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Panel says two-career couples take shorter vacations closer to home

Faced with a shrinking dollar, more expensive gasoline, and the demands of a two-career marriage, American women are chaning the way Americans take vacations , according to a panel of travel and consumer experts.

The panel was unanimous in naming the American woman a strong and often unrecognized force in shaping the nation's travel plans. It is she who really decides where and how her family will spend its vacation, they found. This year , especially, her needs have altered the way people relax.

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Studies cited by Dr. B. G. Gunter, a man who has made the study of relaxation his life work, show that Americans are traveling as much as ever, but they are planning their trips differently. The traditional two-week vacation to a faraway place may no longer be financially possible for most persons. Instead, a series of shorter trips to entertaining and educational spots near home is fast becoming the norm for most American families, the panel reported.

A study conducted by Dr. Gunter indicates that the two- career marriage has reversed the trend toward long vacations. The traditional family, with a working father, a homemaking mother, and one or more children living at home now accounts for only 16 percent of American families. Today, 53 percent of the nation's women work.

In Dr. Gunter's study, the inability of both working spouses to take a vacation at the same time was a chief reason why many families did not take vacations at all in 1979. The study found that taking two weeks off from a busy job is difficult enough, without the added challenge of coordinating a time convenient for both working partners.

Joyce Winslow added another insight to the attraction short trips hold for two-career couples.Weekend travel is "a time when the family can be thoroughly together." Not having to be in the car for 14 hours with the children to get to a faraway destination "is a comfortable weekend for the parents."

The panel felt that variety is the key consideration when women plan the family's vacation. Visits to nearby cities that combine sporting events, shopping, cultural opportunities, and such family entertainment as theme parks are frequent destinations.

The panel's consensus on the future of American travel: cloudy but not bleak. It will adapt to a changing economy and to the needs of working women, the panelists predict, but it won't disappear as an important form of relaxation.

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