WASHINGTON – Black sand beaches, warm Pacific breezes, bubbling lava and the waves of Waikiki (search) top the list of Americans' vacation fantasies. If time and money are no object for vacation planning, Hawaii rules.
Only half of the people in this country say they are planning to take a vacation trip this summer, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll found. But 79 percent of those surveyed said they would travel this summer if they could afford it and had the time.
When people were asked to name any place they would want to go on vacation if they had the time and the money, Hawaii was the choice of 14 percent, more than any other specific place.
The attraction of Hawaii is easy to understand for Edward Harsh, a 41-year-old car salesman from Phoenix who lived on the Hawaiian island of Oahu (search) last year.
"It's probably one of the most secluded places on Earth," Harsh said. "You can go anywhere in your shorts and flip-flops. People go to church in their flip flops. In Hawaii, the most dangerous thing there is a rogue wave that could carry you away."
On the vacation wish list, places mentioned specifically most often in the poll:
— Italy (singled out from other European locations)
— the Caribbean
One-fourth of those questioned named warm, sunny locations from Hawaii to Florida to the Caribbean, while slightly more mentioned some place in Europe, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos.
People with at least some college education were more likely to see Europe as the perfect vacation; those with a high school education were more likely to say Hawaii.
Sharon Manning, a mother from Eldon, Mo., who works as a correctional officer, says she has only one requirement for her dream vacation.
"I've never seen the ocean before, so it wouldn't matter where I went to see it," she said. "My kids want to go to Disney World, but I want to go on a Caribbean cruise."
Of those who plan a summer vacation trip, about two-thirds said they will go outside their state, while 22 percent said they will go outside the country. Some 13 percent of respondents said they plan to take their longest vacation trip in their home state.
Ian Dodd, a computer administrator from Ellicott City, Md., said he has no plans to go on vacation far from home, but he and his family "get away ever year."
"My normal day-to-day life is very hectic," Dodd said. "I have two small boys, so I want to go somewhere I can relax."
But many in the United States just do not make time for vacations.
"We have sort of a love-hate relationship with vacations," said Cindy Aron, a professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of a book about the history of vacations. "Americans aren't very comfortable being away from work."
Vacations offer more than just a chance to have a good time. They also recharge people's batteries and renew creativity.
"I went two years without a vacation," said Carrie Cook, a cosmetologist who lives in a suburb of Lansing, Mich. "It was awful, kind of depressing. Vacations revitalize you, make you appreciate what you have."
Three in 10 people surveyed said they have changed vacation plans because of gas prices. Gasoline prices are averaging almost $2.20 per gallon nationally, according to a recent analysis.
Women, blacks, people with lower incomes and younger people were more likely to want to take a vacation trip but could not.
"I'm not going on vacation this summer," said Laura Ann Simmonds, a 19-year-old student studying social work and taking pre-law courses in West Hartford, Conn., who also works as a dietary aide at a hospital. "I'm just too busy with work and school."
But when she finally goes on vacation again, she knows where she wants to go — the Bahamas or Hawaii.
"I like going to the beach," she said. "I was raised in a tropical place — Jamaica."
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,028 adults was taken May 17-19 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.