Friday, April 01, 2011

Gas prices won't stop vacations

As gasoline prices inch closer to $4 per gallon, tourism officials start wondering if people will just not take vacations.

Not likely, according to this article from Kentucky.

Five years ago, Candy Thompson says, she thought nothing of dropping thousands of dollars for airfare, ferries, restaurants and related expenses for a spring break trip to the British Virgin Islands.

But this year, she, her husband and their fifth-grade daughter will pile into the family car and drive Friday to High Point, N.C., to spend the night with friends before moving on to their final spring break destination in Holden Beach, a North Carolina shore town where relatives live.

With gas, groceries and savings on free lodging, Thompson expects to spend roughly $600 on the trip — which is still more ambitious than last year, when the Prospect, Ky., family stayed home.

"Back in the good old days, we lived like rock stars," said Thompson, a stay-at-home mom whose husband owns a self-storage business. "Now, it is all about the deal. We just don't want to spend the money."

That's common across the nation, as underscored by a recent consumer confidence survey, compiled by the business-funded Conference Board, that found rising food and gasoline prices, combined with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan, still are weighing on Americans' outlooks.

Gas prices have been high for months and showed signs of rising further.


Still, more families like the Thompsons are moving back into the spring break travel market this year, with an 8 percent increase in bookings over 2010, according to American Express Consumer Data. Top spring break destinations noted by American Express include Nassau, Bahamas; Barcelona, Spain; Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; and Palm Springs, Calif.

Consumers weary from coping with years of economic turmoil just want to shake loose from the doom and gloom and get away, said Faust, adding that "whether the recession is over or not, people are ready to go somewhere again."

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