Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Ah, summertime, the wonderful, warm season celebrated with cold drinks in coconuts, fabulous beach trips, and easy living ... unless of course you're one of those Americans who has to work for a living. Unable to escape the confines of the office, the rest are left daydreaming about summer vacation, with one survey putting the price tag on that fantasy at $43,154, about the average annual U.S. income. The ubiquitous online coupon company Groupon Inc. asked U.S. families what they would do this summer if money weren't an issue. The answers, it turned out, were pretty boring.

With imaginary money, Americans said they would spend an average of $10,000 on family cruises, head abroad for $13,000, and for that classic lower-48 excursion, the road trip in a recreational vehicle, the bill would come in at just under $8,000.

Perhaps Americans are aiming low on the creativity front because their summer reality is less than lavish: They spend an average of five days off and travel fewer than 300 miles, according to the survey, which polled 1,000 U.S. parents with children between ages four and 17. A few hundred miles is hardly enough to get to that remote South Pacific island.

A summer with two fabulous European getaways also isn't feasible for most, but STA Travel speculates some will be able to swing an international and domestic trip if they plan wisely. “Now that fares are cheaper and there’s a strong U.S. dollar in places like Europe, people are adding on an extra weekend or domestic trip,” said the travel agency's communications manager, Tiffany Harrison. 

The Groupon survey, conducted by OnePoll, found that most of the parents were aged 35-44 and had two kids. To get to the total of $43,154, the pollsters asked how much people would be willing to spend on summer fun if money were no object, and then averaged the responses.

Close to 20 percent were considerably bigger spenders, saying they would be willing to go above $100,000 for their dream summer vacation. Only 1.9 percent said they'd spend less than a grand.

Given the $43,154 average, and that the national average wage index for 2014 was $46,481, that means that the perfect American vacation is worth almost a year's worth of work. Better make it count.

To contact the author of this story: Polly Mosendz in New York at pmosendz@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Rovella at drovella@bloomberg.net.

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