Summer Travel Trends: Experiential Travel, Weekend Getaways And Digital Tools

beach A lot has changed in the way people take summer vacations from last year. According to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, consumer behavior is shifting towards experiential travel, with 42 percent looking to learn about local culture. Furthermore, 22 percent of travelers are looking for more “soft adventures,” like cooking classes, spa retreats and trekking. Likewise, 36 percent wish to incorporate learning activities into their travels, like museum visits, historical sites and cultural monuments.

Using digital tools both before and during travel is also a growing summer travel trend. Fifty-six percent are doing online research before booking their trips. Additionally, 39 percent of travelers are using apps to learn more about their destination, find deals, make trip bookings and get recommendations. Travelers are also staying connected to work by checking their emails while away.

This summer, there will also be more travelers taking weekend getaways – 43 percent up from 36 percent. In fact, the average number of weekend getaways for the summer is three per month.

For more facts and figures on summer travel, click here.

Folly Beach, South Carolina: The Country’s Greatest Fourth of July


This most recent Fourth of July, on a beach in South Carolina, a guy named Freddie handed me a beer after I took his photo in front of his American flag. He’d just done his best Iwo Jima pose, and as I tapped his email address into my phone, promising to send him the pictures very soon, he insisted I take a turn hoisting the stars and stripes. Road trip tip: Do whatever a beer-toting, banner-flying patriot asks on Independence Day and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Two months ago, I couldn’t have guessed where Folly Beach might be. Now, I’m singing its praises to anyone who will listen. I never thought I’d be planning my first trip to South Carolina, but after a short stay in Folly, I’m already thinking about my second.

Traveling the American Road – Folly Beach Fourth of July


The stay: I was staying at the Tides at Folly Beach, a converted Holiday Inn that enjoys an enviable position on the sand, right next to the fishing pier at the end of Center Street. Balconies look over the water. The beachfront bar bustles with activity as the sun goes down–a fantastic live act was jamming on July 4, and other combos are frequently on stage.

The crowd: These people are here to have a good time. That doesn’t mean getting sloppy drunk–though there’s some of that!–but rather that the crowds at Folly have a vacation mindset. Watches aren’t necessary, and what kind of appointment would you have anyway? Rita’s, an outstanding restaurant across the street from Tides, serves food all day, with the bar open until late. When that closes, head to Surf Bar, a pitch-perfectly themed spot just off Center Street that goes even later.

The vibe: On a scale of one to comatose, Folly is laid back, a step shy of vegetative, even after the morning’s hangover has worn off. No shirt? Not a problem. Barefoot treks to the breakfast food truck? Sure. Drinking a beer on the beach? Just keep it in a plastic cup. Riding motorcycles without helmets? Wait, how do you do it where you’re from?

The beach: It’s enormous, particularly at low tide. On what has to be one of the busiest weekends of the year, I had no problem finding a patch of sand not just for relaxing but for frisbee tossing. The one knock could be that the water approaches bathtub temperatures, but that’s actually a plus if you plan to spend all day swimming. (You should plan to spend all day swimming.)

The show: The night of July 4, I grabbed a bunch of sparklers and headed for the beach, where explosives experts were setting up the night’s show. The casualness about the fireworks was amazing, as families set up towels and beach chairs right below the blast zone. Before the official show started, we were surprised by random flashes and bangs, as people lit their BYO fireworks.

The departure: Perhaps the best thing about Folly is that it feels so removed from real life–while being just nine miles from Charleston, a city well worth seeing in its own right. That makes the beach accessible but at a small remove, a short drive that lets you mind decompress and switch into surf gear. A couple, fellow hotel guests, told me they could see the bridge back to the mainland from their room. That’s not a good thing, they said. It reminds them that the real world is just a few miles away.

Fireworks in Austin from July 4th, 2010

With Independence Day arriving tomorrow, many Texans are wondering just how to celebrate the 4th of July without fireworks. The sparkling display has been canceled this year due to the extreme drought in the area. I recently published a piece on Alternatives to Fireworks for those of you afflicted by firework-less regions. My favorite suggestion in the piece, cheesy as it may sound, was a fireworks film projected onto a wall. Some of my friends are having a BBQ tomorrow for the special day and I’m not kidding when I say: I totally plan on making everyone celebrate via the Austin fireworks show from last year’s July 4th.

Check out the video and honor the USA by way of YouTube video tomorrow if you have no other way to set off or see fireworks. And if you have seen or will be seeing fireworks for the holiday? Feel free to share your video link in the comments on this piece.

Tube, Mine, and Shell Fireworks

More things to do in the national parks this weekend

Spend the Fourth of July weekend in a national park!Earlier this week we recommended a number of fun things to do this long Fourth of July weekend in the national parks. Those suggestions included fireworks displays on the National Mall and a picnic at Valley Forge, amongst other things. It turns out we were just scratching the surface, as here are even more great events happening in the parks this weekend.

Colorado National Monument will once again play host to their annual July 4th rock climbing event, during which skilled climbers will scale the 450-foot tall Independence Monument to plant an American flag at the top. Climbers are encouraged to bring their gear and join in on the fun, while others can simply enjoy the spectacle and take part in the ice cream social and jazz concert.

On Saturday, the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways, located in Missouri, will play host to a good old fashioned Midwest picnic in the form of the “Alley Independence Day” celebration. The event, which is held at Alley Springs, will include music, games, food, and more, all in a turn of the 20th Century setting.

Visitors to Cowens National Battlefield in South Carolina, can celebrate the holiday a few days early with fireworks and live music on the 2nd. Throughout the day there will be Ranger-led walks across the battlefield and demonstrations of Colonial-era weapons, as well as other educational activities for the kids. Fireworks begin promptly at 9 PM.In Maryland, the Antietam National Battlefield, site of one of the most important battles of the Civil War, will hold their festivities on the 2nd as well. They’ll begin the evening at 7:30 PM with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra performing a “Salute to Independence” concert. That will immediately be followed up with a fireworks display at 9:45 PM.

Finally, the birthplaces of two of America’s most important presidents will also be holding special events on the 4th as well. In Kentucky, the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park will host a concert performed by the Saxton’s Cornet Band beginning at 11 AM. Not to be outdone, George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument will be holding a costumed interpretation events and other hands-on activities for the kids.

Needless to say, there will be plenty to do in the national parks this weekend. Thanks to the National Park Foundation for these suggestions and checkout NPS.gov for more events in the parks near you. Enjoy the weekend!

Drinking like George Washington – reasons to visit historic Mount Vernon this holiday weekend

george washingtonIf there’s drinking involved, there’s a good chance that a we’re all over it. When the chance to combine drinking (rare liquors), history, and a holiday weekend arises …. well, we’re even more intrigued.

In honor of the country’s most patriotic holiday, Mount Vernon is displaying a rare 18th century letter penned by the first President and country’s most famous distiller, George Washington, at the George Washington Distillery at Mount Vernon in honor of the July 4th holiday weekend. The public display coincides with the release of a limited George Washington Rye Whiskey produced at the distillery and based on the founding father’s recipe.

Just prior to his death in 1799, Washington wrote the letter to his nephew, Colonel William A. Washington, a noted cavalry commander during the Revolution. In the letter, Washington stated “the demand…is brisk” for his locally produced Rye Whiskey.

As part of Mount Vernon’s July 4th festivities, 400 bottles of the limited edition 18th century style George Washington Rye Whiskey will be available for purchase starting at 10 a.m. at Mount Vernon’s main gift shop and at the Distillery site, located three miles from the estate. Visit on the Fourth and you’ll find patriotic events including a naturalization ceremony, daytime fireworks and military drills – it’s a great reason to bring the entire family.

The limited edition run was produced in the reconstructed distillery according to the General’s own grain recipe discovered by historians in the mansion’s extensive records. Each 375 ml bottle will retail for $95 and must be purchased in person.

If you’re near the area and like whiskey, this sounds like a great opportunity.