More Americans Planning to Spend Less on Travel This Year

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With the landmark Sugar Loaf in the background, tourists ride bikes as waves caused by heavy seas reach the streets of the seaside promendade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 21, 2012.

Travelers around the world say they’ll spend more money on vacations this year than last. But it’s a different story in the U.S.

Vacations naturally took a hit during the Great Recession, giving rise to the staycation around 2008-09. But this year, 35% of travelers globally say they’re going to spend more money this year on travel, with 37% spending roughly the same, according to a new survey by the Wyndham Hotel Group. The U.S., however, is an outlier.

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For Americans, 36% plan to spend less and only 27% say they’ll boost their budgets. (Thirty-seven percent will spend about the same.) Thanks to the recession and in part to the ongoing crisis in Europe, British travel plans will be about the same as those across the pond.

But for the emerging economies of China and Brazil, their budgets are getting bigger. Fifty-eight percent of Chinese travelers say they’ll spend more along with 41% of Brazilian travelers. Considering the rapid growth of both China and Brazil, as opposed to the stalled economies in the U.S. and the U.K., the numbers shouldn’t be surprising. In fact, other surveys report similar findings.

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In a separate report by John Hancock Financial Services, fewer investors in the U.S. say they plan to take a summer trip this year. But there’s a bright side: It appears that many investors are only going to delay travel plans, not cancel them altogether. Thirty-eight percent of those who aren’t traveling this summer say they’re planning on taking a trip at another time.

Americans spend about $1,600 on summer trips each year (roughly the median cost in the U.S.), and summer travel is coming at a time when the economic recovery appears to be stalling once again. Still, among those in the U.S. who plan to spend more on vacations this year, 52% say that they’ll use that money to take a longer trip, which might not end up being the best idea.

We take fewer vacation days than just about every other developed country. So when we decide to take a trip, we often like to go big or stay home. And research definitely shows that spending money on experiences like vacations can boost happiness much more than simply buying a bunch of stuff. But it’s often best to trade time for intensity when going on a trip. Research has shown that sometimes the richer the experience, even if it’s not as long as we’d like, is often more fulfilling.