Henry Harteveldt, a market researcher for Forrester Research, said leisure travelers have "one hand firmly clasped to their wallets."
"The comments I get are that generally business is better, but no one is popping Champagne corks," he told The New York Times.
Smith Travel Research reported hotel occupancy is up, with 592 million rooms taken through the end of July compared to 552 million in the first seven months of 2009, and revenue in the same period rose from $55 billion to $58 billion.
One paradoxical sign of hard times is an increase in visitors at the best-known national parks. The National Parks Service reports business is up at Yosemite, Yellowstone and Death Valley.
Jacqueline Kimbrell of Phoenix, who lost her job last year, said she and her husband, Keith, decided to abandon plans to take their three children to SeaWorld in San Diego. The camping trip they took instead cost about $300, compared to $1,000 for plane tickets and a hotel.
"You find a spot, you put up your gear, and you go," Kimbrell said.