More Americans are planning vacations away from home this Fourth of July weekend, even as summer travelers plan to stick to tight budgets, according to two recent surveys.
Auto club AAA forecast that about 34.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over Independence Day weekend, up from 29.8 million during the 2009 holiday.
But fewer people are traveling compared to the more carefree times before the financial crisis. This year's projection is still 7.7 percent below 2008 Independence Day travel levels, and 17.5 percent below the number of travelers during the July Fourth weekend in 2007.
Even as more travelers hit the road on Fourth of July weekend, AAA expects that vacationers will spend less: $644, on median, down from $693 in 2009. It expects lower spending even though hotel rates, airfare and car rental prices are expected to rise.
That's because more budget-conscious travelers are once again planning vacations, said AAA spokesman Troy Green. During the downturn, they were more likely than luxury travelers to stay home.
More crowds and lower spending are likely going to be the theme of the summer, according to a survey from insurer Mondial Assistance. It found that 40 percent of Americans said they planned to take a vacation this summer, up from 35 percent who said they took a vacation last summer. The most popular destinations were oceans and beaches or, for road-trippers, just hitting the highway.
But the survey also found that vacationers plan to spend even less than they did in 2009.
The survey, taken from June 3-7, said average spending plans were $1,653 per household, down from reported spending of $1,730 in 2009.
Of course, planning to spend less does not necessarily mean vacationers will spend less.
The Mondial poll surveyed 1,000 randomly selected U.S. adults over telephone. It had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
The AAA forecast is based on research from financial analysis firm IHS Global Insight.