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Americans Blowing Travel Budgets on 'Obli-cation' Trips

Money News

By Michelle Smith | June 25, 2014

“Obli-cations” — trips for reasons like family reunions and weddings— are taking a bite out of Americans wallets.

During the past 12 months, Americans spent some $185 billion on trips because they felt obligated to be somewhere, the American Travel Behavior Survey from discount travel site reveals.

Crunch the numbers and that averages out to nearly $800 per person, or about 30% of total U.S. spending for leisure travel, notes MarketWatch

One of the most common types of obli-cations are those for birthdays, which cost Americans $32 billion in travel costs last year, and another $20 billion was spent going to weddings.

These figures only represent a fraction of the costs—the portion devoted to travel—which includes accommodation, fuel, travel and other travel-related costs, Hotwire explained in a news release.

But the spending rarely stops there. 

The average wedding guest drops another $100 for a gift, MarketWatch says data from American Express show. Then, there are often other expenses such as formal clothing and child care.

The costs of attending a wedding increased 60% from 2012 to 2013, to average about $539, American Express also reported, according to another MarketWatch article

With that, the number of Americans who decided not to attend a wedding for financial reasons rose to 43%, a poll by American Consumer Credit Counseling, a non-profit financial advisory showed. 

Yet the pressure to attend the weddings of loved ones is so strong that 36% of people neglected the financial burden and said they have gone into debt to attend a wedding, American Consumer Credit Counseling also found.

Why do Americans invest so heavily in obli-cations? 

“People are polite, and social norms are a big factor here,” MarketWatch says Henrik Kjellberg, president of the Hotwire Group explained.

But obli-cations can require people to sacrifice more than just cash. Many people only have so much money for leisure travel. Obligatory travel can mean those individuals blow their travel budgets going where they feel obligated to be instead of where they really want to go.

“Every year, many Americans set aside travel budgets only to find that obligatory events like weddings, birthdays and even holidays often hinder their leisure trip plans,” Kjellberg stated in a press release. 

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