To Many Travelers, 2020 Was the Summer of 1965

Last year, Amanda Morgan watched a production of “My Fair Lady” at the Sydney Opera House, drove from Queenstown to Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, roamed through lavender fields in Provence and spent a week in Mykonos. She celebrated Christmas in Amsterdam and New Year’s Eve in Paris.

When the coronavirus struck the United States, Ms. Morgan, 40, canceled this year’s big trip, which would have taken her to Jordan and Egypt in early May. She spent her vacation neither floating in the Dead Sea nor wandering around the archaeological site of Petra, but kayaking and watching cotton-candy sunsets at the Inns of Aurora, a resort in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

“If I can see something truly beautiful four hours away — as opposed to halfway across the world — then I’m fortunate to be able to have that opportunity,” said Ms. Morgan, who lives in New York City and works in the financial services industry.

This summer, most vacationers followed Ms. Morgan’s playbook. She drove. She spent much of her time outside. And she eschewed splashy international experiences for humbler ones close to home.

Credit…Amanda Morgan

If that sounds quaint, if not an outright throwback, it is. Certain midcentury preferences — like driving over flying and a focus on domestic exploration — experienced a revival that made summer travel feel like 1965, not 2019.

The conditions and causes were different because of this pandemic, but the trend lines this summer were clear: What’s new is old is new again — just add Google Maps, face masks and curbside pickup.

When Ms. Morgan left her Manhattan apartment in May, she steered her rental car northbound on Interstate-81.

More than 50 years ago, that highway was instrumental in turning upstate New York into an easy-to-reach getaway for city residents. As a 1969 Times article put it, “there can no longer be any excuse — as there was years ago — that poor transportation was balking a holiday in the Finger Lakes playground.”

“When you fly, you just get where you want to go and you don’t think at all about what you’re flying over,” said Anthony Harkins, a Western Kentucky University history professor who studies the cultural implications of air travel and transportation. “Driving allows the possibility of better understanding the country — its geography, its culture — and historically it has helped us understand what it means to be an American.”

Credit…Jessica Nabongo

Ms. Nabongo wasn’t the only one on the road. One AAA forecast released in June put summer numbers at nearly 700 million road trips (a decrease of only 3 percent from last year) with driving accounting for 97 percent of all travel. Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection launched its first-ever road-trip travel insurance. Even New Yorkers bought cars.

From March on, gas prices have been significantly lower per gallon than last year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, and many travel operators have leaned into the road trip’s resurgence.

A partnership between the travel company Black Tomato and Auberge Resorts Collection produced four new drives that visit regions like New England and California wine country; a Mercedes-Benz is available to borrow. Relais & Châteaux, an association of luxury hotels and restaurants, added three new United States road trips to its decades-old “Routes du Bonheur,” or “roads of happiness,” program.

But the pandemic may belie parts of the glamorous, carefree vintage snapshot — top down, head scarf tied, sunglasses positioned just so. Ms. Morgan packed masks, gloves and sanitizer. On her drive up, she stopped only for drive-through coffee and the bathroom.

“After being in an apartment for the better part of three months, I was searching for the opportunity to be in nature and see such a beautiful setting,” she said.

“By being able to bring along their own shelter and gear, families could maintain a degree of control over their accommodations,” said Mr. Ratay, the road-trip expert. “I think that idea of control is also why we’re seeing a return of camping in the age of Covid-19.”

More than 60 percent of the 100,000 campsites listed on the online marketplace Campspot saw 25 percent more bookings this July, compared to last July. R.V. rentals and Airstream sales were up; camper vans were “in” again. LOGE, an outdoorsy hospitality company was nearly sold out across all its five properties over Fourth of July weekend. Collective Retreats, a glamping company, also saw strong numbers; bookings for the locations in Wimberly, Texas, and Vail, Colo., were up 40 percent from last year.

Then there’s the National Park System.

“A trip to Europe in 1968 was a pretty big deal — it gave you some serious social cachet and cultural capital,” Dr. Zuelow said. “But even those who could afford to travel overseas were still supposed to go see the National Parks — they represented a shrine of American-ness.”

Visitation to national parks surged in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Once again, the system — which offers ample open space and privacy — experienced high demand this summer, with some parks and seashores seeing higher numbers in July and August than those months last year. Cabins and campgrounds at Yellowstone National Park, which began a limited reopening in June, were sold out for the summer and saw double-digit increases in early bookings for next summer, compared to last year’s early bookings, according to Xanterra Travel Collection, which operates the park.

Last month, Jeff Miller, 41, rented an R.V. and drove with his girlfriend from Los Angeles to Zion National Park and several other national parks.

“It had been so long since I had been on a hiking and outdoors trip, and it felt so great to be doing something that still felt safe,” said Mr. Miller, 41, the frontman for the band Black Crystal Wolf Kids. “I had forgotten how much I love the beauty of the United States.”

Similarly, after being cooped up for months, Ms. Morgan “felt human again” simply by catching sight of Cayuga Lake.

“The goal was to feel safe but not wear a mask 24/7 on vacation — and the best way to do that was creating a trip where we could do creative things outdoors,” she said.

With reliable cleanliness and security, motels rose in popularity in the 1950s, when the Holiday Inn franchise became an alternative to the independent tourist cabins that were considered dodgy and inconsistent.

“Chain motels were predictable, family oriented and easy to find, and they set motorists’ minds at ease,” said Roger White, the road transportation curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

“The classic motor-court-style hotel pairs perfectly with travelers looking for a low-contact — but still a memorable — experience,” said Tenaya Hills, the design director at Bunkhouse Group, an Austin-based hospitality group. “In the time of Covid, the motel model is light touch — you’re not spending time in a lobby and fresh air is just outside your hotel room.”

Whereas motels in the midcentury were meant as a mere place to sleep, in the last few years, a crop of independent motels have opened with the opposite goal: to keep guests on-site as long as possible. Some, like Tourists, in the Berkshires, are revamps of dated midcentury motels with buzzy restaurants and of-the-moment wellness activities. Their retro panache was Instagram catnip before the pandemic; now, operators say, exterior corridors have been just as much of a draw.

“People are thrilled to access their rooms without having to push a button or try to remain socially distant in an elevator,” said Jud Hawk, the general manager at Aspen Meadows Resort, in Colorado, where guest room buildings have no interior hallways or elevators.

Air travel’s high cost made it largely inaccessible to most American vacationers until the late 70s. Then Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act, a watershed law that made commercial flights cheaper and more plentiful. A Times article published in 1978 proclaimed the Fourth of July holiday “the busiest travel period in American aviation history.”

Sahred From Source link Travel

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