Kai Ryssdal: Here we are mid-July, the very heart of summer. A time best spent by most accounts in a cabin by the lake, playing on the beach, or up in the mountains getting away from it all. Summer, though, may be losing its hold on our leisure. Lingering economic anxiety paired with changing calendars for work and school get the blame.
Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.
Eve Troeh: The Santa Monica Pier is instant summer. Sun, sand, a roller coaster. And tourists, like:
Allen Carithers: I'm Allen Carithers from Greenville, S.C. Wife Julie. Son Caleb, 15.
The Carithers embody what you might conjur from summer vacation. A family in shorts and T-shirts, travelling together. Allen, the dad, says it's not hard for him to get time off work. Like many households, his son's schedule dictates vacation.
Allen: Oh most definitely. He plays travel basketball, so we don't travel any during the school year, and we don't travel the first part of the summer because of sports.
Caleb: And then I had a mission trip to Allendale, S.C., with my church, so...
So they have this one week together in California before school starts in August, with a bit of a recession twist. The family is visiting their daughter, who's recently out of college, and hasn't had luck finding work. In fact, a job interview kept her away from family beach day. The umemployment rate weighs on vacation plans even for people with jobs. As companies plough ahead with minimal staff, workers feel less free to take off.
Human resources expert Steve Kane says they also want to be indispensable.
Steve Kane: Well, at least seem indispensable, yes.
If you leave for two weeks, and the office stays the same:
Kane: There is a sense that if the world can continue without one's input, maybe your input isn't that significant.
That need to be needed fuels another trend: the work-cation.
Vivian Panou: Oh I never get away from the office, even though I'm taking my vacation days, I'm always looking through my email, and making phone calls.
Vivian Panou is a local I met on the Santa Monica Pier. She just got back from a trip to Chicago. A few days of work, down time with her two kids in-between -- that saved some money, too.
Panou: Because I was able to cover one of the tickets as a company expense. The other ticket I was able to pay for with miles. And then I only had to come up with another $620 for the third ticket, which is an insane price.
That's why people not beholden to school schedules may avoid travel during "official" summer break.
Hobica: You can save 50 percent by going after August 17, or early September. It's still summer.
George Hobica runs airfarewatchdog.com. A poll of his quarter-million Twitter followers showed the majority are less interested in summer travel. And it's not just about prices, or swarms of kids.
Hobica: The global weather patterns are definitely having an affect. The most frequent comment was: It's too hot.
Hobica says people are also taking more short trips, scattered over the year. That's popular with the growing army of freelancers, who don't get paid leave. I met business consultant Molly Lavik on the Pier. She's swamped with deadlines, but I caught her during:
Lavik: My staycation for summer 2012.
Troeh: One day?
Lavik: Um, one afternoon. It's happening right now. The weather is incredible and I'm just having the best time.
Drummer: California, knows how to party.
I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.