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Dorothy Mataras has recurrent dreams about China, her fantasy vacation spot.

"It fascinates me," said Mrs. Mataras, 52, of Liverpool, N.Y., near Syracuse. "Anytime there's a movie about China, it's like deja vu. If I had a past life, it must have been there, because when I sit down and think about it, why would I want to go there?"This year, Mrs. Mataras will actually be visiting the Jersey Shore. Like the majority of those surveyed in a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted by telephone May 4 to 6, she is vacationing relatively close to home this year.

Of the 1,233 Americans surveyed, 70 percent said they planned to take a vacation in the next six months and 44 percent of those said they would be traveling no farther than 500 miles from home. Sixty-seven percent said they will travel 1,000 miles or less, compared with the 32 percent with more far-flung plans, and nearly 9 out of 10 said their vacation destinations were in the United States.

Among vacation activities, participating in sports was rated as "very important" by only 16 percent of prospective vacationers. Bigger draws were cultural and historic activities, very important to 27 percent, and family activities, which 65 percent of those who said they were planning a trip said they considered a very important ingredient of a good vacation.

Vacationers are fairly evenly split on whether they plan to spend more money on this year's trip than they spent last year: 39 percent said they would probably spend more, while 35 percent hoped to spend less, and 22 percent estimated they would shell out roughly the same amount.

Both those who planned to take a vacation and those who didn't were asked where they would go if cost were no object. The most popular destination was Hawaii, the dream vacation spot for 15 percent of those polled, followed by Australia, with 9 percent. Europe as a general destination was chosen by 5 percent. France, Italy and England each got 3 percent, and European countries as a whole collected 23 percent of the dream vacation vote.

Still, more than a third of those polled chose vacation spots in the United States, with Alaska as the second most popular domestic destination, cited by 4 percent of those surveyed. Three percent named Florida. Either Disneyland or Disney World was chosen by 2 percent; California was named by another 2 percent.