Among the various consumer demands that have been pent up in the past year, few have been as pent as the yearning to hit the road. Even before the recession got serious, a spike in gasoline prices early last year put a crimp in leisure travel. Later, following Sept. 11, millions of Americans swore off airplanes. With air-travel worries abating (until the next bad thing happens) and the economy looking healthier, is the U.S. in for a robust vacation season? A RoperASW poll gives an indication that it is. Two-thirds of those surveyed plan vacations this spring and/or summer. It’s not as if safety has ceased to matter: 64 percent said it’s “very important” in their choice of a destination, which helps explain why 82 percent of vacationers intend to stay in the continental U.S. They won’t necessarily take the bus, though, as 69 percent now believe airline travel is safe. As aviation fears ease, though, rising gasoline prices have reemerged as a wild card in the summer-vacation outlook. Americans tend to react with horror when pump prices go up, out of all proportion to the amount of money it extracts from their pockets. An online poll by CNN.com found 38 percent of its participants saying they currently expect summer gasoline prices to curtail their own travel plans.
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