DEAR DATA DOG: How far do people travel on summer vacation?

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According to the Travel Industry Association of America's 1999 Summer Travel Forecast (www., the greatest number of summer vacationers (22 percent) travel between 200 and 299 miles from home - in other words, somewhere between "I have to go to the bathroom" and "Are we there yet?" (Improbable as it may sound, summer vacation travel comprises only 32 percent of all annual vacation travel - small comfort for those waiting in line to board the latest gravity-defying amusement park ride.)

The smallest number of domestic vacationers (8 percent) travel between 500 and 599 miles. Since 84 percent of all vacation trips utilize a car, truck, or recreational vehicle, and 54 percent of all family trips include kids, it's easy to see why 599 miles isn't a terribly popular travel distance, falling just after "I'm so bored I could scream" and a little before "I want to go home."

According to the TIA's forecast, 63 percent of Americans intended to do some vacation travelling this summer, a number that has remained fairly stable during the past six years - as has the number of people for whom "vacation travel" means "trips to the bathroom" - 14 percent of those polled by the TIA predicted they would be spending their vacation time going nowhere in the summer of 1999. The reason? Money, for one.

When the Wirthlin Report (www. asked 2,019 adults last year what their major vacation planning challenges were, 45 percent said "saving money for the trip" was a major challenge. Twenty-six percent said that just figuring out how much the trip would cost was a major difficulty. (Seven percent cited "finding destination information" a major challenge, which isn't disturbing until you realize that it sounds a lot like "getting a map.")

In the same Wirthlin poll, almost a quarter of all vacation planners (24 percent) said that "getting time off from work" was a big problem - which might explain the results of a 1998 survey by the American Management Association International ( The poll revealed that, rather than attempt to negotiate some sort of travel, 21 percent of 1,868 managers and executives in AMA-member companies simply decided to stay home for their summer vacation. Possibly they logged onto the Web between office e-mails to get a little vicarious recreation from the journal Leisure Studies ( /ls1603ind. html). My own favorite is the abstract of "The Rise of the German and the Demise of the English Spa Industry: A Critical Analysis of Business Success and Failure." Talk about relaxing!

The percentage of people who leave one home for another hasn't changed much since 1940; the number of vacation homes as a percentage of total U.S. homes has risen by just 1 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau ( historic/vacation.html). What has changed is the state with the greatest number of vacation homes.

Back in 1940, New York led the field with 116,000, and held the title (albeit with some heated competition from Michigan) until the 1980 census, when Florida became the Vacation Home State, and remained so through the 1990 census, with 421,000 vacation homes. As a percentage of all homes within a state, however, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont have headed the list since 1940, with 10 percent to 15 percent of all homes classified as vacation properties.

There also has been a real boom in vacation homes with wheels: The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (www.rvia. org), citing a 1998 University of Michigan study, reports that RV ownership has hit an all-time high. But the growth isn't being fueled by silver-haired Silver Streak owners. Thanks to the recreational habits of baby boomers, there are now 9.3 million RVs on the road these days, including motor homes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, pop-up trailers, and van conversions.

Since 1993, RV ownership in households headed by those aged 45-to-54 has increased by 25 percent, more than any other age group. In fact, 45-to-54-year-old RV owners now outnumber those 55 and older (45 percent to 40 percent of all owners, respectively). And the RVIA predicts that nearly one-quarter of all households headed by 35-to-54-year-olds intend to purchase a recreational vehicle.

This means that road-hogging Good Sam you've been cursing and honking at for the last 15 miles is probably young enough to kick your butt at the next rest stop - so keep a leash on that road rage.

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