The "staycation" is not yet dead, but its popularity may be waning.
The tendency to stay close to home for vacation - a trend that became popular during the Great Recession - is losing its appeal as more Americans become more interested in having a good time when they travel than in saving money. The findings are from a survey of 2,527 U.S. households by marketing and research firms MMGY Global and Harrison Group.
The survey found the average spent on vacations over the last 12 months has grown to $4,461, compared with $3,874 during the same period two years ago.
"It's not like everyone's financial situation has improved, but people went through a series of three or four years of paring back on expenses," said Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global. "We are now seeing for the first time that mentality abate."
The study found that the number of travelers who are concerned with cost cutting has declined and that 34 percent of vacationers first choose the destination of their trip, while 18 percent first set a budget.
Also, 26 percent of vacationers said they prefer luxury hotels and resorts this year, compared with 15 percent in 2011, according to the survey.
As for the staycation trend, Yesawich said a survey taken three years ago found that 30 percent of travelers stayed close to home to save money on vacations. That rate has dropped to about 25 percent of travelers.
"It's a reflection that even though times are not rosy," Yesawich said, "they are better."
Southwest Airlines Co., the nation's largest carrier of domestic travelers, has long promoted its policy against charging passengers for the first two checked bags.
But the discount airline generates extra revenue in other ways.
Southwest recently moved into the top 10 airlines around the world that generate the most revenue from extra passenger charges, according to a study by IdeaWorksCo., an airline consulting firm.
In 2011, the study said, Southwest got $1.18 billion in extra revenue - money made outside of ticket sales - compared with about $490 million in 2010.
A big chunk of that money came from the sale of frequent flier points to credit card companies, said Jay Sorenson, president of the Shorewood, Wis., company and author of the study.
But the airline also collected sizable revenue by charging passengers $10 to board early under its EarlyBird program, among other special offers that give passengers priority boarding and access to faster check-in lines, according to the study.
And, of course, the airline generates bag fees for passengers who check more than two suitcases or have bags that exceed the 50-pound weight limit. In the first three months of this year, Southwest pocketed nearly $8 million from checked-bag fees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
"Everything they have has been doing better," Sorenson said of Southwest's extra revenue. "I think we will see another jump in revenue next year."