The holidays are over and the calm of winter has us sipping our coffee in fuzzy warm slippers. You may just now be thinking about plans for the upcoming spring break, but don’t get caught napping on your summer travel plans because this year is different from any other. If you thought it was too early to begin thinking about your summer vacation, think again! Three months into 2022 and families are already booking getaways at a pace never seen before. It seems the years of going through a pandemic have taken a toll. People are ready to make new memories and have new adventures. Where will your new adventure take your family?
Things to Consider
While you may be ready to hop on a plane, there are a few things to think about before traveling.
- Flights – Airlines are still struggling with staffing issues. Itinerary changes have become the norm as crews are shifted to accommodate as many travelers as possible. Also, as summer gets closer, flights will likely become more costly.
- Rental Cars – Many rental companies sold off portions of their fleet early during the pandemic. With the production of new vehicles being halted due to the current chip shortage, fleets are still depleted, making rental cars in short supply. Be prepared to see higher rental rates.
- Mandates – Depending on the destination, mandates on health screening, testing, and vaccinations may be a consideration.
- Travel Protection – As we’ve seen, variants of the virus have created travel problems whether with changes in mandates or getting sick prior to departure. Especially now, travel protection is recommended when booking a trip so you can protect your investment.
Google trends show the top places to travel domestically are currently Florida, Nevada, California, Texas, and New York. I bet you could have guessed most of those. Even so, Birmingham is uniquely located to put some of the best destinations easily within our grasp. Let’s take a look at a few options for your next trip.
The most magical place on earth is a nine-hour drive or one-and-a-half-hour flight from Birmingham. Currently celebrating its 50th birthday, this already popular destination has become a must-do this year with new attractions such as Ratatouille, Harmonious, Enchantment, Cosmic Rewind (coming soon), Tron Lightcycle (coming soon), and more! Walt Disney World is seeing crowds in what is typically the light season and it is expected that summer crowds will be even larger.
Just a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Birmingham, the charming town of Gatlinburg is in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge offer a myriad of activities from dining and dinner shows, to quirky museums, to classic mini-golf, to go-karting, to zip lines, and more. Retreat to a cabin or stay in the action within walking distance to the attractions. Take the experience up a notch by staying at Dollywood. USA Today recently ranked Dollywood as one of the world’s best theme parks. Enjoy sweet summer nights with the park’s nighttime show of fireworks and drones. Check out this post all about Dollywood.
Birmingham is incredibly fortunate to be within a short driving distance to several beach destinations, including Gulf Shores, Destin, 30A, and Panama City. Each area is beautiful and familiar to Birmingham natives. Other options that are a bit further away but equally gorgeous, include Hilton Head, Tybee Island, or Vero Beach. Disney even has resorts in Hilton Head and Vero Beach if you want that Disney experience without visiting the theme parks.
Blue Ridge Bold
An eclectic, cozy mountain retreat, Asheville, North Carolina is a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Birmingham. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers a great combination of award-winning dining, unique boutique shopping, and outdoor activities. A trip to Asheville during summer would not be complete without visiting the Biltmore Estate to take in the gardens. You can stay on-property at the Biltmore or enjoy other local resorts such as The Omni Grove Park Inn.
Another Orlando option is Universal Orlando Resort. Filled with thrills and adventure, Universal is a great option for families that want an action-packed trip. Universal features some of the best resorts with various themes to suit a variety of budgets and interests. The hottest attractions are the intense Velocicoaster and the exciting Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure.
A little further from Birmingham, the Florida Keys offers the Caribbean feel without leaving the country. With lots of resort options to choose from, one is sure to fit the needs of your family. Enjoy the vibrancy of Key West or the nature of Marathon Key. Some activities may be seasonal, but deep-sea fishing, dolphin adventures, and sea turtle conservation tours are just some of the activities you can choose from.
Luxury Lake Oconee
With lavish summer camp vibes, The Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee provides families with a lakeside retreat and a return to nature. Located near Greensboro, Georgia, this resort is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Birmingham. The property features rooms and suites as well as lakeside cottages for larger family vacations. While you may think this resort is better suited for the warmer months, it is a perfect option for families who want an upscale option in a non-tropical, relaxing atmosphere.
For families wanting to have a mix of escape and fun, a cruise may be the perfect fit. Various cruise lines offer itineraries leaving from ports convenient to Birmingham. With so many destinations and activities to choose from, there is certainly something for everyone in the family.
All-Inclusive Resort Rest and Relaxation
Well . . . not only rest and relaxation. Resorts have truly leveled up recently with amazing spas, pools, water parks, excursions, and kid clubs. From Mexico to Jamaica to Turks and Caicos, there is a resort option for every budget and activity level. Depending on the destination, good flight options are often available locally.
These are only a few ideas for you as you start thinking about your summer vacation. It is always recommended to use a travel agent to help advise you of destination protocols, requirements, and details. Travel agents do not cost you additional money and can often save you money.