The Guide to Summer Vacation
How to plan your summer getaway.
By Cheryl Blackerby
It’s almost summer, and time to think about a well-deserved break. But planning a vacation on an educator’s salary is not easy, especially a trip with all the pampering and tranquility you’ve dreamed about all year. With just a little research, however, a luxury vacation is definitely possible.
First, consider vacation destinations where summer is low-season, and rooms are less expensive. This is not the time to take that Alaska cruise or go to Disney World or London or Paris. (Psssst, fly to London and Paris on your Christmas vacation when hotel rates and air fares are low, and you can actually stand in front of the Mona Lisa without getting elbowed by crowds.)
Summer is the time for Caribbean cruises, when one-week trips can dip as low as $489 per person; and for Caribbean and Bahamian luxury resorts, where rooms in August are far less than they are in January. And here’s a little-known fact about the Caribbean in January: The water can be uncomfortably cold, not that soothing bathwater warmth you have in summer.
But, you might ask, what about hurricanes? The likelihood of getting caught in a hurricane during any given week is minimal, but you can always buy trip cancellation insurance through a travel agent; or, better yet, book your trip a week ahead when there are no storms on the radar. Last-minute planning is another way to get a great deal.
In the Bahamas, summer deals are not as abundant as they once were because of the country’s popularity with families, but there are still plenty of good rates. An elegant room at Our Lucaya’s Sheraton Hotel on Grand Bahama Island was $229 in January, but the same room is $109 in August.
“Teachers work long hours and are under a great deal of stress for most of the year,” says Anita Johnson-Patty, spokesperson for the Bahamas Tourist Office. “A relaxing vacation on an uncrowded beach in the Bahamas is the perfect antidote. And they can go back to the classroom refreshed in September.”
Plan the Ultimate Field Trip
Every trip that a teacher takes is a learning experience—but some are officially so! Jamie Lawrence, a Spanish teacher at Lebanon High School in New Hampshire, is planning her fourth “ultimate field trip” with students to Puerto Rico. On the island, they’re “anti-tourists,” Lawrence says, trekking through the Carite Rainforest, planting trees, clearing trails, and learning about preservation and land management. Her advice to teachers who might like to do something similarly ambitious: Start planning now. Her group takes a year to raise money for airfare and accommodations. But their reward? A night swim in a bioluminescent bay!
The all-inclusive resorts, where one price includes all meals, activities, room, drinks, and even air fare from the United States, can be the best deal as well as the best option for total relaxation—the perfect lesson plan for overworked teachers.
At Sandals Inn in Montego Bay, Jamaica, you don’t have to open your wallet from check-in to check-out, even for that expensive champagne to toast the summer. Seven nights in February is $2,583 per couple; in August, it’s $1,869, and the rate includes scuba diving and dining in the resort’s six restaurants. At the same time, all-inclusives in the Dominican Republic also are great deals, starting as low as $100 a day per person, including air fare at the Coral Costa Caribe.
If your heart is still set on Europe this summer, consider a tour company that allows independent travel such as CIE Tours International, www.cietours.com, where a “Go As You Please Ireland” tour starts as low as $100 per person, per day, including a rental car and vouchers for your choice of 1,700 B&Bs. Or take a six-day escorted tour for as low as $658 per person.
But consider that you also can take a trip in more familiar places. Washington, D.C.-based travel consultant Steve Zorn says an old-fashioned American road trip can be “as frugal and economic as you want.” Plus, you can live what you teach—for a history teacher, for example, there’s nothing like seeing the American West “up close and personal.”
His advice? Stay off the beaten path. “You don’t want to see the same Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday in North Dakota that you see in Los Angeles. Go down the road less traveled.”
Whatever you choose, just go. When the last bell of the school year rings, the summer is your time.
Three Ways To Save the World While Seeing It
You want to travel, but you’d prefer not to stomp all over the world with a Yeti-sized carbon footprint. Fortunately, it is possible to tread more lightly if you plan appropriately.
Before you leave,
||While you’re away,
choose accommodations carefully. In the United States, some hotels have earned Energy Star labels for their great efficiency. Also, check out Environmentally Friendly Hotels for user-generated listings that range from Paris, Arkansas to Paris, France. Or, if you’re booking a tour, check out operators that support sustainable tourism.
After you return,
What Should You Pack?
You’ve got your comfy shoes and a travel pack of aspirin. What else should you throw in your bag
What you Need - Wouldn’t it be nice to take a pill that could keep you safe from germs?
Option 1 - Does it work? Well…Airborne recently agreed to pay $30 million to settle charges that it had been making unsubstantiated claims about its vitamin and herb tablets.
Option 2 - Wash your hands! Keeping your hands clean is one of the most effective ways to stop germs, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Something to Know - Airborne’s creator, a former teacher, has also created a fund to help elementary and middle school teachers pay for art and music programs. Grants range from $200 to $10,000. For more information, go to www.airbornetrust.com.
What you Need - It’s far too easy to walk away from the baggage carousel with somebody else’s undies.
Option 1 - These luggage tags from Uncommon Goods ($10 for six) are darn funny, with messages like: “Open with caution: dirty clothes inside.”
Option 2 - Ten dollars is a reasonable price. But you could go even cheaper if you slapped one of your school’s bumper stickers on the side of that bag.
Something to Know - Uncommon Goods is committed to sustainability, which means catalogs are printed on recycled paper, products are purchased from socially responsible manufacturers, and customers are encouraged to add $1 to their purchase for charity.
What you Need - You’ve spread your towel, but what are you going to do with your hotel key and credit card?
Option 1 - It’s like spy stuff! These Stash sandals by Reef ($36.95 at Zappos.com) have a secret drawer in the heel for personal items.
Option 2 - Don’t take anything valuable to the beach. The U.S. Department of State recommends that you leave cash and credit cards in the hotel safe.
Something to Know - If you do carry cash or cards, the feds recommend keeping them in multiple places. Inside pockets or a sturdy shoulder bag are better than handbags or fanny packs. Best is a money belt under your clothes.
What you Need - You haven’t really seen Paris until you can send a text message from the Louvre!
Option 1 - The Voltaic Solar Backpack ($249) is a solar power generator that you carry on your back—amazing! After about four hours of sun, you can recharge that phone or PDA.
Option 2 - Like the Voltaic bag, the REI ecoSensitive Urban Traveler Pack ($89.50) is made from recycled plastic bottles. Each keeps 33 plastic water bottles out of landfills.
Something to Know - The Voltaic bags and REI products were both included in last year’s Green Gear & Gift Guide published by Sustainable Travel International. See their blog at blog.sustainabletravel.org for more helpful travel advice.