For many families, Memorial Day will mark the beginning of the summer travel vacation season. As millions hit the road, record prices at the pump are putting a damper on summer travel plans. Fear not, sky high gas prices don't have to ruin your vacation. Heidi Mitchell, senior editor at Travel + Leisure magazine, visited “Weekend Today” to share some bright spots and bargain travel destinations. Here's an excerpt from the June issue of Travel + Leisure:
Find Your IslandAt these historic seaside resorts, life is all about swimming, boating, croquet — and, on occasion, dressing up for dinner. Welcome to sandy, old-fashioned summer! By Eve Glasberg
Calling All NaturalistsGreyfield Inn Cumberland Island, GeorgiaJohn F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette put secluded Cumberland Island on the map when they chose it as the site of their 1996 wedding, but in-the-know families have been heading to Georgia's southernmost barrier island for decades. The lure: wild horses, alligators, armadillos — and the Greyfield Inn, a plantation-style mansion that's the only accommodation (other than campsites) on this pristine, 17.5-mile seashore managed by the National Park Service. To keep clans coming back, the inn has just introduced two Family Weeks — starting June 23 and July 16 — with special activities, such as trout-fishing trips.
Originally built as a summer retreat for a niece of Andrew Carnegie, Greyfield sits among live oaks on a 300-acre compound that includes a swath of shell-strewn oceanfront. Families can choose between two- and four-bedroom cottages or adjoining rooms in the main house. Dinners are formal, so pack suit jackets and dresses — even for the kids. Greyfield's kitchen will arm you with a picnic for a day of island exploring by bike or kayak. Staff naturalists lead outings to see the sea turtles — which themselves return year after year.
866/410-8051 or 904/261-6408; www.greyfieldinn.com; doubles from $350, including meals, activities, and round-trip 45-minute ferry ride from Fernandina Beach, Florida, near Jacksonville.
New England SamplerSpring House Hotel Block Island, Rhode IslandOne of the few notable old hotels remaining on Block Island (that beloved pear-shaped chunk of granite, beach, and rolling meadow 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island), the 1852 Spring House once played host to Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant. As always, guests stream off the ferry and climb the grassy 15-acre bluff where Spring House perches over Old Harbor Point. Among the 33 rooms in the shingled main building — look for the red mansard roof — are four studios and six suites, or, if you're lucky, you can snag one of four roomy cottages. Rock and R&B concerts take place on the lawn every other Sunday afternoon in July and August, a perfect cap to a weekend spent exploring lighthouses, splashing in tidal pools, and picking the hotel's own blackberries.
52 Spring St.; 800/234-9263 or 401/466-5844; www.springhousehotel.com; studios and suites from $350, including breakfast; three-bedroom cottages $3,500 per week.
The Endless Porch
Grand Hotel Mackinac Island, MichiganAfter a ferry ride on Lake Huron, you can arrive at the Grand Hotel in grand fashion, by horse and carriage (no cars are allowed on Mackinac Island). The hotel, an 1887 High Victorian landmark, is a grown-up place with a decidedly playful side. There's croquet on the lawn, and a massive, hourglass-shaped pool named for Esther Williams, who filmed This Time for Keeps here in 1947. And while parents and grandparents are hanging out on the world's longest front porch, kids can join in organized scavenger hunts, hayrides, and visits to Fort Mackinac and the island's butterfly houses. If any of you feel the need to hit one of the tiny town's umpteen fudge shops (day-trippers are known as fudgies), be sure to time it right: the fancy five-course dinner back at the hotel starts promptly at 6:30.
800/334-7263 or 906/847-3331; www.grandhotel.com; from $210 per person, including breakfast and dinner. Kids up to 11 stay and eat free; ages 12–17 $49 per night.