Beach house or log cabin? Sunshine or snow? Whether you’re sipping a piña colada on the beach or shredding the slopes of the Alps — there’s no wrong way to de-stress. In fact, according to recent research, nearly one-third of Americans are making leisure travel a high priority in their budgets. As holiday stress looms on the horizon, providing the perfect excuse to escape and unwind, we wanted to discover Americans’ dream vacation spots from coast to coast.

A header image for a blog about what the ideal vacation looks like in every state



To determine what the dream vacation spot looks like across the U.S., we surveyed people from every state and asked them questions about what their dream vacation would look like when it comes to settings, lodging, atmosphere, travel plans, and vacation partners, among other aspects. The survey ran over two weeks in November 2022 and had 2,200 respondents. In the end, we were able to find out the kinds of vacations people are daydreaming about most often and how badly they could use a vacation. Note: we did not receive a large enough sample size from the following states to include them in our study: Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming


Key Insights


  • The ideal American vacation takes place during the winter. Vacationers want to drive to a beach within the U.S. to enjoy beautiful views and stay in a hotel with their significant other. The average estimated cost of Americans’ ultimate vacation is $6,084
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, Americans rate their need for a vacation at 7.9, on average. South Carolina was most in need of a vacation, with a rating of 8.64. Connecticut is the least in need, with a rating of 7.08.
  • Generally speaking, Southern states tend to think they need a vacation more than the rest of the U.S. with states like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina coming in the top 10 when it comes to how much they need a vacation.
  • Over 1 in 4 Americans (29%) say they will never be able to take their dream vacation either because of the cost or because they’re too busy. Massachusetts had the most expensive ideal vacation ($8,283.67) and South Carolina had the least expensive ideal vacation ($4,597.80). Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Missouri think it would be too expensive for them to ever get to go.


The Ideal Vacation, According to Americans


An infographic showing the most common desires for a vacation, according to Americans



If you’re waiting for a special reason, wait no longer —  81% of Americans say they would take their ideal vacation purely for fun! If you’re like most Americans, you’re planning a trip that first and foremost offers beautiful views. When asked what the most important elements of a vacation were, respondents chose beautiful views (28%), ample places to relax and unwind (22%), lots of exciting activities (18%), and great restaurant options (18%)


Just as geese fly south for the winter, so too do Americans with over half (52%) of them saying they’d prefer a vacation somewhere warm during frigid temps. This isn’t shocking, as 1 in 3 (33%) Americans favor the beach compared to other dream destinations like the mountains (23%) and the city (14%).


What Does the Ideal Vacation Look Like in Every State?


We asked people from each state to envision their ideal vacation, no matter the cost. 37 states agreed that the beach is their dream place to travel. Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas leaned toward a mountain getaway while Hawaii and Nevada prefer city trips. Whether it’s the northern lights or dolphins swimming into the sunset, both scenarios sound equally serene 29 states, including Arizona and Nebraska, place beautiful views at the top of their dream destination checklist. Research shows that staring at scenic imagery for less than a minute can help lull your brain into a more relaxed state, perhaps posing one reason why stunning views are a hit across the U.S. map.


Unsurprisingly, 13 states prioritize a relaxed atmosphere while 3 states (West Virginia, Florida, Illinois) feel no vacation is complete without an exciting activity. New Jersey stands alone as the only state that pushes great restaurants to the top of its list.


While spending Christmas somewhere warmer might sound counterintuitive, it doesn’t stop 41 states from saying their ideal vacation is at a dream location with less snow and more sunshine! Interestingly, those in Hawaii would rather embrace the cold during the winter, seeing as their average temperature from November to April only dips slightly below 80°F. Alternatively, people in Arizona would want to go somewhere cold during the summer while residents from Nevada prefer the idea of going somewhere warm during the summer


The preferred travel method to get to their dream location for 29 states is to drive while 15 would rather take a commercial flight. Road trip, anyone? 


Interestingly, of the 29 states that would want to drive, seven of them (Rhode Island, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Virginia, Idaho, and New Jersey) would prefer an international vacation — perhaps they are dreaming of Cancun or Quebec! 


Closing Thoughts


Whether you book a vacation to sleep in and wake up to the sound of waves lapping at the shore or simply want an active adventure outside, there’s no right or wrong way to relax! Simply put, some states’ dream places to travel include more tropical destinations like the beach while others prefer to unwind at a cozy log cabin in the mountains. 


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