GPSOLO April/May 2010
It’s Time to Be Leavin’ on That Jet Plane
In this day and age, “vacation” is such a complicated word. It is difficult to define a vacation and even more difficult to actually do something—or nothing—that constitutes a vacation. The way I see it, when looking at a vacation from the most basic and traditional definition, there are seven types of vacations: family, adventure, educational, pampering, historical, traditional, and romantic. It has been fun to research and analyze all the options—and it has provided me a good opportunity to daydream about the possibilities.
Family vacations are traditionally thought of as time with your kids. However, with extended families staying close, kids staying at home longer, and the economy being what it is, family vacations have morphed into multi-generational affairs. If you are going to go somewhere with your parents, siblings, and all the kids, it has got to be a location with something (and someplace) for everyone, right?
Accommodations are the biggest issue when planning a multi-generational vacation. In the last ten years, there has been an increase in the number of websites that connect homeowners with potential short-term renters. These sites include www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, and www.vacationrentals411.com. The possibilities are endless, as are the locations of the rentals.
Sunny Slope Farm ( www.sunnyslopefarmnh.com) is a 200-year-old farm located in New Hampshire. It has a big house, and big barn, and is situated on 282 acres of hiking, riding, and ski trails. It sleeps 17 and is available all year round—in the summer it has blueberries, the fall provides fragrant hay fields, and the winter provides a white Christmas and sledding.
Another great location for a multi-generational vacation is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Accommodations with luxury one-, two-, three-, or four-bedroom suites can be found at www.islandvista.com. You never have to leave the property because there is an extensive indoor/outdoor pool complex, fitness and spa center, kids club, and surfing camp. But if you wanted to, there are diversions for all ages: hundreds of local golf courses, beaches, great shopping, a minor-league baseball team, and Family Kingdom, a seaside amusement park and water park.
Adventure vacations can be among the most satisfying, especially for a lawyer. When on an “adventure,” there is no time to check your e-mail. An adventure vacation means really checking out from the rest of the world for a short time.
There are many adventure vacation tour companies that offer fun and exciting adventure vacations—all while ensuring the safety of the participants. Years ago, I worked with some lawyers who biked through Italy. When they returned, they described it as one of the most exciting experiences they ever had, and they met very interesting people in the process.
One of the most well-known adventure tourism companies is Gap Adventures ( www.gapadventures.com). Gap Adventures has more than 100 destinations and categorizes its trips into 11 different styles, from active, which adds a physical challenge to your vacation, to volunteer, designed to include activities to give back to the community you visit. Gap Adventures also rates its tours in four different service levels, from basic, which includes accommodations in remote or rustic guest houses and campsites with sporadic electricity, to superior, which includes upscale, stylish accommodations.
There are also websites that support smaller, owner-involved and experienced companies. Trusted Adventures ( www.trustedadventures.com) is very up front about its partner companies and highlights them on its website. The companies it promotes are well-decorated by the travel industry. In 2009 Austin-Lehman Adventures was named Travel + Leisure magazine ’s “Best Travel Operator in the World”; ROW Adventures was listed among National Geographic Adventure magazine ’s “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth”; and Wildland Adventures was named by National Geographic Adventure as the number-one “Do-It-All” operator in that same list. Trusted Adventures also allows you to identify vacations by continent destination and by type (i.e., family, group, single, or couple).
An adventure vacation can be the experience of a lifetime. However, you might need a vacation from your vacation when you return home!
The best lawyers recognize that they are lifelong learners. For these people, an educational vacation is a good fit.
Although possibilities are endless, one of the most popular educational vacations is a culinary or cooking vacation. One interesting possibility is Gourmet Retreats at Casa Lana ( www.gourmetretreats.com) in Napa Valley, California. Casa Lana offers accommodations and single-day, weekend, and five-day classes that incorporate trips to local culinary sites of interest.
Want to learn quilting? Someone recently shared with me the results of her review of quilting camps throughout the country. Most of these camps are in out-of-the way places, but they provide the opportunity to learn a new skill, make some new friends, and leave with a priceless memento of the trip. One such camp is at the Huston Camp and Conference Center in Washington state ( www.huston.org). Every year, they have a camp that includes accommodations, meals, and quilting space. Another option is the four-day Ocean Waves Quilt Camp, which is held annually in October. In its 19th year, it takes place at Twin Rocks Friends Camp in Oregon.
Want to brush up on those Spanish or French skills in light of the global economy? An immersion language vacation might be for you. The immersion language vacation sends you to a foreign country where you take classes, enjoy the culture, and can even stay with a local family. The Language Travel Company ( www.thelanguagetravelcompany.com) offers links to programs in 18 different languages from Arabic to Spanish.
Perhaps it’s time to improve your golf score? Marriott and Nick Faldo have joined forces to offer the Faldo Golf Institute ( http://golf-instruction.marriott-vacations.com/default.jsp) in Orlando, Florida, or Palm Desert, California. There are two- or three-day schools and the option for private lessons. The Orlando packages can also include a spa add-on.
In my mind, pampering vacations are basically spa vacations. The well-known and expensive destinations such as Westglow Resort and Spa ( www.westglowresortandspa.com) in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and Canyon Ranch ( www.canyonranch.com) in Tucson, Arizona, Lenox, Massachusetts, and Miami Beach, Florida, provide unforgettable experiences. But it is worth seeing the road less traveled.
Years ago I explored Europe armed with Rick Steves’ books. He gives sage advice to those wanting to experience Europe firsthand instead of through the windows of five-star hotels. Among his many good suggestions was to visit the thermalbad (hot thermal baths) while in Germany. Visiting Friedrichsbad in Baden-Baden was an experience I will never forget and cannot compare to any other spa experience. Go to www.carasana.de/home/en/ri_angebot_badetempel_stationen.html for an English-language description of Friedrichsbad spa’s “17 stages to well-being”; the entire experience is fun, different, and exciting, but it is the 16th step—the resting area where you are wrapped in a warm blanket like a cocoon after going through the previous stages—that is the icing on the cake. It leaves you nearly unable to walk back to your hotel.
For something out of this world without leaving the United States, try Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese spa and resort just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico ( www.tenthousandwaves.com). Okay, I admit, I have been there. I love it. It was awesome. I would spend a week there if I could and get one of the greatest massages ever—a masters massage—every day. Enough said.
Historic vacations are a close cousin to the educational vacation. The granddaddy of them all in the United States, of course, is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ( www.visitphilly.com). Although many people go to Washington, D.C., while growing up—either on a class or family trip—far fewer make the pilgrimage to Philadelphia to explore its history. There is so much interesting history here, I can’t begin to describe it all. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Christ Church Burial Ground where Benjamin Franklin is buried are all found in Philly, and that is just the “big name” stuff. Simply walking along the streets and looking at the plaques on the buildings provides a glimpse into the past. Certainly a trip to Philadelphia would not be complete without a visit to the Reading Terminal Market. It has been a fresh and local market since 1893 and includes fresh produce, Amish specialties, and booths serving various ethnic foods.
Next in line, in my opinion, is Birmingham, Alabama, which played a prominent role in the U.S. civil rights movement. In fact, the Birmingham Civil Rights District is a six-block tribute to the struggle. It is possible to tour the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of the infamous bombing that killed four little girls and brought world attention to racial violence. Near the church is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which houses permanent exhibitions on African American life and the civil rights struggle. If that is not enough, Birmingham is going through a culinary renaissance. In additional to its overview of the historic points of interest in the city, the Birmingham tourism website ( www.birminghamal.org/index.asp) even offers a well-done restaurant blog with news, reviews, and listings of locally owned eateries.
For something a little different, head west to the California Gold Rush towns. The Gold Country Visitors Association website ( www.calgold.org) provides links to destinations throughout the area. One of the best-preserved towns is Nevada City, California. The entire downtown is designated a national historic landmark, and there is a walking tour brochure. The oldest hotel in California and the oldest brick structure in California are located there. There is even a historic courthouse and historic brewery. Within driving distance are numerous state parks, mining exhibits, and memorabilia.
On your way back from California, hit a relic and often-forgotten piece of American history, Route 66. A “turn-by-turn” description of the road can be found at www.historic66.com; not only does the website provide the location of Route 66, which is no longer even named Route 66 in most places, but it lists sites to see as you drive along the two-lane road. There are also books providing similar information, including Jerry McClanahan’s Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers (2d edition) and the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide (12th edition); both books are published by the National Historic Route 66 Federation.
In this category are the big, popular categories such as the beach (or the lake) and skiing. Beach or lake vacations don’t just offer water activities, however. It is the other things that make these vacations so great.
The New York wine country ( www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com) is the perfect example of a hybrid water vacation. The New York wine country is nestled in the Finger Lakes of central-western New York. The large lakes make the climate and temperate ideal for growing grapes. Each of the Finger Lakes is surrounded by private houses, long-term rentals, and small towns. Up on the hills are wineries whose quality is on par with those of Napa Valley, at a fraction of the cost. That being said, you can also water ski, fish, and enjoy a quiet cruise on any one of the Finger Lakes, and the accommodations range from five-star resorts to one-room rental cottages. There is even a little history: Hammondsport, New York, is home to a museum honoring the founder of the American aviation industry: Glenn H. Curtiss, once known as the “fastest man in the world” ( www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org).
Another wonderful beach vacation spot is Destin, Florida ( www.destinchamber.com). The beach is beautiful, and accommodations range from the four-diamond Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort to vacation homes and condo rentals. I don’t think the water is as blue anywhere else in the world as it is in Destin. Although Destin is in Florida, it is a stone’s throw from Alabama and exudes Southern charm and hospitality. Like other resort areas, there is a little something for everyone: extensive shopping including an outlet mall, great restaurants, a water and adventure park, and fishing and golf opportunities.
What travel article would be complete without a mention of a ski vacation? Personally, I think that skiing is a lot of work. Too much work for vacation, which is why my favorite ski destinations have a lot of options for people who don’t like to ski. I figure it’s like this: You either are a skier or you aren’t. If you are, I will just remind you of some of the top spots: Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah ( www.deervalley.com); Breckenridge Ski Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado ( www.breckenridge.com); and Squaw Valley on the north end of Lake Tahoe ( www.gotahoenorth.com). Ski-in, ski-out, be cold, enjoy the rush, go to bed early, get a massage for those sore muscles, and enjoy delicious dining—I think that about covers it.
Finally, there are romantic vacations. These are defined only by the romance between the people traveling together; that being said, there are some old-school romantic destinations to consider when planning a romantic trip. Number one on the list is Paris, France ( http://en.parisinfo.com). Anyone taken to Paris understands that it is going to be a romantic vacation. Paris has managed to brand itself as a world-famous romantic destination.
But there are romantic locations you can visit without having to cross “the pond.” One is the Texas hill country. The big cities of Austin and San Antonio are filled with things to do, but it is the sleepy small towns in this area that provide the most romantic, quiet accommodations and attractions. A description with all the options can be found at www.texashillcountry.com. As you are on a romantic vacation, you can stop at James Avery’s retail jewelry store and corporate offices ( www.jamesavery.com) in Kerrville, Texas, where James Avery ran his company for 53 years. In 2007 he passed his business to his son, but he still often comes to work and creates new jewelry designs. At the visitor’s center, you can watch jewelry being made and see specialty items created throughout the years. On the website, it describes the Avery look as one of integrity and good taste. Of course, you will not be able to leave without purchasing a little something for your honey.
Salt Spring Island, located off the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island, is home to the Hastings House Country House Hotel ( www.hastingshouse.com). Hastings House is quiet and romantic. Each room has a fireplace; many have private balconies and soaking tubs. The island has only 12,000 residents, including a large number of artists. There are many galleries, regular craft fairs, and concerts. There is, of course, a spa and fine dining. In fact, Salt Spring Island is known for its organic gardening. It is an opportunity to leave the real world behind and enjoy a life that is quite the opposite of most in the legal profession.
The Taxi’s Waitin’
There you have it, my suggestions for some of the best vacations around. The list is far from exhaustive, but I hope it will give you some great ideas for your next opportunity to take time away.
Jennifer J. Ator practices with Hankins & Ator, PL., and is the special issue editor of GPSolo magazine’s Best of ABA Sections issues. She may be reached at email@example.com.