According to a recent American Express survey, American households planned to spend about $1,200 per person on vacations this year. At a median household income of $50,000, that translates to about five to seven percent of income spent on travel. In celebration of the new season of fall television, we ran the numbers to find out what kind of vacation some of our favorite characters could afford to take if they spent six percent of their fictional salaries on travel. Check it out and let us know in the comments where you'd send your favorite characters!
Show: Modern Family
Location: Pasadena, CA (our guess)
Character: Phil Dunphy
Occupation: Residential real estate sales agent
Avg. take-home pay (salary + commission after-tax): $188,000*
Vacation budget: $11,280
Hopper Vacation Suggestions: Phil and Claire will have their hands full, no matter where they decide to take the kids. We decided to choose a location where there are plenty of activities for cranky teenagers and curious little boys alike. For about $250 round-trip out of Burbank, the family can head to Salt Lake City, Utah. That's $1,250 on airfare, leaving plenty of moolah for an active, family-friendly vacation. We suggest renting a mid-sized SUV, which will run about $350 for six days.
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The beauty of Utah is its wide range of outdoor activities in breathtaking settings. That said, we know Claire and the girls would be happy to get some shopping in, so we recommend spending a night in Salt Lake City and giving everyone $200 spending money. That should put a smile on those cranky teen and tween faces. For one night, a room with two queens at the downtown Hilton runs about $300 (make sure to grab a roll-away for Luke!)
After a romp in the city, the family could head out to Utah's famous Arches National Park and Canyonlands in Moab. The drive will take about four hours. Once in Moab, the Dunphys can settle in at the Red Cliffs Lodge, where tennis courts and a pool should keep the kids happily occupied, at least for a while. A two-room suite will run about $1,020 for four nights.
The hotel is also near the Colorado River, and for a taste of adventure the family can go whitewater rafting. (Don't worry, Phil. It's relatively gentle.) Canyon Voyages Adventure Company runs day tours that cost just $68 for adults and $58 for kids for a full day of fun on the river.
On the way home, the Dunphys can spend another night at the Hilton before catching their flight. If they keep daily food expenditures around $500, the Dunphys will come in under budget at just $10,290. Since we all know family trip costs can creep up, the extra $1,000 cushion will put worrywart Phil at ease to enjoy the six-day trip full of family fun and bonding.
Show: Parks and Recreation
Location: The fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana; a reasonable real-life counterpart: Hamilton, Indiana
Character: Leslie Knope
Occupation: Parks and Recreation Director
Avg. take-home: $72,180 (based on similar job postings)
Vacation budget: $4,330.80
Hopper Vacation Suggestions: With her aspirations for the White House, and her boyfriend Ben now residing there full-time, there's no better destination for Leslie's vacation than Washington, D.C. We know she'll be spending a lot of time there in Season 5, so we figured we'd suggest a real vacation -- no working allowed!
For an average of $450, Leslie could fly into Dulles International. Once in D.C., Leslie could stay at the fabulous Dupont Circle Hotel, just seven blocks from the White House, for about $1,000 for four nights.
We suggest she splurge on a dinner out at Mediterranean-inspired Komi on 17th Street, where plates run about $135 a plate for the multi-course dinner and $70 with wine. That comes out to about $250 with tax and tip (we're assuming here that she and Ben will go Dutch, progressive couple that they are). As a side bonus, there's a pretty high chance of rubbing shoulders with a politician or two, which would put Leslie over the moon (if the wine hasn't already.)
Leslie should also contact one of her Congress people ahead of time to request tickets for a self-guided tour of the White House. She should also be sure to check out the many cultural attractions in D.C., from the Newseum to the Lincoln Memorial. Leslie could purchase a Power Pass for $125 for three days, which provides access to dozens of museums and sites throughout D.C.
For a break from the tourist circuit, Leslie and Ben should spend a day relaxing at Hela Spa with a couples massage. Two 80-minute massages will run $320. A cleansing facial for Leslie will run $120. Afterward, the two can lunch at the quaint yet delicious Book Hill Bistro in Georgetown, where plates run from $15 to $30, and the couple should be able to get in and out for less than $100.
If Leslie spends about $150 each of the other two days on food, this will bring her vacation spending up to $2,665. With the money left over, Leslie could take herself shopping in Georgetown, where she can visit stores like Relish and stock up on her beloved blazers and slacks while Ben pops into hipster-haven Major to browse their supply of skinny ties and gingham shirts. All in all, a relaxing and romantic weekend for the long-distance love birds. We're guessing there will be some tears at the airport.
So there you have it. Vacations worthy of some of our favorite fall TV characters. Where would you send the stars of your favorite shows?
*Phil's base salary sourced from Salary.com, commission based on average home prices in his area, assuming he makes about one sale per month all year.