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Summer Spending on Family Fun Jumps 59% in 2 Years

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- You may not realize it, but consumers spend as much or even more from May through August than in the busy December holiday season.

On a month-to-month basis from May 2013 through May 2014, it was May 2014 that saw the highest monthly levels of consumer spending, as with June, July and August 2013, according to

But what are Americans spending their cash on? It's an easy question to answer in the holiday shopping seasons, when gift cards, toys and games, party favors and jewelry top the list for consumer spending.

Also see: Why Most of Us Want Personal Finance Taught in High School

May-through-August spending is less obvious, although American Express has some idea where our money goes when the temperature rises and household budgets seem to wilt in the heat. The credit card giant's latest Spending & Savings Tracker takes a thorough look at U.S. household summer spending habits, including these most common items and experiences:

Keeping kids busy: U.S. parents are digging deeper into their pockets to keep kids active and entertained this summer, spending $958 per child on average -- up from $856 last year and $601 in 2012.

Mini-trips. Summer activities are on the rise across the board, and topping the list are day trips (including to theme parks) (77%), followed by trips to the ballpark (48%) and pool or club memberships (41%).

Also see: 42% of New Parents Have No Money or Less Than $1,000 Saved

Kids and camps. Summer camp continues to be popular, with 34% of kids attending day camp and 25% packing their trunks for sleep away camp.

Overall, parents are spending $70 million or so this season on family activities, Amex reports. That's up 12% from last year, and a staggering 59% from 2012 (a sign that American families view the economy as improving significantly).

It's not a free ride for kids, however. American Express reports that 98% of U.S. parents will make their kids do household chores to earn their summer swag -- same as last year.

"There will be no rest for weary kids this summer, as parents shell out more to keep their kids busy outside of the school year," says David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending products at American Express.

"Throughout the year, we've seen higher spending in a number of areas like travel, shopping and entertainment -- so it's no surprise that parents are planning to spend more to keep their kids active. This is good news for seasonal retailers, as well as camps, theme parks and other entertainment venues," Rabkin says.

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