Summer Vacation Hot Spots

NPR's Ed Gordon discusses fun places to escape this summer despite rising fuel prices with guests Pamela Thomas of Pathfinders magazine and self-proclaimed "globetrotter" Jon Haggins.

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ED GORDON, host:

Joining us now are two people who make a living visiting great spots all over the world. Jon Haggins calls himself the globetrotter. He's a travel and food writer. He joins us here in our New York City bureau. And from Philadelphia, Pamela Thomas is co-publisher and executive editor of Pathfinder's Travel, a magazine for people of color.

Good to have you both. Jon, let me start with you. The idea of disposable income and what people like to utilize and use for vacations, African-Americans, whether it be piling into the car and just going down to Auntie's house down South or making a destination plan out West or overseas is something that we've always done, correct?

Mr. JON HAGGINS (Travel and Food Writer): That's absolutely correct, but I think the new trend is more adventure, more discoveries. There's so much out there to see, and people have more disposable income today so, therefore, they're going to faraway places as well as the close places. And what they like to see is not only family, but they like to have a cultural experience and a shared experience that will be memorable for the rest of their lives.

GORDON: Pam, what do you like to tell people who, as we are now in July, who haven't necessarily shored up plans for vacation but want to do so before the summer's over?

Ms. PAMELA THOMAS (Pathfinder's Travel): Well, there are still some last-minute opportunities. In fact, the industry has kind of situated itself around that last-minute traveler. Click online with just a click, you can put together very nice last-minute vacations. In fact, there are sites even devoted exclusively to the last-minute traveler. So it's still time to do that. But even when driving, we would just really encourage people to call up the hotel directly if you're going last-minute because quite oftentimes, just by looking in the newspaper, you may not be able to get the availability that you want nor the price. You can oftentimes negotiate better directly with the property, the resort or the hotel.

GORDON: So many people, Jon, in New Orleans this weekend for the Essence Festival. It's become an annual trek for many African-Americans, as is the Tom Joyner Cruise. What of people who want to find something a little bit different, who wanted to do something that isn't the norm?

Mr. HAGGINS: Oh, well, like I just returned from Fiji as a matter of fact, which was probably the most extraordinary trip if you can endure the length of time it takes by air. But, however, once you arrive, you're in paradise. There are 300 idyllic islands, palm-dotted, that you will absolutely love and you have another experience. And most of the people are of our color, which I think is very fascinating. And they're generous. They have a great warm smile and you're going to places like Castaways or you're going to--this is very interesting, too, because you go to Jean Cousteau's beautiful resort, and it's right on the water. And it's just a heavenly place with these great bures, which are what they call rooms, and I call them little villas. But a very special and memorable--it's a great place for honeymoon. It's a great place for a great vacation and a faraway destination.

GORDON: Pamela, I'm curious, your readers, what ofttimes do you hear from them what they're looking for and perhaps where they want to go?

Ms. THOMAS: One of the things that Jon alluded to is everyone now is looking forward to just a little bit of adventure. And when we say adventure, we don't necessarily mean strapping on the backpack and the hiking boot, but doing something just a little bit off the beaten path. For example, I had a wonderful time in a place that I never thought that I would go and that was in Utah. And that was just doing a little bit of mountain climbing but ending the day in the comfort of a spa with a glass of champagne in my hand. So that's about as adventurous as a lot of people want to get. But people like packages. People don't want to spend a lot of time putting everything together themselves, so that's why you'll see something like Tom Joyner that's so popular because people like the idea that someone has put it together for them and someone has kind of gone ahead and checked out the terrain.

Mr. HAGGINS: And it's also familiar to them, I think. They like the familiarity and also the fact that there's a sameness, don't you agree?

Ms. THOMAS: Absolutely agree. And particularly for the African-American traveler, Ed, like you said, the African-American traveler now is just traveling the globe as never before. And now we have a generation that not only has the income but also has the opportunity. Before, there may have been the income but the opportunity just wasn't there just because of the racial climate in a lot of places in a lot of destinations. But now that traveler is getting out. They've got money to spend. They want to go places. And the African-American market just remains over the past four years one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry.

GORDON: Jon, one of the things that can be done is you can also extend a vacation and build around some of those things when we talk about familiar. For instance, in Miami, July 13 through 17 is the American Black Film Festival. And if you are so inclined to head to Jamaica, Montego Bay, July 17th through the 23rd is the Reggae Sunfest. And so building around those events, you can also extend a vacation either on the front or back end and have fun and also enjoy some of the cultural aspects that you talked about.

Mr. HAGGINS: Absolutely. I know whenever I go on a cruise, one of the things I do, especially if it's out of Florida, I would go and visit friends in Florida and then go on the cruise and come back and relax and get it all together before returning home. Because, you know, it's, again, extended time, which I think is important. But, you know, wherever I go around the world, I find that there are African-Americans. I was also in Tunisia recently, and there were African-Americans and everyone's out there. They really want to discover, as I said, a culture, something that's really different that will be educational, will be a exploration of the mind.

GORDON: Pam, what about those who don't have money enough to go to Fiji or Jamaica, who can really only go a couple of hundred miles away? And with gas prices, you might as well try to go to Fiji. But with that being said, what do you tell them to make their trip more enjoyable?

Ms. THOMAS: One of the things I always say is that when you're lying on a good beach and having the company of good friends, it doesn't matter if you're on the beaches of South Carolina or on the most gorgeous beaches in Hawaii. The trick is to be able to surround yourself to be able to have a good experience with friends. We have a lot of wonderful islands right off the coast here in the United States, Daufuskie Island in South Carolina, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. Florida has wonderful islands and also on the West Coast of the country.

But I would encourage people to do a couple of things. Everyone goes to a family reunion or goes to visit family at some point. Do some of the things that Jon just talked about. Tack on a couple of days at either the front or the back end of the family reunion. If your family has negotiated a good hotel rate for the reunion, ask that hotel if you can keep that same rate, and most hotels will allow you to keep that same rate either one or two days on the other side of a reunion. You'll be able to stay in a place like a $159-a-night hotel for the maybe the 89 or $99 rate that your family has negotiated.

GORDON: And, Jon, one of the things that I know I've encouraged people to do--and I'm wondering if you see this as a possibility--we miss so much of surroundings just where you are. For instance, those who live in New York may have never been to the Apollo Theater or those who live in Detroit may have never toured the Motown Museum, where much of that music was made throughout the years. There's so much that surrounds us that's really right in our back yard.

Mr. HAGGINS: And we don't take advantage of that, and we really should. Things are so incredibly local. But then, you know, an interesting thing is that as you talked just a couple of hundred miles, you can go to--and I'm going off to another culture again--but you can go to Quebec City and you feel like you're in Europe and you're really only a couple of hundred miles away.

Ms. THOMAS: Right. Right.

Mr. HAGGINS: And it gives you that whole feeling that you're in Europe and it's wonderful.

Ms. THOMAS: And, plus, it's not like the euro now. Exchanging your travel dollar, you know, the dollar is still just a little bit stronger against the Canadian dollar. So rather than traipsing off to Paris, you know, go to Quebec.

Mr. HAGGINS: Absolutely. And have a grand time. As a matter of fact, the last day I was there, I said, `I love this town!' And this woman walking along says, `You do?' I said, `Oh, yes!'

Ms. THOMAS: I do, too.

GORDON: Well, the enthusiasm from Jon and Pam should get you motivated to get out there and whether it be a couple of miles away or a couple of thousands of miles away, you should enjoy your summer. Jon Haggins, who is a travel and food writer, and Pamela Thomas, co-publisher and executive editor of Pathfinder's Travel magazine, we thank you very much and enjoy your Fourth.

Ms. THOMAS: Thank you. And see you on the ...(unintelligible).

Mr. HAGGINS: Thank you very much.

GORDON: Coming up on our roundtable, correspondent Farai Chideya and guests discuss questions of flag burning and the results of a worldwide opinion survey suggesting the United Nations should intervene in Darfur. Those stories up next.

This is NPR News.

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