Summer Vacation Isn't All Fun in the Sun: Financial Stress Levels About Cost of Summer Rival End of Year Holiday Spending

For Many, Cash Is King When It Comes to Covering Expenses

May 1, 2014

NEW YORK (May 1, 2014) – Summer is supposed to be the time of sunny days and warm nights—conjuring up thoughts of the beach, Bar-B-Ques, bonfires, rest and relaxation. Instead, most American adults equate summer with financial anxiety, according to a new telephone survey conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) by Harris Poll.  The new survey interviewed 1,005 U.S. adults (ages 18+) in March and was done in recognition of National Financial Capability Month which concluded April 30.

According to the survey, about 6 in 10 U.S. adults (59 percent) said their financial tension during the summer matches or exceeds the stress they feel during the year-end holiday season. A majority of U.S. adults (55 percent) said they don’t have a vacation on the calendar this year.  For those Americans with summer vacation plans, 41 percent expect to pay an average of $3,000 for transportation, lodging, meals, activities, entertainment and pet care. 

“During stressful financial times, paying with cash is a great way to keep your spending under control. By using dollars instead of plastic, consumers are much more aware of their outgoing expenses,” said Ernie Almonte, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “When you pay for a vacation with a credit card, you come back with more than photos. You come back with debt, and your vacation could wind up costing considerably more than you had budgeted.”

The survey also revealed that the amount of money an individual is likely to spend is tied to gender.  Women tend to make less of a splash on summer vacation than men—the average man expects to spend $3,200 and women expect to spend $2,800.

For parents, the financial stress of summer is even greater. Most parents of children under 17 (62 percent) anticipate paying an average of $1,400 for their children’s summer activities including sports camp, day camp, sleep-away camp, tutoring and academic courses, group day care, and in-home child care. For some parents (23 percent), that cost may include a weekly allowance averaging $19.

The costs of summer are stressful for everyone, but the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission has the following tips that consumers can use right away to get started saving for or reducing their upcoming expenses:

  1. Create your summer budget now. Get out your calendar and make a list of planned activities and related costs, registration fees, uniform costs, amusement park entry fees, pool memberships, etc. Knowing how much you need now will give you a goal and keep up motivation to keep saving. 
  2. Don’t Be a Weekend Warrior! Avoid the weekend rush when you can. Plan midweek adventures, since everything from amusement parks to golf outings are usually less crowded and cheaper mid-week. Very often hotels and rental cars are discounted during weekdays.
  3. Hunt for Discount Coupons. Never pay full price for water and theme parks or other entertainment. Look for deals in the form of discount coupons at supermarkets, convenience stores and even hotel brochure racks. The savings can be 25% or more.
  4. Look for Freebies. When choosing accommodations for your vacation, consider the following to reduce costs: Does the hotel offer complimentary transportation to the airport, restaurants, or local attractions? Does the rate include breakfast? Having a meal included can save you a bundle, especially on longer trips or family vacations.
  5. Cleanout and Sell. Sell unwanted items on eBay or Craigslist or have a garage sale. This helps fund the vacation and gets rid of clutter at the same time. A double bonus!

Additional tips on how to save money for and on summer activities are available at

Since 2004, the CPA profession has been helping consumers increase their financial literacy through a free, comprehensive financial-education program: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. The website is the centerpiece of the program with tools, calculators and advice to help Americans understand and manage their financial needs during every life stage, from childhood to retirement.   


Harris Interactive has conducted an annual survey for the AICPA since 2007. This year’s poll was conducted by telephone within the United States between March 21 and 23, 2014, among 1,005 adults (501 men and 504 women age 18 and over), including 605 interviews from the landline sample and 400 interviews from the cell phone sample; 524 identified themselves as a parent or guardian of at least one child.

The theoretical sampling error for this survey is + or – three percentage points. For smaller subgroups the sampling error is higher.