NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If this languishing economy has left you pressed for time and short of money, you might consider stretching that relaxing getaway into bite-sized breaks.
Experts say mini-vacations, brief holidays of four days or less, offer today's traveler a restorative pause without the pressure or expense of a long journey.
"The mini-vacation is a fantastic way of changing the scene without breaking the bank," said Amelie Hurst of travel website TripAdvisor.
"The trip you spend 12 months planning and pouring all your budget into has to live up to a dream," she explained. "With a mini-vacation travelers can find themselves more ready to go with the flow."
In a recent Trip Advisor poll of almost 1,700 Americans, 22 percent said they opted to take shorter vacations of two-to-four days due to finances and six percent said it was due to vacation time.
Peter Yesawich, CEO of Ypartnership, which tracks travel trends, said the weekend getaway has reigned as the most popular American leisure trip for over a decade.
Last year, with the economy still stuck in the doldrums, it accounted for almost half of all U.S. vacations.
"To Americans a vacation is a birthright," said Yesawich. "It doesn't matter how low the Dow goes, how high the unemployment, the majority Americans are still taking vacations."
Yesawich said work habits reinvented vacation habits in the prosperous 1980s and 1990s, when employment rates were rising, along with the number of two-income households.
"Work habits began to constrain vacation habits," he said. "We became more beholden to work and that drove vacation around weekends."
Yesawich said the Internet accelerated the trend and the latest economic downturn sealed it.
"Prior to 1996 there was a sanctity to Saturday, but that has disappeared in this 24/7 environment," he said.
Genevieve Brown, of Travelocity, said autumn is traditionally a popular season for mini-vacations because the kids are back in school and families have less time.
"People are still committed to taking vacations, but they're watching travel dollars closely," Brown said. "Shorter vacations make sense."
Brown said hoteliers have come up with creative ways to keep their price points strong as clients downsize. Many hotels tack on an extra day.
Margie Jordan, of ASAP Travel in Jacksonville, Florida, says mini-vacations seem to be gaining particular traction among busy executives who can't afford to flee the office for extended periods.
"It does take careful planning because you have fewer days," said Jordan, who suggests mini-vacationers decide in advance what's on their must-do-and-see list.
Yesawich believes that as technology continues to define work habits, vacations are growing shorter worldwide.
"It's not just unique to the United States," said Yesawich. "It's cascading around the world. The Germans, the Italians, the Japanese are all taking shorter vacations."
He thinks the trend will persist even after the economy recovers.
"The culprit here is time and that's not changing," he said. "The pace of life continues to quicken."