By Harry R. Weber, AP Business Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Americans aren't in the mood to spend much on travel this summer.
More people are expected to hit the road than did last year, but their budgets will be tighter because of high unemployment, stock markets in retreat and a still-fragile economy.
AAA estimates families will spend an average of $809 on summer travel, compared with $876 in 2009, even though flying is more expensive than it was a year ago.
They're knocking down the cost, travel agents say, by staying closer to home, choosing less-expensive modes of transportation or by picking destinations based on the best fares and lodging they can find.
In summers past, Dennis Chang and his family visited Disney World or Jamaica. But this year, with his wife recently out of work, the 33-year-old clothing designer from Laurel, Md., says the family is scaling back.
The more likely destination for this summer is Virginia Beach, Va., a four-hour drive away, with sandwiches in the car and hunting for discounted tickets to theme parks along the route.
Debbie Dixson, an airline bag checker from St. Louis, can get cheap tickets to New York or Paris through her job. But the cost of food, lodging and entertainment in a big city would quickly wipe out whatever she saved. So she and her husband will instead drive to Douglas, Mich., to meet their six kids for a week's stay in a cabin along Lake Michigan.
While the economy is recovering, travel has bounced back slowly, says Steve Piraino, senior economist at IHS Global Insight. His firm attributes it to high unemployment, still hovering near 10 percent.
Hotels and resorts are trying to entice people into longer stays with lower rates or discounts to restaurants and spas. As a result, the average room rate is down slightly to about $95, according to travel research firm STR. It was $107 just two years ago.