Everyone has a different take on summer. Grown-ups are itching to ditch work for a week or two. The kids already are complaining about being bored.
It's undeniably vacation time. And, for many, last year's buzzword - "staycation" - already is outdated. Maybe it's time to hit the road, spend at least a bit of money and actually go somewhere.
There are, of course, familiar destinations: a beachfront resort, a Disney park, our nation's capital. But for those seeking something off the tourist track, a place less crowded and often less costly too, awesome alternatives await every type of traveler.Summer afternoon . the two most beautiful words in the English language.
- Henry James, writer
School's out for summer .
Out 'til fall
- Alice Cooper, rocker
Houseboat heaven - As soon as school let out, Shawn and Teresa Whitecotton, their in-laws, five kids and a puppy left their homes in southern Illinois for a unique family vacation aboard a houseboat.
Their digs - in essence, a floating, four-bedroom condo - are as much a part of the trip as their destination: the sprawling Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri.
With nearly 1,200 miles of shoreline, the lake offers countless isolated inlets in which to escape.
"We backed up into a cove and were there all by ourselves," Shawn explained. "It's just total peace."
The list of features is lengthy: satellite TV; full-size appliances in the kitchen (or "galley"); a large, walk-in shower; and central air. On the lower deck, there's a barbecue grill. And on the upper deck, as the boys quickly discovered, there's a water slide to plunge them into the lake.
Admittedly, such amenities don't come cheap; the houseboats rent for $775 to $995 a day. But, as Cory Ginsky, manager of Lake of the Ozarks Marina, points out, that sticker shock begins to fade when his all-inclusive price is compared with the cost of two or three hotel rooms, meals in restaurants and tickets to various attractions for several people.
Coasting through California - Surf's up in California, and the splendors of the Pacific Coast can be enjoyed from the windows of Amtrak trains that traverse the state, from just shy of the Mexican border to the Oregon state line.
Singles and other independent travelers will welcome the freedom and flexibility, not to mention the price, of the California Rail Pass (800-872-7245, amtrak.com). Selling for just $159 ($80 for children), the pass provides seven days of unlimited rail travel over a 21-day period of time.