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Strong Summer’: Travelers Looking for Bigger, Longer Vacations

Consumers may be spending less at the malls, but it may be to save up for summer vacation, according to preliminary information on early trip planners.

"It looks like it's going to be a strong summer," Sarah Gavin, a travel expert with online booking company Expedia, told CNBC on Thursday. "People are starting to take bigger trips."

Gavin's optimism was based on searches at Expedia.com for summer travel.

"Air ticket prices in general are up 3 percent over last summer," Gavin said. That calculation is based on all the searches for summer airfares made by people in the U.S. during the first three month of this year. Gavin said she couldn't provide actual booking numbers until Expedia reports its first-quarter earnings a few weeks from now.

At Best Western hotels, actual year-over-year summertime bookings (May 23 through Sept. 2) are already up 10 percent for its U.S. hotels and up 17 percent for its Canadian properties, according to Best Western strategic services information provided to CNBC on Wednesday.

In addition, travelers are planning longer trips. The Best Western summer bookings show a 14 percent increase in overall room nights.

Gavin said the searches at Expedia also indicate people are planning slightly longer summer vacations than last year.

For people in major U.S. markets searching for summer travel the top destinations are currently Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas; Orlando, Fla.; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Seattle; Los Angeles; Miami; San Francisco; Los Cabos, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Travelers from the U.S. are looking to make more trips to Europe and Asia this summer, Gavin said. While the Asia trips (mainly Thailand, China, the Philippines and Taiwan) are likely due to a 4 percent price drop over last year, the European vacations appear to be catching up to pent-up demand left over from the recession, she said.

Traditional family road trips are also likely to be big this summer, Gavin said. In Florida, searchers are looking for Orlando, Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista. "I think Disney World is going to have a really stellar year," Gavin said.

Read the complete story on CNBC.com.