Not much of a slowdown

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By The Staff

Despite continuing economic challenges, 85 percent of New Mexico residents who plan to travel over the November and December holidays say they will spend the same amount or more on their upcoming holiday getaways, according to a new poll conducted by the AAA Market Research Department.

The online survey of AAA New Mexico members also found that 34 percent of those planning trips say they’ll spend less than $500 on holiday travel, while 60 percent plan to spend $1,000 or less.

Nearly half (46 percent) of all those polled said they will definitely not take an overnight trip at least 50 miles from home this holiday season, and another 15 percent are still undecided about whether they will travel.

Among those who say they definitely won’t travel, 27 percent cited the economy as a major or sizeable influence on their decision, while 45 percent said it had little to no influence on deciding not to travel.

“We will find out in the next few weeks whether to expect an increase or decrease in Thanksgiving and December holiday travel compared to last year’s holidays, but we do see many local travelers seeking ways to save money and taking advantage of travel bargains created by the economic downturn to get even more for their money,” said AAA New Mexico Corporate Communications Manager Dan Ronan in a news release. “For example, 25 percent of our members in this poll said they plan to use an affinity program such as AAA Discounts to get reduced hotel rates.”

Other popular ways that holiday travelers in the poll said they planned to save money on their upcoming trips included:

• Staying with friends or family instead of a hotel – 33 percent;

• Traveling by car instead of by air – 30 percent;

• Cutting the vacation entertainment budget – 25 percent;

• Reducing shopping and souvenir budget – 22 percent;

• Taking a shorter vacation – 22 percent;

• Reducing budget for meals and snacks on the trip – 21 percent;

• Redeeming loyalty points and miles for free and  reduced cost hotel stay – 18 percent;

• Taking a trip closer to home – 17 percent;

• Staying in a less expensive hotel – 16 percent; and

• Sharing costs with friends or family – 16 percent.

The most popular activities during holiday trips, according to the poll, are visiting family – 55 percent, sightseeing – 48 percent, celebrating the holiday – 39 percent, visiting friends – 34 percent, spa/relaxation – 19 percent, maintaining a family tradition of traveling during the holidays – 18 percent and shopping – 14 percent.

Of the New Mexicans planning to take at least one holiday trip the rest of this year, the most popular destinations included traveling out of state – 68 percent, traveling within New Mexico – 27 percent, traveling internationally – 11 percent, going to a gambling destination such as Las Vegas – 7 percent, going to a tropical destination – 7 percent and going to an amusement park – 6 percent.

The travel poll was part of a survey that also asked New Mexico consumers about their overall holiday shopping plans.

The shopping portion of the poll revealed that most consumers don’t plan to cut back on the number of people on their holiday gift lists, but a majority of them do plan to cut their holiday shopping budgets this year.

For information, access www.AAA.com.