Europe, Vegas looking good in best vacation season since recession started
So long, "staycations."
Washington-area residents are packing their bags and skipping town this summer at a rate expected to be higher than in any year since the recession, as travel agents and analysts say locals are getting tired of sitting on the couch and are feeling optimistic amid lower-than-expected fuel prices.
Source: Orbitz Insider Index
|Top 10 summer destinations|
|1. Las Vegas|
|2. New York|
|3. Orlando, Fla.|
|4. Los Angeles|
|6. San Francisco|
And Washingtonians are not just hitting up Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach, but traveling abroad and booking all-inclusive vacations.
"Work is good, and we've been cooped up with a 2 1/2-year-old for two and a half years, so this is our first major excursion," said Richard Steel, who booked a week at a villa in Tuscany with his wife, daughter and 12 in-laws, and is looking forward to "a lot of good food, a lot of good wine."
A survey by travel booking website Orbitz found that 53 percent of Americans are planning to spend more than $1,500 on summer vacation, up from 39 percent in 2011. Overall, 77 percent of Americans are planning to take a vacation this summer, and 60 percent said gasoline prices are a major factor in that decision.
In the spring, experts were projecting summer gas prices to be well over $4 per gallon, but as of last week, the average price was $3.54.
John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the dip "is going to put people in a greater mood for traveling."
"I think what you're going to see this summer is more people traveling than at any point since the start of the recession," Townsend said.
Officials at Greenbelt Travel, an agency in the Maryland suburbs, described their summer sales as "dynamite," while co-owner Vicki Svensen said local residents are booking international trips like European river cruises and destination weddings. They're springing for lengthier trips and all-inclusive packages.
"People are just ready to go again," Svensen said. "A lot of the baby boomers have bucket lists and they want to check these destinations off and fulfill their dreams."
Steel said he knew of a few co-workers who were going to visit New York City for the first time. "It used to be that people would do more staycation-type stuff, or local travel, but now it seems people are branching out a bit more," he said.
US Airways will have started 22 new routes by July 11 at hub Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, including direct service to San Diego. U.S. cities topped Orbitz's list of popular travel destinations this summer, with Las Vegas at the top. Cancun landed in the 10th spot.
Earlier this month, Washington Dulles International Airport added nonstop service to Dublin and Honolulu, marking the first time the Washington area has had a nonstop flight to Hawaii.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is handling a record number of passengers this summer with 199 daily nonstop departures, up from 195 in 2011, spokesman Jonathan Dean said. Last month, BWI added Bahamas Air to its fleet, and in three weeks will be adding a nonstop flight to Frankfurt, Germany.
Working in downtown Washington, Sandy Fried said she had already stolen away this summer to Germany, even though the price tag looked a little heftier than it has in past years when she considered the trip.
"This is actually the biggest trip I've taken in several years," said Fried, who was an exchange student in Germany during high school. "I went away for several weeks, and I really traveled."
Intern Roxanne Turnbull contributed to this report.