Perhaps your summers hold fond memories of strolling along the beach, hiking mountains or trying new foods at a destination hundreds of miles from home. If so, are you planning to keep the travel streak going this year? Would you go into debt for it?

A new Bankrate survey found that only about half (53 percent) of Americans are planning a summer vacation in 2024. Of those who plan to travel this summer, more than 1 in 3 (36 percent) are willing to go into debt to pay for it.

On the other hand, another half (47 percent) of Americans plan to skip their summer vacation this year, citing affordability as the main issue (65 percent).

There are plenty of ways to have fun this summer without busting your budget. For example, there’s still time to accumulate a summer vacation fund by setting money aside from every paycheck. — Ted Rossman | Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst

Bankrate’s key insights on summer travel in 2024

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Bankrate insight
  • A little over half of U.S. adults are planning a summer vacation this year. That 53 percent includes 36 percent planning for domestic travel, 15 percent for an international trip and 12 percent for a staycation.
  • Some people who plan to travel this summer are willing to go into debt for it. Thirty-six percent plan to take on debt to pay for their summer vacation. Debt options include carrying a balance on a credit card; buy now, pay later services; borrowing from family or friends and a personal loan.
  • The top reason U.S. adults aren’t vacationing this summer is affordability. Sixty-five percent of people not planning summer vacations said that they can’t afford it.
  • Unsurprisingly, higher earners are more likely to plan a summer vacation. Seventy-four percent of respondents with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more are planning a summer vacation, which is more than lower income respondents.

Some summer travelers plan to take on debt for their vacation

More than one-third (36 percent) of aspiring summer vacationers said in the survey that they plan to use debt to pay for their travels.

This is par for the course when compared to another March 2024 Bankrate survey that asked Americans whether they’d go into debt to pay for fun this year. In that survey, 27 percent said they’d be willing to go into debt to travel, 14 percent to dine out and 13 percent to attend a live entertainment event this year overall — not just in the summer.

Ted Rossman, Bankrate Senior Industry Analyst, cautions against racking up expensive credit card debt.

“I don’t want to tell people they can’t have any fun, but I do worry about taking on debt for discretionary purchases such as vacations, especially with credit card balances and rates at record highs,” he says.

A majority of summer travelers will pay with a credit card

Credit cards are summer travelers’ preferred payment method — 62 percent will use a credit card for at least some of their trip expenses. Forty-three percent of summer travelers plan to use a credit card that they pay in full, and 26 percent plan to use a card and carry the balance over multiple billing cycles. Some people are doing both.

Interestingly, a January 2024 Bankrate survey found that, of the 44 percent of credit cardholders carrying debt from month to month, 2 in 3 cardholders try to maximize rewards. If you can pay your balance in full, a travel credit card is a great way to earn while you spend and put rewards toward future trips.

Using travel credit cards can also help you to reap additional travel benefits like no foreign transaction fees or trip cancellation insurance. However, even with these rewards, it’s still worth considering the cost of carrying a balance to pay for travel.

“While the travel industry has rebounded from the chaos that immediately followed the pandemic, I’m sure there will still be plenty of delays and cancellations this summer,” Rossman says.

“It’s a good idea to pay with a credit card that offers generous travel insurance benefits such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance and stipends if your flight is delayed or your luggage is lost. Rental car insurance is another helpful benefit included on many cards.”

Vacations are an important part of many people’s lives, whether at all-inclusive resorts or national parks. According to the survey, 53 percent of U.S. adults are planning a summer vacation this year.

36 percent of Americans plan to travel domestically, 15 percent plan to travel internationally and 12 percent plan to take a staycation (respondents could choose more than one option). Another 18 percent don’t know or are not sure of their plans yet.

Over four in 10 (43 percent) of the staycationers are also planning a domestic or international trip, so roughly 7 percent of U.S. adults will make a staycation their only summer vacation. If you’re facing cost concerns, making the most of local experiences may be easier on your wallet.

Younger Americans are more likely to get away — and use debt to pay for it

When school’s out for summer, students, young parents and other young people might be more likely to jet out of town than older generations.

Sixty percent of Gen Zers (ages 18-27) and 61 percent of millennials (ages 28-43) are planning summer vacations, versus 50 percent of Gen Xers (ages 44-59) and 44 percent of boomers (ages 60-78).

Young people are also more willing to take on debt to pay for their 2024 summer vacation:

  • Gen Z: 42 percent
  • Millennials: 47 percent
  • Gen X: 31 percent
  • Boomers: 22 percent

Higher earners and city dwellers are most likely to jet set this summer

When you scroll on social media this summer, you might notice two types of friends filling your feed with travel photos — those who earn more money and those who live in cities.

Nearly 3 in 4 (74 percent) of survey respondents with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more are planning a summer vacation. That’s considerably more than the 68 percent earning between $80,000 and $99,999, 61 percent earning between $50,000 and $79,999 and just 39 percent earning under $50,000 who are planning a summer vacation.

As for where these summer travelers live:

  • 61 percent of people who live in a city are planning a summer vacation
  • 50 percent of those who live in a suburb
  • 48 percent of those who live in a town
  • 44 percent of those who live in a rural area

Nearly three in 10 (28 percent) U.S. adults are skipping a summer vacation due to affordability

The top explanation among those who are not planning summer vacations, by a wide margin, is that they can’t afford it (65 percent).

Even though inflation seems to be cooling off, the Fed still hasn’t lowered rates. Thus, credit card rates are still high, and Americans continue to feel the pain of higher prices on everyday spending.

A new credit card might help you fight inflation. But many Americans appear to be feeling wary of whether they can afford luxuries like a summer trip.

Among those not planning summer vacations, Gen Xers were most likely to say they can’t afford it (67 percent), followed by millennials (62 percent), boomers (61 percent) and Gen Zers (53 percent).

In 2023, 58 percent of Americans also said they couldn’t afford it. Other reasons for not planning a summer vacation include:

  • 24 percent are not interested in taking any vacations currently (versus 23 percent in 2023)
  • 13 percent said their health or age (versus 15 percent in 2023)
  • 11 percent said it’s too much of a hassle
  • 10 percent can’t take time off work (versus 11 percent in 2023)
  • 10 percent said too many family obligations (versus 13 percent in 2023)
  • 4 percent are planning a vacation for another time (versus 11 percent in 2023)
  • 1 percent said their desired destination is too crowded (versus 23 percent in 2023)
  • 9 percent said it was another reason (versus 7 percent in 2023)

Rossman advises “taking advantage of any credit card rewards, airline miles and hotel points you’ve socked away.”

“Maybe even sign up for a new credit card with a generous sign-up bonus that you can put toward your getaway,” he says. “Finally, if going somewhere isn’t feasible this year, at least take some time off to relax and recharge close to home.”

3 types of debt that can be less expensive than credit card debt

If you’re planning to take on debt to pay for a summer vacation, putting it on your credit card might be an expensive decision. That’s because credit card interest rates are high — currently averaging almost 21 percent. For every day that you carry a balance, you’ll pay interest on those vacation expenses (and you’ll also pay interest on your interest).

A word of caution that it’s not the best idea to spend beyond your means for a vacation. You could avoid going into debt for a big trip by doing things like saving, travel hacking with credit card rewards and looking for deals.

If you still want to borrow money, here are three forms of debt that might be less costly than credit card debt:

1. Personal loan

The best personal loans can come with lower interest rates than credit cards. If you need a large chunk of change to pay for travel expenses up front, you could apply for a personal loan. Having good credit may increase your chances of being approved and getting a lower rate. Just keep in mind that you’ll still be paying interest as you make payments over time.

2. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) service

You could use a BNPL app like Affirm, Afterpay, PayPal in 4, Perpay or Sezzle to make interest-free payments over time on large purchases like flights or hotel stays. You’d be joining the 8 percent of survey respondents planning to use a BPNL service to pay for summer travel.

3. 0 percent intro APR credit card

Applying for a 0 percent APR credit card could buy you time to make purchases that you pay off later, interest free. Just consider whether you can pay off the balance by the time the introductory period ends — usually within 12 to 21 months. After that, the card’s regular APR will kick in and you’ll start racking up interest. Also remember that applying for a new credit card can temporarily ding your credit.


  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2360 adults, of whom 1,262 are planning a summer vacation and 1,098 are not. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 20th March 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).