Spring is finally here! Whether you celebrate Passover, Ramadan, or Christ’s resurrection, spring is a time of renewal. I’ve always liked living in an area with four seasons, even though living in Maryland means occasionally experiencing all four in a single day. This past winter was pretty mild as winters go even for Maryland, but I’m ready for warm weather. Just this week I dusted off the hummingbird feeder, took the cover off my backyard fountain and filled it, and welcomed the first of the migrating goldfinches to the feeder.
It is spring, and I’m ready. Our recent trip to Barbados was a tease with temps steadily hovering between 75 and 85 and the Trade Winds to keep it comfortable. Soon enough for Maryland. And even though we face one more freeze warning tonight, once that’s behind us I’ll be spending at least some of my office hours working on my laptop from my patio…my three-season office. Except when it rains. I may not mind spring showers, but my laptop doesn’t take too kindly to them.
Spring is also the time of year when families begin to plan their summer vacations. This year, if you haven’t yet made your vacation plans you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Whether you want to take a cruise, spend time on a Caribbean beach, or explore Europe, demand has driven prices up and availability is limited. Airlines continue to struggle with balancing the challenges of inadequate staffing throughout their operations with the continuing increase in demand. Cruise ships are sailing full, and all-inclusive resorts are booking to capacity.
All of that means bargains and deals will be in short supply if you haven’t yet booked your summer vacation. Which is not to say you’ll be out of luck…there are always bargains, but you might have to make some compromises. Here are some ideas for those of you just now starting to think about your summer vacation, just in case you find prices and availability too steep and too limited, and the compromises too many for your liking:
1. Stay home. That may seem like an odd recommendation coming from a travel advisor, but it needs to be said. Travel is great, but you don’t need to take out a second mortgage to provide yourself or your family with a memorable vacation. Consider a week of day trips or short three- and four-night getaways. We are fortunate living in the Maryland area to have so many options. Here is a link to the many state parks you can visit. I grew up making regular visits to Rocks State Park and Susquehanna State Park, and just this weekend Janet and I spent the morning hiking along the Gunpowder River. My personal favorites when I’m up for a drive are Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Southern Maryland along the eastern shore of the bay, and Swallow Falls State Park in Western Maryland.
2. Go local. If you prefer the thrill of roller coasters there are several theme parks to choose from that won’t cost as much as a trip to Disney. My personal favorites are Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, and Busch Gardens in Virginia. If I’m being honest, I find Busch Gardens to be far superior to Disney. For the history buffs you can visit the Gettysburg and Antietam Battlefields or go further back in our nation’s history with a visit to Colonial Williamsburg or Jamestown. Nature lovers can head down to Assateague and Chincoteague. There are several other local destinations that make for a great day trip. And though it isn’t my favorite, there’s always Ocean City.
3. Get crabby. Some of my favorite memories come from the more traditional summertime family gatherings Marylanders have enjoyed for generations, and by that I mean crab feasts. Nothing brings more family fun than spending the afternoon cracking crabs. The cost of crabs has made that a bit more challenging, but you can try your hand at catching your own crabs, or buy live crabs and steam them yourself. Just don’t forget to pick up some Maryland sweet corn to go along with the crabs. Talk about a bargain…you can still get a dozen ears of sweet corn for under $10. I routinely get more likes on an Instagram picture of a crab feast than I do when we travel out of the country…what does that tell you?
4. Stay Domestic. People are quick to book trips to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Europe but there are so many worthwhile family vacation experiences that don’t require a passport. How many states have you visited? Make this summer vacation the year you check more off of that list.
5. Focus on value. You can find low-cost trips to other countries, but what good is that if you don’t enjoy yourself because of the compromises you had to make to get a price you could afford? If your idea of summer vacation means getting your passport stamped, it will cost you more this year than it has in the past few. But as long as you are going to spend more, be sure you get the most value for what you do spend. Work with a travel advisor to get the greatest value out of the travel dollars you spend so your vacation is memorable for all the right reasons.
6. Speaking of passports...when was the last time you checked yours? Most international destinations require that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond your scheduled return date. If you need to renew your passport, or get a new one, apply now. The State Department is once again facing a backlog...as of 24 March they were recommending that you allow 10-13 weeks for routine passport processing and 7-9 weeks if you spring for the cost of expedited processing. And don't rely on your Congressperson to bail you out. So many people have done that recently that you might be in for a disappointment if you go that route.
These are just a few suggestions to help make your 2023 summer vacation full of lifelong vacation memories. If your plans for this summer involve travel, don’t wait to book flights and lodging. You may find yourself spending more and making compromises you’d rather not have to make. It’s still not too late to book travel for this summer, but it soon will be. Give us a call! Or stay local. Or just get crabby. Hey....I'm from Maryland. That’s what we do!