April 30, 2010 / 4:14 AM / 7 years ago

Americans planning to travel and spend more

<p>People sit in deckchairs on the seafront in Brighton, southern England, September 27, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - After a few years of staying close to home, Americans are ready to start traveling again and will be spending more and staying away longer.

But savvy, cost-conscious travelers will also be looking for value and are willing to haggle for the best deals, according to a survey released Friday.

“They are indicating that they will spend more but they are doing more and putting more effort to make sure they get the most for their money,” said Beth Caulfield, the editor-in-chief of AOL Travel. “They are still very focused on value.”

In a sign that the travel industry is starting to pick up, 67 percent of the 1,000 Americans questioned in the AOL online survey said they planned to spend more than $1,000 on a holiday, five percent more than in 2009.

Nearly 55 percent hope to take more than one vacation, an increase of four percent from a year ago. Fewer people are also planning shorter trips.

But almost half of American questioned in the poll said they plan to cash in their air miles this year, compared to 31 percent in 2009.

More people also suggested they would be flexible with their departure and return dates and more were willing to fly during non-peak times and to take connecting flights to save money.

“I was surprised how far consumers are going to make sure they get the most value for their dollar,” Caulfield said.

NOT SHY ABOUT ASKING FOR DISCOUNTS

As more Americans get back on the road, rail and in the sky, they will also be asking for discounts and extras to clinch their travel plans.

“They are making sure they are being proactive about asking,” said Caulfield. “I think they are also looking for travel providers to really step up and add more value into their price.”

Three-quarters admitted that a free breakfast could entice them to select one hotel over another and an equal number planned to ask their travel agent about discounts.

Sixty-seven percent said fees for baggage and food could influence their decision about which airline to fly.

Security is also a concern. More than half thought racial, ethnic and/or demographic profiling should be used to identify passengers for additional screening.

Only 32 percent said they feel safer flying this year than last year, and more than 60 percent think the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency responsible for travel security, could do more to make travelers feel safe.

Despite concerns about privacy, less than a quarter of Americans said they were concerned about body scanners invading their privacy.

“The security tops the privacy concerns,” said Caulfield.

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