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Most Americans plan to vacation relatively close to home this year


Dorothy Mataras has recurrent dreams about China, her fantasy vacation spot.

"It fascinates me," said Mrs. Mataras, 52, of Liverpool, N.Y. "Any time there's a movie about China, it's like deja vu. If I had a past life, it must have been there, because when I sit down and think about it, why would I want to go there?"

This year, Mrs. Mataras will actually be visiting the Jersey Shore. Like the majority of those surveyed in a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted by telephone May 4 to 6, she is vacationing relatively close to home this year.

Of the 1,233 Americans surveyed, 70 percent said they planned to take a vacation in the next six months, and 44 percent of those said they would be traveling no farther than 500 miles from home. Sixty-seven percent said they will travel 1,000 miles or less, compared with the 32 percent with more far-flung plans, and nearly 9 out of 10 said their vacation destinations were in the United States.

In follow-up interviews conducted after the poll was completed, some respondents said the important thing was not where you went but that you went.

Michael Eitelman, 42, of Sharon Hill, Pa., said his family still hasn't made plans for a summer vacation. But they are definitely going somewhere.

"Going to have to," said Mr. Eitelman, who owns a dental laboratory. "Otherwise it gets a little nuts."

More than half -- 58 percent of those planning trips -- said they expected to spend a week or less on their main vacation. Ninety percent of prospective vacationers said they would take two weeks or less, and only 9 percent plan excursions longer than two weeks.

"A vacation to me is just a chance to rest up," said Larry Jones, the president of a coal company in Inez, Ky., who said he rarely gets away for more than a week's vacation at a time.

Mr. Jones has visited Europe and Australia, but said he actually preferred trips closer to home and that he would be taking his family to Jacksonville, Fla., this year.

"The best place to go is the southern states," he said, mentioning warm weather and good golf.

Among vacation activities, participating in sports was rated as "very important" by only 16 percent of prospective vacationers. Bigger draws were cultural and historic activities, very important to 27 percent, and family activities, which 65 percent of those who said they were planning a trip said they considered a very important ingredient of a good vacation.

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