School is out and summer is in full swing. It’s easy to get caught up in sunny days and backyard barbecues, but don’t let the season pass you by without planning a memorable summer vacation. Whether it’s a day trip to a nearby city or a lavish once-in-a-lifetime international extravaganza, summertime is the perfect time to unwind. Nearly 100 million Americans are planning to take a family vacation in 2019, according to a recent AAA Travel survey. One trend in travel is the resurgence of vacationers seeking professional help in planning trips. Angie Harter, travel consultant for Travel Headquarters in Dubuque, said for a while people were trying to plan their getaways. With the Internet offering access to a heap of travel information, reviews and business listings, some thought they could easily book their dream vacation. But Harter said lately, more people are returning to travel agents because they’ve found the information on the web to be overwhelming and often unreliable. Hiring a professional also is a great way to reduce stress surrounding a vacation, which is the whole idea of taking one in the first place. So, relax and let some local travel experts dish on the locations everyone is buzzing about for the coming summer travel season. Domestic destinations For those looking to stay within the United States, Nashville is a popular stop. Harter said couples and singles especially like this Tennessee city because the nine-hour drive is easy and the area offers great food and music entertainment. For families, Disney World always is a favorite. But Harter said there is one itinerary addition she’s noticed many clients opting to add to their theme park vacation recently. “What people like to do is add on two or three nights on the coastal areas to experience the Disney excitement and energy and then relax a little on the coast,” she said. Cruises out of Florida also remain popular and are available for a variety of price points. Jo Klinkhammer, owner of House of Travel in Dubuque, said another popular location lately has been Alaska. Some people tour by cruise while others prefer to spend their time on land, she said. One trendy way to experience the northernmost state of the country is by starting in Anchorage or Fairbanks, then traveling to Vancouver or experiencing those places in reverse, she said. “Alaska is a bucket list thing that people do once,” she said. Interest in national park tours is picking up in recent years as well, Harter said. One option is to check out the parks through an escorted tour, which includes a guide, coveted hotel locations right on the edge of park property, transportation and detailed daily itineraries. International destinations Those who travel abroad frequently opt for all-inclusive packages, Harter said. Most clients continue to seek vacations in popular destinations, like Jamaica, but a few are requesting less common locations in hopes of trying something a little different. For those travelers, she suggests places like Costa Rica and St. Lucia. Mexican getaways continue to be some of the most cost-effective international options and Harter noted that there are several fabulous new hotels recently built that are worth a try. Klinkhammer said European river cruises are gaining interest from more tri-state area travelers. Unlike the average cruise ship filled with thousands of vacationers, casinos and all the amenities of a small city, these smaller boats hold just 150 to 200 guests for a more intimate experience. Travelers can expect to dock in city centers, then have time to walk around and explore a variety of European cities and sites. Klinkhammer herself took one of these trips and said she found it to be a fantastic time. Harter agreed, having taken a European river cruise and booking many for clients. She said travelers enjoy this option because they only need to unpack once but have the opportunity to take in a variety of cities. Most cruises include meals and some alcohol. For those looking to extend the trip, Harter said it’s simple to add a few days at the beginning or end of the cruise in one of the cities. Some couples looking for a romantic destination have been booking Grecian getaways, Klinkhammer said. There they can explore the islands, take in the historic sites and sample local cuisine. All in all, Klinkhammer said she’s noticed more people traveling in general in recent years. And that’s a trend you definitely don’t want to miss out on. Emily Klein Shedek is a former Telegraph Herald reporter and freelance writer.
Jo Klinkhammer PHOTO CREDIT: TH file
Travel trends cities PHOTO CREDIT: Metro
Travel trends beaches PHOTO CREDIT: Metro
Travel trends exotic locations PHOTO CREDIT: Metro
The Nashville Skyline. PHOTO CREDIT: Metro
The Ryman Auditorium in Nasheville PHOTO CREDIT: Metro
Angie Harter PHOTO CREDIT: TH file