Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Family Vacations: Pack Up the Car, Pick Up, and Go

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Family Vacations: Pack Up the Car, Pick Up, and Go

Article excerpt

It's April, and one might assume that families have already made summer vacation plans. Some surely have, yet the majority are probably still warming to the task, according to one travel industry watcher.

"The family vacation process is short," says Michael Pina, a spokesman for the Washington-based Travel Industry Association of America. "Most are planned within the same month as the trip."

Families can afford to wait because by and large they travel by car. Eighty to 85 percent of all American travel, Mr. Pina says, is by automobile, compared with about 15 percent by plane, and less than 1 percent for all other forms of transportation, including bus and train. Using a car not only lets people pick up and go when and where they want, it's economical. The latest study indicates the average cost of an American family vacation is $1,043. Millions, of course, continue to hit the road for the ocean or beach, the perennial favorite destination for American travelers, who also flock to amusement parks. Educators may be comforted to learn, however, that travelers show a growing desire for something beyond relaxation and recreation. This, plus the affordability factor, have combined to make historic sites more popular. "Historic sites have gone from nowhere 10 or 15 years ago to the No. 2 destination for family trips," says Peter Mason, the spokesman for the annual Better Homes and Gardens family travel survey. "Visiting historic sites doesn't cost you an arm and a leg, and when you get back, everybody's actually learned something." One trend that the industry continues to watch is adventure travel, especially the "soft" variety, meaning camping, hiking, biking, skiing, and other outdoor activities that are more mainstream than "hard adventure" activities such as whitewater rafting. About 98 million Americans have taken adventure trips in the past five years, Pina says. Camping is the top choice and one families with children under 18 years of age are most likely to do together. …

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