Ways and Means

The Baltimore Sun

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.

"It's a learning vacation ... all over the world. I have been on five or six of them," says Barsda, who lives in Halethorpe. Although "it is a group of people you don't know, as a widow, when I get there, I'm not by myself."

On the other hand, being alone is what makes getting away so great for Holland, a 25-year-old who has traveled as far away as Australia on her own. She especially enjoys solo road trips along scenic routes.

"Last August, I drove up to Maine, and another time I drove across the country to California. I like the independence of traveling alone," Holland says. "I take my road atlas with me, and I don't plan that much ahead of time."

Holland goes online sometimes to map out her journey, but, like the majority of readers who responded, she doesn't go through travel agents.

Instead, about 63 percent of readers - 80 percent of those younger than 49 - said they plan their trips using the Internet.

Those who said they rely on travel agents were usually readers ages 65 and older.

"Sometimes for ... airfare, I will use the Internet," says Flaks, who has traveled the world. "But if I go to a travel agent, they can make it all-inclusive and get the package all together. Do everything. You don't have to worry."

While some readers in our survey worried about traveling on a plane, more than 90 percent said air travel in the United States is very or somewhat safe.

The bottom line for readers we talked to was, as Garman says, "It's not enough to stop me from going where I need to go."

He should know. Garman is the proud owner of titanium hips - thanks to joint replacement. This entitles him to what he calls "the full treatment" at the airport.

"I think it's safe," he says. "The issues I have are more about missed connections and having to spend the night somewhere you don't want to be. But that comes with any kind of travel you might do."

Durose agrees. "It's probably as safe as it's going to be," she says. "After 9/11, we were scheduled for a trip to Las Vegas, but I could not get my kids on a plane. ... But they're better now."

A majority of readers said they travel about the same as before Sept. 11, but a few - 8 percent - said they travel less.

Wendy Warren, who lives in Perry Hall, says travel for her work is a must. The 44-year-old business owner was in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11 and still remembers it vividly.

"I think [air travel] is safe, but I can't say that 9/11 doesn't cross my mind every time I get on a plane," Warren says.

For the past three years, she and her husband have been renting a house in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Two years ago, they got a dog, and the couple now looks for pet-friendly travel spots.

"It seems like our vacation is centered around the dog now," Warren says. "And that's OK, because if my husband doesn't feel like taking a walk on the beach at 6 a.m., my dog, Steve, does."

michelle.deal@baltsun.com

THE ROAD TRAVELER Laura Holland, 25, Towson

Favorite kind of vacation Road trip, preferably solo

Favorite place to stay Roadside hotel

Recent destination Maine

Quote"I like the independence of traveling alone. I take my road atlas with me, and I don't plan that much ahead of time."

THE FAMILY TRAVELER

ANNIE DUROSE, 56, ROSEDALE

Favorite kind of vacation:

Family-oriented

Favorite place to stay:

Time-share

Recent destination:

Hawaii

THE CITY TRAVELER Jared Garman, 53, Havre de Grace

Favorite kind of vacation Spa or resort

Favorite place to stay Small or boutique hotel

Recent destinations San Francisco and Monterey, Calif.

Quote"We go to New York City quite a bit since it's close. ... They [cities] have so many options."

THE WORLD TRAVELER Jaime Flaks, 73, Windsor Mill

Favorite kind of vacation All-inclusive package

Favorite place to stay Major or chain hotel

Recent destinations Argentina, Brazil and Chile

Quote"Sometimes for [airline] tickets, I will use the Internet. If I go to a travel agent, they can make it all-inclusive and get the package all together. ... You don't have to worry."

THE CRUISE TRAVELER -- BRAD A. THOMAS, 57, PASADENA

Favorite kind of vacation:

A cruise

Favorite cruise line:

Royal Caribbean

Recent destination:

Caribbean

THE PET TRAVELER -- WENDY WARREN, 44, PERRY HALL

Favorite kind of vacation:

Dog-friendly location

Favorite place to stay:

Major or chain hotel, especially Marriott brand

Recent destination:

Outer Banks, N.C.

BY THE NUMBERS

How much time do you normally take for a vacation trip?

68 percent take one week

23 percent overall said they take two weeks, but 37 percent of those older than 65 take two weeks.

9 percent take less than one week.

What best describes your favorite kind of vacation?

18 percent of men and women said they were family-oriented travelers.

20 percent of men prefer cruising or sailing, but only 11 percent of women do.

24 percent of those ages 18-34 prefer adventure travel.

About how much did you spend on your last vacation?

46 percent said they spent $3,000 or more on their last trip.

26 percent overall - but 36 percent of those older than 65 - said they spent $5,000 or more.

12 percent said they spent less than $1,000.

Where do you normally stay when you go on vacation?

48 percent of those older than 65 stay at a major or chain hotel.

44 percent of those ages 18-34 prefer a boutique hotel, a rental villa or apartment.

How do you book most of your travel?

63 percent book online, including more than 80 percent of those ages 18-49. Of those who use the Internet, 72 percent book airline tickets and 56 percent book hotels.

45 percent of those older than 65 use a travel agent, but only 7 percent of those ages 18-34 do.

Since Sept. 11, do you travel more, less or the same amount?

72 percent said they travel the same amount.

20 percent said they travel more.

8 percent travel less, including 14 percent of those older than 65.

How safe is air travel in the United States?

93 percent said air travel was somewhat or very safe.

4 percent said it was not too safe or not at all safe.

DEMOGRAPHICS

538 total responses

Ages 18-34 - 10 percent Ages 35-49 - 28 percent Ages 50-64 - 39 percent Ages 65 and older - 23 percent

Gender

65 percent were female. 35 percent were male.

Marital status

72 percent were married. 14 percent were single. 8 percent were divorced. 6 percent were widowed.

[Note: Percentages are rounded, which may lead to totals slightly smaller or larger than 100 percent.]

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