This Memorial Day weekend Americans may be skipping the souvenir T-shirt.
More people are expected to travel for the holiday than have since the Great Recession. But they'll be keeping a tighter grip on their wallets thanks to higher gas prices and airfares. The typical family plans to spend $692, a decrease of 14 percent from last year's $809, according to AAA.
That could have a broad impact on businesses that depend on travel spending, from hotels to restaurants to ice cream parlors to mini-golf courses.
"You'll see people eating sandwiches out of the cooler instead of going into a restaurant," says Susanne Pelt, spokeswoman for the South of the Border roadside attraction in South Carolina.
In its yearly survey, AAA projects 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home _ a slight increase of 100,000 travelers from last year and the highest number since 2007. AAA and survey partner IHS Global Insight interviewed 325 Americans who plan to travel for the holiday.
Among the survey's findings:
_ Higher gas prices are on the minds of 40 percent of travelers. Many plan shorter trips or other money-saving steps. That could mean picking a Holiday Inn Express over a Holiday Inn or driving to a free beach instead of an amusement park.
_ Rates at AAA three-diamond hotels are expected to increase 5 percent from a year ago to $148 a night. Cheaper two-diamond properties are up 10 percent to $109.
_ Nearly 2.93 million people will board an airplane, up 11.5 percent from last year despite higher airfares. Airlines have raised prices seven times since the start of the year. The average cost of a ticket is up more than 10 percent from last year.
_ The total distance families are expected to travel is 792 miles, up 27 percent from last year, thanks to the spike in air travel.
_ People with incomes above $50,000 a year make up 69 percent of those who plan to travel, compared with 58 percent last year. The reason: higher gas prices take up a larger share of lower-income families' household budgets.
"We are seeing some folks who are saying they have to pinch pennies to make the trip," says Paula Werne, spokeswoman for Holiday World in the southern Indiana town of Santa Claus.
But most refuse to abandon their vacation altogether.
"Americans really believe a vacation is a right," says Joseph A. McInerney, CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. "It's not a luxury."
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, pump prices are averaging $3.91 a gallon, the highest level in three years. That's because oil rose 35 percent from mid-February through late April.
The price is $1.05 more than last year. That's an extra $37 for a family driving 800 miles over the weekend.
"For most people, that's not going to make or break a vacation plan," says Steve Carvell, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.
And drivers may see some relief.
The average retail price slipped 8 cents in the past two weeks. Further declines are expected. That could help hotels, resorts and restaurants who count on summer tourists.
Last year, the price of gas fell 20 cents a gallon from the time of AAA's survey to Memorial Day. AAA had originally predicted 32.1 million would travel. Ultimately, that number was 34.8 million.
Brad Garner, chief operating officer at travel firm at STR Global, says people will find a way to make trips work.
The extra cost to fill up the family car over the holiday weekend equates to "a pizza and a six-pack of beer," he says.
Many businesses are playing into that phycology, with hotels and tourist attractions offering gas cards to guests.
The Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and the Wisconsin Maritime Museum about 100 miles to the south recently started a joint effort to encourage travelers to drive to the two museums, stopping at several cities along Lake Michigan on the way.
Bob Desh, executive director of the first museum says he wants tourists to look at the area differently.
"This is kind of a one-tank weekend trip along the coast," Desh says.
Mayerowitz reported from New York. Reporters Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, S.C., John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, and Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee, Wis., contributed to this report.