Need a break? Here are the top cities for quick summer getaways

  • Hotwire.com found that 60% of Americans haven't taken a single day of vacation since the pandemic began. 
  • The travel website analyzed more than 10,000 data points for 300 U.S. cities across factors such as savings on last-minute bookings, driveability and population size to come up with four lists of Top 10 cities for quick getaways.
  • Charleston, South Carolina, is tops among what Hotwire calls "itty bitty cities."

Summer is nearly over, and the Covid-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating. Many Americans, who put their vacation plans on hold, are thinking about when they might get away.

Shorter breaks in smaller towns and cities close to home may be the answer.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has really changed everything we know and love about travel — between grounded flights and changing travel restrictions, people are finding it difficult to get their travel fix this year," said Nick Graham, head of online travel emporium Hotwire.com. "Domestic travel, especially quick, local getaways for 2 to 3 days, are a great way to test the travel waters again and get a much needed change of scenery while staying close to home."

Hotwire found that while 72% of Americans are interested in a summer getaway, 4 out of 5 think quick, local trips are good first option during the pandemic. In addition, 43% will seek out less crowded destinations and 89% will take health precautions while traveling. Those steps include traveling by car (50%), researching hotel cleanliness before booking (29%) and sticking close to home (26%).

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Those findings are backed up by other research. Insurance company Allianz found that nearly 6 in 10 travel insurance customers surveyed will stay within the U.S. borders for vacation this year.

However, Americans also want to avoid crowds: In a recent survey of 2,000 people, financial services firm IPX 1031 found that 66% are avoiding large cities when they travel. In addition, 81% are monitoring Covid-19 case levels in prospective destinations, and 85% will cancel if numbers spike.

"These trends in travel planning reflect a move towards more remote [and] rural locations and even staycations over big cities that are traditionally very popular for summer travel," said IPX 1031 spokesman Matt Zajechowski.

Meanwhile, 60% of Americans haven't taken a single vacation day since the outbreak began, Hotwire's Graham said, even though it's important for well-being to take time off.

"From personal experience, the few quickie trips I've taken have felt incredibly re-energizing, and exploring our own backyard here in the U.S. is a great place to start," he said.

Hotwire has compiled a list of the top 40 U.S. cities for "quickie" trips this summer, breaking them out into four size categories, including "itty bitty city" and "small town favorites," with 10 destinations in each. Graham said the company analyzed more than 10,000 data points for 300 cities across factors such as savings on last-minute bookings, driveability and population size in addition to a more traditional metric like the number of tourist attractions.

"Those new factors are what brought places like South Bend, Indiana, and Troy, Alabama, onto our radar, but of course, we also measured leisure factors like things to do and entertainment, which makes beloved destinations like Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, rise to the top of the list once again," he said.

Here's a look at the lists:

Top 10 'Itty Bitty' Cities

  1. Charleston, South Carolina
  2. Newport Beach, California
  3. Santa Barbara, California
  4. South Bend, Indiana
  5. Sarasota, Florida
  6. Savannah, Georgia
  7. Temecula, California
  8. Troy, Alabama
  9. Wilmington, Delaware
  10. Atlantic City, New Jersey

Hotwire also ranked what it calls the top "small towns," although some might be considered small only if compared to places like New York and Los Angeles:

Top 10 'Small Towns'

  1. Orlando, Florida
  2. Scottsdale, Arizona
  3. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  4. Reno, Nevada
  5. Salt Lake City
  6. Springfield, Missouri
  7. Madison, Wisconsin
  8. Shreveport, Louisiana
  9. Tallahassee, Florida
  10. Toledo, Ohio

For all the talk of a move to small, less densely populated destinations, Hotwire also ranked much bigger cities. Its "midsize must see" picks were St. Louis; Tampa, Florida; Atlanta; Arlington, Virginia; Tucson, Arizona; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Pittsburgh; Miami; and Cincinnati. The top 10 "major metropolises" for vacations, meanwhile, were Las Vegas; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Oklahoma City; Seattle; Memphis, Tennessee; Indianapolis; Austin, Texas; Denver; and Portland, Oregon.

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