A season of staying close

Apparently bucking a US travel trend toward staying close to home, I'll be Europe-bound this summer.

It's a return to Ireland – this time with family in tow.

On the Web, I found a bargain round-trip fare for mid-July – about $200 less per ticket than the best deal posted by any airline.

The savings will cover more than half the cost of the two-week rental of our seaside cottage in Cork.

The tradeoff for the cheap seats, as my wife keeps reminding me: two brief stops in addition to a three-hour London layover. Here's hoping the airfields in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland display a certain quirky charm.

Most people labor to keep trip costs down, whatever the state of the economy. And most people still end up shelling out real money.

Myvesta.org, an online debt-counseling service, surveyed 1,000 adults last summer and found they spent, on average, $3,155 on their summer family vacations. About 80 percent paid with credit cards.

But there are signs that vacationers may cut back on travel this summer – the first since the wrenching attacks of Sept. 11. More may stay closer to home, and opt to drive rather than fly.

Nearly half (46 percent) won't travel as much as they did last year, according to the American Express Leisure Travel Index, released last week. (AmEx, keen on presenting travel in a rosy light, highlighted the 54 percent who said they would.)

The summer-travel summary: Even though travel anxiety doesn't seem to be coming up big in polls, a need for some extra comfort – and the inclination to be frugal that comes with that need – point to something of a homebody summer.

Perhaps late deals will coax out more long-range travelers.

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