Summertime, and The Livin’ Is Easy

Vacations, eating out, and shopping for groceries are the top three areas where Americans spend more during the summer months. In this month’s Thought Starter sourced by Ipsos’ eNation Omnibus, we take a closer look at how (and where) Americans are spending their summer.

The author(s)

  • Paul Abbate Global Lead, Global Advisor, Public Affairs, US
  • Chris Deeney Senior Vice President, U.S. Ipsos Observer
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George Gershwin’s summertime lyrics from 1934’s Porgy and Bess opera still sum up Americans feelings about the summer. Schools out, suns up and it’s time for summer fun, right?

Americans certainly think so, according to findings from the Ipsos U.S. Omnibus Summer Activities survey. For the majority of us, summer means some type of get-away. Traveling by car to your vacation spot is the most popular (52%), particularly for families with children (62%). Just under half of us (47%) enjoy a staycation, relaxing and enjoying local activities while being able to sleep in our own beds, and one in three Americans get to their summer vacation by plane. Only one in five say they do not take any type of summer vacation.

Sports and activities also play an important role for Americans during the summer months. While participating in an individual outdoor activity (43%) such as biking or hiking is most commonly enjoyed, attending a professional sporting event (31%) like baseball, watching children play an outdoor team sport (26%) such as soccer and/or playing in an adult league (24%) like softball are also popular summer sporting pastimes.

Warm weather, longer days and holiday weekends allow for lots of outdoor activities such as gardening, barbeques and festivals. But what do Americans look forward to most during the summer? Rest and relaxation! When given the choice, sixty percent choose laying back, relaxing or reading a good book, whether on the beach or on the couch, over participating in outdoor activities as much as possible during the summer (40%). Guess Gershwin was right-summer living should be easy.

Almost everyone enjoys seeing the kids out and about. Most Americans, young or old, like seeing children off for the summer. Maybe because it reminds us of our summer freedom when we were young because 71% like it when children are off and playing in the neighborhood or keeping parents company in the stores.

Unfortunately, summer may also mean spending more time in the car for many of us. Over half of Americans say they spend more time in the car during the summer and that number jumps for those of us with children (69%) and/or Millennials (66%). Hopefully the increased time in the car is due to driving to the beach or fun activities and not just because of road construction.

Although summer should mean taking it easy, that is not the case for many industries, such as golf, lawn care and other seasonal businesses. For instance, if you are a realtor or mover, summer is most likely one of your busier times since half the people who plan to move will do it during the summer. This is especially true for households with children. Our survey showed 29% of Millennials and 25% of households with children are going to be changing residences this summer. Obviously, the school year and warm months make the summer popular for packing up and getting settled in your new digs before the school year starts or the days get shorter and colder.

Per the National Restaurant Association, summer is the busiest season for restaurants in many parts of the country. Add to that all the barbequing and festival foods we consumed, it was surprising to find out only 11% of Americans usually feel they weigh more by the end of the summer as compared to the start of the summer. In fact, 31% usually weigh less at the end of the summer. Probably all the outdoor activities and wearing summer attire helps to prevent us from packing on the pounds.

We wanted to know how overall spending changed during the summer months. Half of Americans say their overall spending typically increases during the summer months.  Only 9% said their spending is lower during the summer and 41% indicated their spending does not seem to change. As expected, summer spending is most likely to increase for Millennials and those with children. The top three areas of spending were for vacations, restaurants and/or buying groceries.


Major areas Americans spend more on during the summer months:

Vacations/travel 68%
Restaurants 67%
Groceries 48%
Activities/sports- adults 39%
Entertaining at home 33%
Utilities 32%
Outdoor home maintenance 32%
Have more time for spending 27%
Activities/sports-kids 27%
Pool 26%
Out of town visitors 25%


You would think with all the relaxing, eating and outdoor activities we'd be sleeping like a log at night during the summer months; but that is not the case! About 1 in 4 (27%) say they sleep worse in the summer and only 18% say they feel they sleep better.  Surprisingly, most say they do not see any difference in sleep throughout the year.   Maybe since over 90% of the U.S. now have air conditioning in their homes, sleeping can be regulated just like home temperatures and isn't tied to daylight hours or the school year as much as in the past.

There have been numerous discussions in recent years regarding Americans not using all their vacation time while Europeans have the art of vacations and time off down much better than U.S. employees. Even if we are behind with taking time off as compared to Europe, Americans still want to relax and have fun in the summer; even if it is after the work day is done. Like the song says…summer living should be easy.

Each week Ipsos U.S. eNation omnibus completes five national surveys. Ipsos Omnibus offers a variety of services, including overnight or custom studies. To collect complimentary access to this Summer Activity study or to learn more about eNation omnibus, please click here or use the contact form below.

The author(s)

  • Paul Abbate Global Lead, Global Advisor, Public Affairs, US
  • Chris Deeney Senior Vice President, U.S. Ipsos Observer

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