to try to lure people back. On the schedule for Memorial Day weekend: A chocolate pudding slip 'n slide.
The moves appear to be working.
"The way it's looking so far, we are going to be way up," Stafford says. "No matter how bad things get, people are going to take a vacation."
The hunt for inexpensive vacations is helping companies that recreational vehicles, too. Traveling by RV means families don't need to pay for hotels and can cook most of their meals. Families may not be ready to buy one â¿¿ sales are only up slightly â¿¿ but more are choosing to rent one this summer for as little as $100 a day, or $300 during peak weeks.