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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Two tickets you probably don't want to buy: a return flight from a vacation and airfare to attend a cousin's wedding. The ticket home can at least offer you a night in your own bed and rest from a long trip. The cost of flying to the wedding of a cousin you haven't seen in ten years may pinch your pocketbook a bit harder. Americans spend nearly $185 billion a year on trips they don't want to take, but feel obliged to, according to a survey by Hotwire.

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"Every year, many Americans set aside travel budgets only to find that obligatory events like weddings, birthdays and even holidays often hinder their leisure trip plans," says Henrik Kjellberg, president of the Hotwire Group.

Kjellberg calls these obligatory vacations "obli-cations." Such events included:

  • An average of $32 billion spent within the past 12 months on obligation trips for birthdays
  • $20 billion in the past year traveling to the weddings of family and friends
  • An estimated $11 billion shelled out on trips for reunions
  • And about $7 billion on obligation trips for baby/wedding showers

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Writing on the blog of Zoho, a business productivity apps company, Craig Keolanui says one way to help defray the costs of these unwanted trips is to tack on a business expense or two along the way.

"Most often these trips involve expensive airfare and covering your business in your absence, so getting a tax break is the best way to recoup some of these costs," Keolanui writes. "The key is to mix business with pleasure and the rest is as easy as keeping organized receipts."

Keolanui says a little research may help uncover a write-off opportunity.

"Make your personal trip a business trip. Network with old friends and read up about conventions or events involving small businesses in the destination city's publications or websites," he says. "Attend a convention, trade show or a conference or anything that can directly relate to your business. Make sure to keep some type of documentation to justify the travel expenses."

Just remember to take off the conference name badge before attending the wedding reception.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet