For many people, summer has always meant travel. Your preference might be a trip to the beach, sightseeing in a big city, immersing yourself in a cultural mecca, or exploring a popular theme park. But with the kids out of school and the beautiful weather making people want to take a break from work, about half of us will give in to the urge to get away from our usual haunts and routines.
However, this year, 39 million U.S. adults won't be taking summer trips because money is just too tight. That figure is based on the results of a recent survey from Bankrate.com, in which 60% of respondents who said they aren't planning summer vacations said the reason why is that they can't afford one.
All I ever wanted
Fun in the sun doesn't come cheap: The average American spends $1,979 on their summer vacations, according to Bankrate, and that's money that many think would be better spent on other things. In fact, 22% of those who said they can't afford a summer vacation listed their need to pay down debt as the biggest reason why.
"Paying down debt is important, but make sure you do it right so this isn't the reason you miss out on a summer vacation next year," suggested Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman in the press release.
However, debt wasn't the top reason cited. The inhibiting factor named most often by those who aren't planning any summer getaways was simply "everyday bills," which 44% said were keeping them home this year.
Have to get away?
If you're carrying credit card balances or other bad debt, it's important to pay those debts off as rapidly as you're able. And our regular monthly bills are largely non-negotiable. That said, if money is the main obstacle standing between you and a much-needed vacation, it may not be an insurmountable one.
First things first. Forget what you read a few paragraphs ago: Fun in the sun can come cheap, so you don't need to spend anywhere near that $2,000 average on your summer vacation. Sure, it's nice to get on a plane and travel to a resort or a fancy hotel, but that's not the only way to enjoy time off. Consider where you live and what's within reasonable driving distance.
Can you book an inexpensive Airbnb or hotel in a beach town? Consider looking a bit further inland: Accepting a not-too-long drive from rental to sand could cut a chunk off your costs. Or, if you live in a desirable location, you might be able to use a home swap service to connect with someone who lives someplace you want to visit, and who would consider where you live a fun destination.
The key is to consider what you most want to get out of a vacation. If it's being pampered in a high-end facility, it's hard to avoid high-end prices. On the other hand, if it's the opportunity to visit new places or just get a change of scenery, options abound.
If you want to enjoy the great outdoors, there are enormous numbers of public beaches, parks, hiking trails, and other natural wonders that don't cost a dime to visit, not to mention the many more where the associated fees are nominal. And while it may be somewhat expensive to stay in America's cities, many of the museums and other tourist attractions they house can be visited for free or at low cost.
Paying down debt and being responsible about your finances are admirable choices. But maybe doing those things doesn't have to anchor you so close to home this summer after all.