AAA Travel Team

By Samantha Brown
Host of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”

It’s almost summer and that means one thing: prime travel season. According to a recent AAA Travel survey, two-thirds of American travelers plan to take vacations this summer. Top domestic destinations? Orlando, Seattle, Anchorage and Honolulu. Internationally, folks are flocking to London, Rome, Vancouver, Dublin and Paris. Are all of those destinations fabulous? You bet. But if you crave a little breathing room, why not take one of these equally great but less busy vacations?

Think Outside of the Beach
During the summer, people head to the shore, lakes, amusement parks and iconic cities. I say head for the mountains, where exorbitant pricing and throngs of skiers melt away with the snow. Hotel rates can be up to 40% off. I never really understood why more people don’t vacation at mountain resorts in the warmer months. They are places of such incredible beauty, with exalted landscapes of rock and forest, not to mention cooler temperatures. Most mountain areas operate lifts year-round, so you can hike and bike through the trails, as well as swim and kayak on the nearby lakes.

One of my favorites? The White Mountains in New Hampshire. It offers a vacation the way it used to be: family restaurants in Swiss chalets, motor lodges and candy stores. For Western adventure travel, you can’t beat Park City. Hiking, biking, swimming, and bobsledding (yep, you heard that right) — all within a painless 45-minute drive of the Salt Lake City airport. 

Urban Fun in the Summertime 
It goes against conventional reasoning, but cities can be a lot of fun in the summer. They tend to be less hectic during the warmer months, especially as the wealthier locals flee to their  beach homes.  Find cheaper hotel rooms, snag reservations at hot dining spots and benefit from all the free summer events. I’m talking festivals and fairs, Shakespeare in the Park and outdoor concerts featuring anything from jazz to rockabilly.

I love Chicago in the summer. There’s the Aon fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night on Navy Pier; outdoor concerts at Ravinia; neighborhood festivals and more. Plus, that great Lake Michigan beach.  

Another hot tip? Think about visiting convention cities like Las Vegas, Washington D.C., San Diego and Atlanta. They have tens of thousands of rooms to fill, and if there isn’t a major convention in town, you may be able to finagle a better price. Don’t forget to check with AAA for hot deals and member discounts. 

It Doesn't Have to Be Bucket-list Worthy
In this age of social media bombardment, it’s easy to forget that you don’t need to visit the Eiffel Tower or a jungle market in Thailand to make a vacation count. Jump in your car and road trip to a town an hour away. Fly somewhere you’ve never been before, like Cleveland, Ohio, or Bozeman, Montana. The point of travel is to expand your view of the world and create memories with your favorite people — no hashtag needed.