November 25, 2008 / 1:31 PM / in 9 years

Hard times boost popularity of U.S. travel destinations

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - With travel budgets tight, U.S. destinations and budget options are gaining popularity with Americans, while some are choosing to forgo travel altogether.

<p>File photo shows the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, May 5, 2005. 1955. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>

“Travel is one of those discretionary expenditures that people are looking at very closely and they are deciding to change their travel patterns,” Rob Flynn, vice president and global travel publisher with the travel publisher Frommer‘s, said in an interview.

American vacationers are now more likely to travel within the United States and they are looking to stretch their travel dollar by staying with family or acquaintances rather than in hotels, he added.

On Frommer’s web site Washington nudged pass top destinations like Italy to gain the number one spot as the most searched destination, while Disneyland and New York City remain popular.

Budget options have become more popular in the last few months as locals and travelers alike hunt for deals. And people who are traveling are looking for something extraordinary.

“People are still looking for inspirational travel on a budget,” said Flynn.

“Rather than going to just see the sites, it’s more, ‘Can I get under the skin of the destination in some way? Can I have a local experience?”

But traffic on travel web sites, which usually increases ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, is flat this year, indicating that Americans are generally less interested in travel.

Although near-term travel trends show Americans traveling less, the long-term outlook is less certain and depends largely on how the economy fares. Flynn said Frommer’s is hoping for a rebound in the spring of 2009.

Despite the gloom Flynn said there are a few bright spots in the travel outlook for Americans. The value of the dollar against the Euro and the pound may make European vacations more affordable. Lower prices of gasoline may also bring road trip back into vogue.

“My sense is that people are delaying or postponing travel, but it’s not completely off the table,” said Flynn. “I think people don’t stop dreaming about travel, even if they don’t have the wherewithal to make it happen.”

Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; editing by Patricia Reaney

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