Is the ‘Staycation’ Making a Comeback?

No, the dreaded "staycation" hasn't made a comeback.

Suitcase on bed in hotel room.
Johannes Kroemer | The Image Bank | Getty Images
Suitcase on bed in hotel room.

But according to three surveys released this week, Americans remain fiscally cautious about their summer travel plans.

In a new PhoCusWright poll of more than 2,000 U.S. travelers, nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) didn't buy a vacation trip within the past year. Particularly hard hit were early boomers (ages 45-54), whose average trip expenditure dropped by more than 10 percent.

"While it's encouraging to hear travel companies talk about breaking records rather than recuperating from recessionary setbacks, our research demonstrates how the recovery has left a significant portion of people behind," says Carroll Rheem, senior director of research at PhoCusWright. "The dream of taking a well-deserved vacation has remained a fantasy for many would-be travelers. We expect to see improved results across the spectrum in 2012, but there is no doubt that value-consciousness will trump indulgence in many travel purchase decisions this year."

Indeed, while 86 percent of more than 1,800 U.S. respondents in TripAdvisor's annual survey said they were plotting leisure trips this summer — up from 81 percent who traveled last summer — most said they plan to spend the same (47 percent) or less (26 percent) than they did last year.

If it meant saving a bundle on airfare, 21 percent of TripAdvisor respondents would be willing to drive more than 10 hours to their summer destination, and 79 percent would take a spontaneous trip this summer if they found a great deal.

In a separate TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,200 Americans, 86 percent of respondents said recently declining gas prices won't have an effect on leisure travel plans this summer.

And according to the results of an April survey of 2,200 U.S. adults by MMGY Global and the U.S. Travel Association, while more than three in five Americans plan to take at least one vacation during the next six months, overall they still hold more negative than positive perceptions about travel.

"There are significant restraints in terms of personal finances and the affordability of travel, which shouldn't be surprising given the volatility of gas prices and the sluggish nature of the recovery," says David Huether, senior vice president for research at the U.S. Travel Association.

Readers, what's your own outlook for summer trips? Will you be traveling — and spending — more, or less?