Recession watch: Cutting back on travel plans

This post is part of a series about real-life signs we're in a recession.

It was all set. Family friends in New York had invited us to come out and visit, and my two kids and I were all on board. In theory. Our plans were set at a reunion the previous summer. Fares are cheap! I told them. We'll all be out!

But that was before things got a little tighter. March came and went. I emailed my friends with the bad news: Sorry guys; the money's just not in the budget anymore. Can't justify the expense. They totally understood. They were hard up, too. Maybe next year, we imagined.

But maybe not. Seems a lot of people are canceling or dramatically altering discretionary travel these days.With the ever-shrinking dollar, travel for fun and pleasure has dropped far down on the list of splurges for many middle class families. Gasoline prices, groceries, utilities, rents, day-to-day living expenses are taking a larger-than-ever chunk out of our budgets.

Time was when a trip to San Fransisco for a romantic weekend was doable. But these days, one look at the cost of air fare, car rental fee, hotel, and the cost of gas and meals...will give most anyone but the most affluent pause. Who can afford it anymore?

And with the dollar at an all-time low against the euro and the pound, that summer jaunt to London or Madrid is definitely out the window. This has particularly impacted our family -- my in-laws are English, and we used to take a trip to London almost every year. This year, that's just impossible.

Besides, with record-high fuel costs and cutbacks at airlines, along with endemic cancellations, flying anywhere at all this summer promises to be not half the fun.

So what's a family to do? Fellow WalletPopper Bruce Watson is onto something when he suggests becoming a local tourist -- staying in town, using public transportation, and exploring your own environs might just be the new big thing this summer.

Maybe we'll just spend the summer poolside. Swimming lessons are still relatively affordable.

Have you canceled travel plans this summer due to increased costs? Let's hear your stories -- and your solutions!
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