American Express predicts a strong travel season

By , CardRatings contributor
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American Express officials say that consumers have abandoned "staycations" for the summer of 2011 in favor of sunnier vacation destinations. The latest edition of the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker shows that three in five Americans plan to travel this summer, even though gas prices have risen to nearly four dollars per gallon in many parts of the country. At this time last years, researchers commissioned by American Express found only half of survey respondents planning to skip town between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Florida and California topped the list of domestic vacation destinations on consumers' wish lists in 2011, with the Bahamas getting the most votes from survey participants planning an overseas getaway. With some of the best airline credit card deals of the past few years popping up online, consumers are prepared to trade in points, miles and rebates so they can get out of town affordably. Respondents told researchers they planned to cut spending on new clothing and dining out to help cover vacation costs this year.

Traveling in packs

American Express researchers also uncovered another new trend among consumers: a growing number of Americans who plan "girlfriend getaways" and "mancations" instead of using vacation time just for family affairs. Fifteen percent of respondents told researchers they planned to leave the family at home while enjoying some relaxing time with friends.

According to lifestyle expert Kerri Zane, quick trips with friends eliminate some of the stress surrounding family travel. For example, women concerned about healthy eating can usually make better restaurant choices on the road when they don't have to compromise with kids and spouses. Likewise, author Ryan O'Reilly suggests that men can indulge in road trips and camping more easily on their own, provided they avoid "hostile drinking environments."

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