Why more Americans don't travel abroad.
The numbers tell the story: Of the 308 million-plus citizens in the United States, 30% have passports.
That's just too low for such an affluent country, said Bruce Bommarito, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the U.S. Travel Association.
"Americans are comfortable in their own environment," Bommarito said.
There were 61.5 million trips outside the United States in 2009, down 3% from 2008, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. About 50% of those trips were to either Mexico or Canada, destinations that didn't require a passport until 2007.
Despite the climbing number of American passports in circulation, 30% is still low compared to Canada's 60% and the United Kingdom's 75%.
Tourism experts and avid travelers attribute Americans' lack of interest in international travel to a few key factors, including: the United States' own rich cultural and geographic diversity, an American skepticism and/or ignorance about international destinations, a work culture that prevents Americans from taking long vacations abroad and the prohibitive cost and logistics of going overseas.
“We buy goods from Sri Lanka and outsource business to India, but when it comes to traveling to these destinations, Americans would rather stick close to home. Our culture doesn't emphasize knowledge of the world," Kepnes said. "We're more skeptical of it because we just don't know about it. We buy goods from Sri Lanka and outsource business to India, but when it comes to traveling to these destinations, Americans would rather stick close to home.”
He adds that foreign countries generally don't make it into the media for doing good things, just for natural disasters or bad news.
"We're not a travel culture," he said. "Countries are travel cultures when they put more of an emphasis on leisure time, and Americans tend to choose money over leisure time."
Even those who do receive a nice chunk of vacation time don't use it all, and those who do seem to take shorter, more frequent trips, Arndt said.
"There are some differences in terms of vacation time that are hugely influential," Byrne said. Workers in mainland Europe receive between six and eight weeks of vacation, while Americans average about 16.6 paid vacation days as of 2005, according to the Families and Work Institute. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed didn't plan to use their full vacation.