Recession Takes Its Toll on Family Vacations

By Chris Kahn -- AP Energy Writers

When gas prices hit $4 a gallon last summer, Joyce and Ricky Eagle of Warrenton, Va., simply padded their travel budget a little before tooling around the Midwest in their motor home.

This year, gas is considerably cheaper. But the Eagles' 36-foot Holiday Rambler will stay in the driveway. The reason? The software company Ricky works for sliced 20 percent off his paycheck.

"That's cut us way back," Joyce said. The couple bagged plans to fan out this summer with trips to Pennsylvania Dutch country and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

As Americans prune their expenses because of the relentless recession, the family vacation is taking a hit. A third of those surveyed in an AP Poll released Monday said they had already canceled at least one trip this year because of money.

IHS Global Insight, which studies travel habits for AAA, expects Americans to take 20 million fewer trips from April to September and spend $30.3 billion less than last year. And those trips are likely to be shorter.

"If you live in the West, you'll go to the Rockies, but you won't go to New England," said Mark Sedenquist, publisher of roadtripamerica.com, where travelers share tips about how to get the most out of their vacations.
Fewer and shorter vacations will hurt the economy. Summer travelers are the lifeblood of countless hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, campgrounds and every touristy spot in between.

The pullback is expected even though travel will be cheaper. The average price of a gallon of gas in the United States is $2.25 a gallon well below the $3.71 mark at this time last year.

And hotels were cheaper early this year compared with last year: 34 percent cheaper in Las Vegas, 22 percent in New York, 16 percent in San Diego and 14 percent in Orlando, Fla., according to Expedia Inc.
In all, a seven-day road trip from Philadelphia to Orlando and back is expected to cost $272 less than last year.

Of course, it's not easy staying home. Every summer, Joyce Eagle stuffs the Rambler's on-board refrigerator with taco meat, corn casseroles and milk before setting out to roam the countryside.

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