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And They're Off ... to Distant Places on Trim Budgets

July 2, 2009 By:
Fredda Sacharow, Jewish Exponent Feature
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Neil Wernick and Michele Rifkin are looking for less expensive travel options this summer. Photo by Greg Bezanis

Proceed, but with caution.

That seems to be the ticket for vacationers in this summer of our financial discontent.

"In the past, we haven't had to think very much about budget when we talked about travel. We just kind of decided where we wanted to go, got out The New York Times travel section and went from there. This year, budget constraints will make that different," said Neil Wernick of Elkins Park, chief marketing officer with Lincoln Investment in Wyncote.

"I do know people who have been laid off in the past year who have curtailed or cancelled travel plans, even modest ones," agreed Melissa Klapper of Merion Station, a professor of history at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.

The worst economic climate in recent history is prompting singles and families throughout the Delaware Valley to revisit their itineraries.

Even travelers who are not jettisoning that cruise to Alaska altogether are at least re-evaluating the bottom line.

A recent Bloomberg News survey predicted the jobless rate will reach 9.4 percent this year and remain elevated at least through 2011. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed rose in May from 787,000, for a total of 14.5 million people.

And then there's the "give-back" factor: A survey conducted for the online travel agency Expedia.com estimates that employed adults in the United States will forfeit a total of 436 million vacation days in 2009.

While her job as part of an online-learning team at Drexel University appears secure, Julie Allmayer knows her fair share of people who have been laid off or furloughed in recent months -- enough to make her think twice about travel in the near future.

On a scale of one to 10, out-of-pocket costs rank "maybe an eight or a nine" in factors driving her vacation planning, said Allmayer, a member of the Jewish Graduate Students Network who recently bought a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in East Falls, with all its attendant costs.

"Finances really play heavily" on her vacation thinking, she noted, especially this year. That translates to shorter vacations in recent months -- trips lasting three or four days, usually in conjunction with a marathon or a bike ride for a favorite charity -- and none at all this summer.

"What I try to do is incorporate my vacation into these fundraising trips that I do," said Allmayer, who is in the early stages of planning a 100-mile bike trip around Lake Tahoe in 2010 in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

For executive Neil Wernick and his wife Michele Rifkin, owner of an occupational-therapy business, their fabled Fairmount vacations -- staying at branches of the upscale hotel in venues such as Sonoma, Calif. -- are, well, history.

At least for now.

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