Summer is just around the corner, which means now's the time to start planning that warm-weather road trip. Pick a destination that fits your budget, lifestyle and a day's drive with help from some of the savviest travel agents in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Spend a little: Amish country
With charming covered bridges and hearty old-fashioned cooking—including local delicacies such as shoofly pie and apple dumplings—Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, takes visitors back in time.
Get the best snapshot of this quaint Amish country with a home tour and buggy ride, suggests Mark Rachko, president of Uniglobe Travel Partner's Mid-Atlantic division. Look into The Amish Experience for a guided walkthrough of the area's only designated "Heritage Site" house.
Amish country is also home to an abundance of arts and crafts centers and affordable family-friendly attractions, Rachko says. History lovers definitely should visit the Elizabethtown Mural Trail, a series of paintings illustrating the town's past, and candy lovers won't want to miss the free factory tour at Hershey's Chocolate World. The kids will love an afternoon with sheep, goats and deer at Hayloft Candles and Petting Zoo.
Find affordable accommodations at plenty of local motels and campgrounds.
Spend a little more: Hilton Head Island
For an affordable beach getaway, head to the South Carolina coast. With everything from historical sites and spa treatments to outdoor activities such as golf, tennis and bird-watching, there's something the whole family can enjoy.
The best thing about Hilton Head, says Katie Landsman, a travel agent with LBAC Travel in Atlanta, is its laid-back atmosphere. "There's a lot to do—you can go crabbing or on a dolphin cruise or parasailing—but the beach areas aren't all built up with boardwalks and rides," she says.
Landsman, who visits Hilton Head with her family every year, recommends the Hilton Head Marriott Resort and Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort for their ranges of kid-friendly activities and family-friendly accommodations.
Splurge: Universal Orlando
It's much more than theme parks and family-style restaurants. Of course the kids will have plenty to enjoy, but couples also can find ample ways to unwind and indulge.
"People don't think of Universal Orlando as a higher-end destination, but it is," says Christine Hardenberger, a travel agent with Magical Mouse Plans in Richmond, Virginia. "The on-site hotels are all four-diamond properties; the restaurants are top-notch; there is a lively nightclub and bar scene; and the most amazing spa, Mandora. It has 14 exotic treatment rooms and offers a coed whirlpool, coed lounge, and separate men's and women's sauna and steam rooms. It's newly renovated and truly state-of-the art."