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39 million Americans can’t afford a summer vacation

The summer season is a huge travel time for American families, but some startling information tells us that this year isn’t going to be the break a lot of people are hoping for.

According to a new Bankrate survey, an estimated 39 million Americans won’t be taking a summer vacation this year because they can’t afford one. While just over half of American adults are planning to take some sort of trip during the summer months, a whopping 48% are either definitely not taking one or haven’t decided yet.

The biggest factor, of course, is cost. Vacations typically cost just under $2,000 on average. One of five of those who say they can’t afford a vacation explain that paying down debt is the biggest thing standing in their way. So racking up more debt for a little R&R is clearly not a good idea.

Where you live determines your vacation costs

While the national average for summer vacation spending is $1,979, that number varies depending on where you call home. Those living in the western part of the U.S. can expect to spend more at $2,265 on average, while Midwesterners are looking at a much lower average of $1,607. The Northeast, at $2,079, and the South, at $1,943, hew a bit closer to the national average.

And age is a factor as well. For millennials between the ages of 30 and 38, the average shoots up to $2,366, while those between the ages of 23 and 29 are expected to spend just $1,297 on average.

As for older adults and retirees, a smaller share of adults over the age of 55 are planning to take a vacation, with just 47% gearing up to his the road this summer. And 55% of those not taking a vacation say that it's because they can't afford it, while 26% cited health concerns as the main deterrent.

How to avoid this for next summer

If you’re feeling the sting of not being able to take a vacation this summer, then now is a great time to get a jump on planning for summer 2020. One way to do that is to open a savings account specifically for the task and name it something like “Summer 2020.” That kind of intentionality can really boost your efforts.

You can also consider getting a new travel rewards credit card so you can rack up points over the next year toward airfare or other travel expenses. The key is to not miss any payments and just end up further in debt than you were before. Setting up automatic payment transfers can help you avoid late fees.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter.