Go on, follow everyone to the beach this weekend.
Turns out that avoiding the crowds — which the world’s so-called travel “experts” recommend this time of year — isn’t just a yawner of a cliche. It can be flat-out wrong, too.
“People visit the same place at the same time for a reason,” says Michael Gehrisch, president of the Destination Marketing Association International, a trade group for destination marketing organizations. “Because it makes sense.”
Reality check: When you head to the Jersey shore with the rest of the herd, you’ll pay more for your summer vacation. You might have a little trouble finding a choice spot in the sand to stake your umbrella. Looking for a table at your favorite restaurant? Fuhgeddaboudit.
To some, it’s a maddening and senseless ritual repeated every year.
But on another level, it makes perfect sense, says Gehrisch.
“The kids are out of school,” he says. “Some companies close their offices so their employees can enjoy vacation time.”
During high season, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, visitors outnumber locals by nine to one in Cape May County, N.J., where you’ll find popular beach destinations from Ocean City to Cape May Point. They flock to the shore for large events such as the Cape May Music Festival in late May and early June. But mostly, they go because everyone else is there. This month, Cape May expects a crush of 4 million beach-goers, about one-third of its total annual visits.
Across the country in San Diego, it’s the same story: Last July was its busiest month of the year, with 4.3 million visitors coming to town for big events such as Comic-Con. But even without major festivals, the area lured a respectable 3.6 million visitors in August, its second-best month of the year.
“They come for our beaches, attractions and great weather,” says San Diego Tourism Authority spokesman Joe Timko.
Oh, and don’t forget the triple-digit temperatures in Arizona and other parts of California, which drive tourists toward the Pacific Coast like nothing else.
But when you see the throngs of tourists at the shore, it makes conventional wisdom easy to believe. Instead of going with the flow, some travel experts advise you to book a vacation somewhere no one would think of visiting during the summer, such as the Caribbean, or a ski resort. Hotel rates there are significantly lower, and the crowds are gone. Since I’ve been guilty of dispensing such advice during my career as a travel “expert,” let me be the first to say, I was wrong.
You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that advice is flawed.
Summer is hurricane season in the Caribbean, and it tends to rain a lot; and the ski resorts are empty for a reason: no snow. True, you won’t find lines at the best restaurants, but then again, they may closed for the season.
Also, having an entire resort to yourself is lovely if you’re a solitary person. But for many of us, vacation is a social event. We go to the beach because our friends are there, and we’re willing to pay extra for the privilege.