Some area travelers scrapping summer plans

April 11, 2008 4:36:01 PM PDT
Ongoing airline delays and rising fuel costs are trying the patience of travelers as well as breaking their budgets. As the busy summer travel season approaches, many people are trying to decide if planning a trip is worth the hassle and the cost.

It used to be, if flights got too expensive, you drove. But with airlines in turmoil, gas prices through the roof and people's patience wearing thin, some are scrapping their travel plans all together. Instead they're taking what some dub a "stay-cation."

Eighty-seven more American Airlines flights were cancelled Friday at O'Hare. If you are frustrated by flight delays, soured by safety concerns, or simply feeling gouged by gas prices you're not alone.

"I'm not going to risk losing out on the money or the time," said Rebecca Barry, who has cancelled her trip.

Barry is so fed up she cancelled two upcoming vacations, one to Miami, the other Phoenix. She is one of many who, at least for now, think it is easier to simply stay home.

"Stay-cation! That's what we're calling it," said Dorothy Coyle, Chicago Office of Tourism.

Chicago Tourism Director Dorothy Coyle says her office is constantly looking for new to ways to market Chicago as a vacation destination to its residents. In the winter months, half of all overnight hotel guests downtown are actually people who live in the city or suburbs who are enjoying a brief respite from reality.

This summer, tourism officials hope to attract more local vacation dollars by marketing parks, children's puppet shows, kids' restaurant weeks and festivals.

"It's very important for us that local Chicagoans know about what's happening in the city and that they are enthused and participating in the programs that the city offers," said Coyle.

But even last summer's then record high gas prices didn't deter a record number of people from travelling.

"There are definitely budgetary concessions that we're seeing. But people aren't necessarily canceling their trips," said Nicole Niemi, AAA.

Ivan Hurey is planning a trip to Hawaii and South Carolina. He says he has been desensitized to travel trouble.

"Basically, I'm used to it, it's par for the course," said Hurey.

But Rebecca Barry plans to stay put. She is using the time and money she would have spent on an out-of-town trip on a series of spa days downtown.

"It used to be easy, book cheap flights at the last minute, but now everything is so expensive and you never know if you'll even take off these days," said Barry.

With so much travel trouble combined with a sagging economy, it will be interesting to see what people decide to do this summer. Keep in mind, even in years past when things have looked bad, people have still powered ahead with their summer vacations. This year, though, some are predicting that an increase in the trend will be this new word to keep in mind, and that is "stay-cation."


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