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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Although there is a glimmer of hope that the economic slump may be easing, most Americans still say they have less money to spend on summer vacations, according to a new poll.
About 54 percent of Americans questioned for an AOL Travel/Zogby International survey said they are on a tighter budget this year than last.
"Year over year for the past two years, more Americans feel like they have less money overall to spend on their vacations," said Beth Caulfield, editor-in-chief of AOL Travel.
"A lot of it driven by the economy," she said.
Despite the strengthening of the U.S. dollar, which leaves Americans with more money to spend when they travel abroad, 66 percent said they would pick vacation spots in the United States -- unchanged from 2008 when the dollar was weak.
"Budgets are less so you would expect more people to stay local, but on the flipside the value of the dollar abroad is higher than it was last year," she explained.
"Ultimately, when you look at those different levers they kind of even themselves out."
Americans are also being proactive to stretch their budgets. Sixty one percent of the 2093 people who took part in the poll specifically plan to ask travel providers for discounts, while 58 percent said they will consider booking a connecting flight, which means longer travel time, if they can save cash.
"(People) are getting savvier about how they make sure that they get the best value for their dollar," Caulfield said.
Perhaps as a sign of the times, only 58 percent plan to use a credit card to pay for expenses -- leaving more than 40 percent using cash, Caulfield said.
"When you put it on a credit card, it is pretty easy to worry about it later," she said.
"By using cash, Americans are being very sensitive to their wallets and economic environment."
Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; editing by Patricia Reaney