Ways and Means

More than 500 Sun readers share their preferences on where they go and how they get there

August 05, 2007|By Michelle Deal-Zimmerman | Michelle Deal-Zimmerman,Sun reporter

Many Marylanders are keen on vacations, but, judging from the results of our first Travel reader survey, we all seem to go our own way.

Older travelers head for Europe, while younger ones seek out major U.S. cities. Families with kids go to the beach.

Some travelers prefer a solo, quiet trip, while others look forward to going with a group.

More than 500 readers responded to our survey about travel habits. Readers who answered the survey were enthusiastic about travel - 80 percent had a valid passport - and 96 percent plan to take a vacation trip before the year is out.

And, in follow-up interviews, several readers said getting there is part of the fun. But how you reach your destination is a matter of personal choice.

"Travel, to me, is getting away," says Laura Holland, who lives in Towson. "I just love to travel on my own terms. Having an open space is a big deal to me, whether it's by the water, on the road or in the country."

Some travelers are dedicated cruise-goers. Others prefer the train. Still others would rather drive. Very few describe a love of flying, but, when readers need to go, air travel - and the hassle that comes with it - is viewed as a necessity and as relatively safe.

Travelers older than age 65 seemed to have the most time and money to travel.

A majority of readers said they normally take one week of vacation, but 25 percent of travelers ages 50 to 64 and 37 percent of those older than 65 take two weeks or more. Less than 15 percent of travelers younger than 49 take two weeks.

Older travelers also spend more on travel. Although 30 percent of readers who responded spent less than $2,000 on their last vacation, 36 percent of those older than 65 said they spent $5,000 or more.

Some readers specified that they spent that much on a family of four or more, but some, like Jaime Flaks, spent $5,000 or more on a luxurious vacation for two.

"We went to Argentina. Stopped in Brazil. Then [my wife and I] took a cruise from Argentina, all the way around Cape Horn to Chile," said Flaks, 73, who lives in Windsor Mill. "That was nice - it was 25 days."

When he's not in South America, Flaks likes to visit Europe. For more than 20 percent of readers older than 50, Europe was a recent destination.

"I love it; it's beautiful. Spain ... Portugal," Flaks said. "But most of the time, we take cruises, and it's easier for us. ... Every single island in the Caribbean - we've been to it."

Cruising or sailing was a favorite type of vacation among 20 percent of travelers older than 65. But it was also the most popular trip among men: 20 percent preferred it, while only 11 percent of women said it was their favorite.

"The cruise is a great bargain for what you get: room and board, everything wrapped into one; your nightly entertainment, your food, your lodging ... and the food is outstanding," says Brad A. Thomas, 57, who took his family of four, including his wife and two sons, on a Royal Caribbean cruise from Baltimore and is planning another cruise this summer from Port Canaveral, Fla.

"Next year, they have Norwegian [Cruise Line] coming to Baltimore and they're doing a seven-night cruise to Bermuda," says Thomas, a police officer who lives in Pasadena. "We'll probably book that, too."

Overall, family-oriented travel was noted by most readers as their favorite kind of trip. And nearly 15 percent said they normally stay with family while on vacation.

For Jared Garman, 53, a trip to California last year was an opportunity to visit his daughter in Monterey. But during the stay, the Havre de Grace resident, who likes to visit U.S. cities, and his wife, Linda, made a point of taking a weekend trip to San Francisco.

"That's where I proposed to my wife, when we were dating - on the BART [rail line] in San Francisco, about 17 years ago," says Garman, who also counts New York City and Jamaica among his favorite destinations.

Although 82 percent of readers who responded to the survey did not have a child younger than 18 living at home, people do travel with their children.

Some, like Annie Durose, 56, travel with their grown-up kids.

"Last year's vacation was with my boyfriend, my son, my daughter-in-law and her grandmother," says Durose, who lives in Rosedale. "If you want to come, I'll take you with me."

Most readers - 43 percent - said they stay at a major or chain hotel when on vacation, but Durose owns a time-share in Hawaii that she says gives her family more flexibility. She likes the concept so much that she recently purchased a second time-share.

"I have a big [extended] family, with three kids, so it works out very well for us."

If you can't go with family, go with a tour. Almost 20 percent of those surveyed who were older than 65 described group travel as their favorite.

Jo Anne Barsda, 60, has vacationed in Canada, Mexico and across the United States. And she's done it all with a group.

Elderhostel, an organization that promotes travel for people 55 and older, has arranged many of her trips.

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