Although the Grand Strand is a top destination for visitors, for those of us that live here throughout the year, traveling to other vacation spots is an ever-increasing priority. With the summer season slowing down and classes about to start, the month of August becomes a prime time for a last hurrah of summer to travel and get away from it all.
Whether by car, plane or by sea, escaping to languid beaches, cruising the Caribbean, or strolling the streets of a romantic city, many Grand Strand residents are on the move to get their vacations on as summer slips away.
"Europe is big this year," says Joy Nason, a Travel Sales Specialist with AAA Vacations in Myrtle Beach. "Italy, England and Ireland are the hot spots."
Although the economy is still experiencing a major lull, people are traveling more and more, according to industry experts.
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Brendan Byrnes, the spokesperson for AAA Carolinas, said the recent Fourth of July holiday saw a 3 percent increase in travelers coming to North and South Carolina compared to last year. While gas prices are again starting to rise, the recent fluctuation has not had a major impact on travelers this summer. Byrnes says AAA travel services have also experienced an increase of 10-12 percent this year.
"I think people have taken on a new attitude," explains Nason, who attributes the increase in traveling to folks trying to fulfill lifelong goals and a fear that the economy will not get better in the near future. A sort of travel bucket list, if you will.
While most of us dream of escaping to Europe and other parts of the world, destinations within driving distance are just as popular for vacations and weekend getaways.
"When someone asks if there is somewhere nearby that has ambience and romance, I usually recommend Charleston or Savannah (Ga.)," says Nason.
Piling in the car to seek out the cultural riches of a nearby city is not the only reason to hit the road. Many vacationers are taking off for nearby ports of call for cruise lines, including Charleston and Port Canaveral, Fla. While August is also smack in the middle of hurricane season, Nason explains that cruises and destinations below the hurricane zone, such as Aruba, are progressively more popular in the late summer and early fall.
"You've got sun, sand, beautiful weather and no chance of a storm," she explains.
But when it's time to get away from it all, packing clothes, toiletries, and other essentials can get alarmingly cumbersome. With airlines restrictions on liquids, overhead bin space, and baggage weight, paring down what goes in a suitcase becomes critical.
However, to combat those problems, packing items that can be used in multiple ways turns into a time and space saving necessity. Whether by car or plane, less is always more when having to tote around heavy luggage or carry-on bags.
Whether you're a lifelong traveler or about to take your first trip, these items will not only add ease to packing but functionality as well. Each item can be utilized in more than one way, and are must-have necessities for any trip or vacation getaway. And you can pick them up at local retailers.
Comprised of a simple piece of elaborately-dyed fabric generally one yard long and two yards wide, the sarong is an ideal travel mate thanks to its multiple avenues of use - especially for women.
While it makes a great blanket for chilly airplanes or train trips thanks to its lightweight weave, the sarong is also a fashion maven's must-have staple for traveling. Whether you're going on a cruise or a camping trip, a sarong is an excellent suitcase addition. With a simple twist, tie or tuck, the sarong can be turned into a sexy short or long skirt, swimsuit cover-up, scarf, halter dress, shawl, or turban.
Picking a sarong with a neutral pattern, such as the Batik Bali Sarong in Khaki, Brown and Orange ($26, Pawleys Island Swimwear) is ideal for creating chic multiple looks and can easily be paired with bold colors or basic black. Wrap it around your waist, tie it with a simple knot and pair it with a classic white T-shirt for easy lakeside style, or tie it toga-style and add a cardigan for going out to dinner.
When traveling, women often deal with the dilemma of which shoes to bring and which to leave behind - do you sacrifice fashion for function? Fortunately, with Lindsay Phillips SwitchFlops and Snap Shoes, you can have the best of both worlds when you're on the go, thanks to an interchangeable element on each shoe. One pair of shoes can have a range of looks from casual to dressy, simply by changing the Velcro straps on the SwitchFlop or the button on a Snap Shoe.
If you're traveling to a warmer climate, investing in two pairs of the SwitchFlops will make those shoe dilemmas a thing of the past. Opt for a comfortable basic pair like the Lulu Black ($34.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), a basic flat flip-flop, or the Lily Cork ($48.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), a cork-lined kitten heel flip-flop, as well as a dressier shoe, such as the Missy Wedge Heel Bronze ($49.99, Lazy Gator Gifts). Its metallic-lined base and wedge add a chic element and will pair well with dresses or jeans.
Once you've decided which pairs will accent your travel wardrobe, shop the more than 100 strap styles available to add style and sparkle to your toes. The gold ornament and tan strap of the Natasha Strap Tan ($15.99, Lazy Gator Gifts) will look chic atop all three shoe designs and pair well with any color and neutral item of clothing. Or opt for the pale peach ruffle color of the Pamela Strap ($11.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), or the multi-hued floral jacquard of the Kristi Strap Blue & White ($11.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), to create a more colorful look.
Another great travel option is the Snap Shoe. On these shoes, adornments on top of the shoe can be swapped by a simple button snap. Pack the Jean Kitten Heel Sandals Black ($49.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), a crisscross slide with open toe design, and the Jordi Flop in Stone ($24.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), a basic modern flip flop for a neutral base, then simply snap out the adornments to make a different look for each outfit.
If you're headed to a resort, opt for the blue, white, and gold starfish design of the Dylan Snap Blue ($15.99, Lazy Gator Gifts). Or, if you're headed to the big city, opt for a little pop of color and snap on the Zsa Zsa Snap Blue ($12.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), an aqua-hued beaded flower, or the Jolie Snap ($15.99, Lazy Gator Gifts), a rhinestone and gold dome in fuchsia and pink.
3-in-1 Shampoo, Shower Gel, Bubble Bath
Investing in a product that has more than three cleaning abilities is a travel must, especially for long trips or limited toiletry space. While it comes in a large bottle, the Philosophy Mimosa 3-in-1 Shampoo, Shower Gel and Bubble Bath ($16, Ulta) is a perfect option for keeping clean when on the road and can easily be repackaged in a travel bottle or GoToob (see below). Its energizing orange scent is light enough for men to use without smelling girly, and its multi-functioning abilities create ease when traveling.
It's not only a nice light shampoo that is even gentle on color-treated tresses; it provides a great lather in the shower and optimal bubbles during a bath. If you're in a pinch, use it as a hand wash, face wash, or use it to remove small stains in cotton clothing with a wet wash cloth.
When traveling by plane, adhering to the 3-1-1 rule - 3-ounce items in a 1-quart bag, 1-per-person- can be a challenge, especially when many products on the market are not available in a smaller size. However, the GoToob ($7.95, Samsonite Company Store) is an ideal answer.
This 2-ounce squeezable tube is perfect for travelers of all types. Constructed of a soft but rugged silicone, it easily stores low and medium viscosity liquids, such as hand sanitizer, sunscreen, or the aforementioned 3-in-1 shampoo, shower gel, and bubble bath.
It also 100 percent food safe, BPA-free (bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used to certain plastics), and great for safely storing condiments, cooking oil, or juice for the kids on car trips thanks to its no-drip valve. Along with the design being airline approved, it includes a suction cup that will adhere to hard surfaces when you need to be hands-free.
If you don't have a Smartphone yet, investing in one before a big trip is a no-brainer. Whether you're headed across the United States or across the Atlantic, a Smartphone has a multitude of functionality available for traveling with ease. Along with making phone calls, taking pictures, GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities, smart phones can utilize a range of applications for translating languages, converting money and measuring systems, recommending restaurants, suggesting sightseeing tours, and even finding the cheapest gas in the area.
While fees for phone calls and data usage will vary per your cell provider depending on your destination, investing in a phone enabled with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) versus simply CDMA 2000 is a must when traveling abroad.
A couple of options are the Motorola Atrix 4G ($649.99, Best Buy) or the DROID Incredible 2 by HTC ($599.99, Best Buy), both smart phones have GSM radios and use the Android operating system. Both are powerful enough to multi-task applications from the Android market- like Google maps for easy navigating on the go, while Pandora pumps your favorite beats in the background.
They also have vast amounts of storage space for storing all those souvenir photos and videos, and come equipped with large displays perfect for watching movies or reading books while on the road or waiting to catch a plane.
If you love to stay connected while you're away but don't want the additional bulk of a laptop, opt for the NOOK Color ($249, Barnes & Noble) instead. Along with having access to more than 2 million e-book titles, the NOOK Color's 7-inch color touch screen is also perfect for perusing magazines, surfing the web, checking e-mail, reading interactive children's books, and playing games while you're on the go.
If you enjoy listening to music or checking out the latest applications available on the market, the NOOK Color is primed for keeping you linked. With 8 GB of built-in memory, the NOOK Color can hold up to 500 songs, 150 photos, and 6,000 e-books. It also has the capability to add a MicroSD card, which allows you to add storage space for more photos, music, and books from your own collection. Its small, sleek design makes it easy to use if you're catching up on work, relaxing, or with the family.
It's also a great accessory for long car trips involving kids. Along with interactive books, the NOOK Color can also play educational games and videos.
"If you're going to Europe, I highly recommend an adapter," says Nason. Traveling oversees can be confusing when you bring along electronics thanks to the differences in voltages - here in the US voltage runs at 110, in Europe, however, voltage runs at 220. To make the transition on your electronics easy, invest in the Samsonite World Wide Power Adapter ($30, Samsonite Company Store).
Although it fits outlets in more than 150 countries including the U.K., most of Europe, China, and Australia, it's also a wise investment to use stateside thanks to its 2 USB ports. Capable of charging a smart phone and Nook Color at the same time, it also minimizes the need for multiple charging bricks while on the go.
Foldable Tote Bag
Having another tote bag on hand during a trip can never hurt however the bulk they can create when packing does cause some pain. Instead, opt for the Totes Expandable Pocket Change Tote in Blue ($6.99, Totes/Sunglass World/Isotoner). This nylon tote bag folds up into a small pocket size bag, but expands into a large bag perfect for carrying books or beach towels when unzipped.
If you're headed to a resort, it's a perfect poolside companion thanks to its light hue, or if you're flying, it's a great carry-on option for all those souvenirs you bought. Headed to a farmers market or on a shopping trip while you're away? Take it along to carry purchases and keep hands free. Have a wet bathing suit or dirty laundry? Store it in the bag and pack it away to keep other clothes fresh.
Space Saver Bags
Long trips or vacations involving a variety of climates can make packing trickier. Utilizing the Samsonite Space Saver Bags, Set of 4 ($17, Samsonite Company Store) is a smart way to optimize precious suitcase space, while providing organization as well. The bags are constructed of a durable laminated nylon which, when zipped closed, creates an airtight and waterproof seal.
The bags are easy to use and don't require a vacuum - simply pack your clothes or accessories in a bag, zip it shut, and roll out the excess air utilizing the one way compression valve. Although they may lead to additional wrinkled clothes, the bags allow for optimizing suitcase space. They also provide a great solution for packing wet or dirty clothes and shoes thanks to their waterproof construction and tight seal.
Whether you're flying out west for a hunting expedition or driving to the mountains with the family, a multi-tool can be a wise asset. However, be advised, if you do plan to take a multi-tool with you on a flight, the tool will be required to be packed in a checked bag due to security regulations.
Taking a small multi-tool knife like the Orvis Rod & Tackle Multi-Tool with LED Light ($39, Orvis) can be handy in a pinch. Along with a small blade, this tool also features a saw blade, scissors, can opener/flathead screwdriver combination, LED light, Phillips screwdriver, corkscrew, awl, nail file, and sewing needle. Whether mending a missing button, opening a bottle of wine, or adding extra light in a dark area, the tool's multiple avenues of utility abound.
If you want something heartier in addition to the Orvis Rod & Tackle Multi-Tool, invest in a Leatherman Freestyle Tool ($49, Orvis) as well. Comprised of 100-percent stainless steel, the large blade, wire cutters, regular pliers and needle nose pliers provide a perfect companion tool when you're in a pinch.
The travel items featured in this article can be found at the following local retailers:
Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 3346 Reed Street, The Market Common, Myrtle Beach. For more information, call 238-2917, or visit www.barnesandnoble.com.
Best Buy, 1145 Oak Forest Lane, Myrtle Beach. For more information, call 626-9357, or visit www.bestbuy.com.
Lazy Gator Gifts, 3026 Nevers Street, The Market Common, Myrtle Beach. For more information, call 839-4873, or visit www.lazygatorgifts.com.
Orvis, 1150 Farrow Parkway, The Market Common, Myrtle Beach. For more information, call 839-6900, or visit www.orvis.com.
Pawleys Island Swimwear, Inlet Square Mall, 10125 U.S. 17 Bypass, Murrells Inlet. For more information, call 651-9372.
Samonsite Company Store, Tanger Outlets 501, 4635 Factory Stores Boulevard, Myrtle Beach. For more information, call 236-5325, or visit www.samsonite.com.
This article is a super-sized version of our regular monthly shopping and fashion-centric series Gotta Have It.