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Summer's here! Now where do I go?

By Jenna Milly

The beach is a popular summer destination. Here, a family enjoys Ocean Beach in San Diego.
The beach is a popular summer destination. Here, a family enjoys Ocean Beach in San Diego.

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(CNN) -- Is your idea of the perfect summer vacation zipping around town on a must-see museum and monument marathon? Or is lapping ocean waves with a fruity daiquiri in hand your chilled out scene?

Whatever your personality type -- high-energy travel guru or easy-going beach bum -- the ultimate theme getaway exists for you.

"If you travel with a theme, it increases the chances that you'll have a better time," says Don Groff, travel columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You have the thrill of the trip as well as the thrill of looking at something you have a personal attachment to."

The key is finding the right theme for your vacation.

This year, chose eight summer vacation themes to help hone your inner tourist and help you select the perfect summer trip. The jaunts include destinations for romance, wining and dining, outdoor adventures, fun in the sun, vacationing with family, the offbeat, shopping, and festivals and events.

Finding your inner tourist


In order to pick your theme, you must do some soul searching, for both you and your travel buddy or buddies.

Planning a trip with a compatible companion is key, says Donald Brown, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. Brown divides travelers into two personality types, Type A and Type B.

He describes Type A as the impatient, competitive person who "by definition would probably not enjoy something too lethargic. They like to keep going and enjoy various programs that spend a fair amount of time with intellectual stimulation."

Therefore, planning active trips around the outdoors, festivals or offbeat destinations would be a good match. Type B personalities, on the other hand, are relaxed, easy going and "would enjoy something much more leisurely than to be lectured," Brown says. For them, laid back trips that include fun in the sun, shopping and dining would be ideal.

Identifying your personality type helps in choosing the perfect vacation. Brown warns that the old adage that "opposites attract" is probably true. "If you're a Type A personality, then your partner is probably a Type B."

Traveling with a complimentary partner might be wiser than it seems. If the personality types are rightly assigned, then two Type A's traveling together could find themselves fighting over a map in the middle of a bustling city street, while two Type B's might miss their flight because they never got to the airport on time.

This juxtaposition comes as no surprise to self-proclaimed Type A adventure traveler, Dr. Robert R. Gilbert. A periodontist from Kennesaw, Georgia, by day, he's spent the last 25 years discovering natural habitats, uncivilized cultures, remote villages and wildlife adventures around the world.

"There were three of us that traveled together all of the time," said Gilbert, who met his two companions after all three accepted a dare to ride atop the luggage rack of a train zipping down a rickety track in the Andes Mountains.

"Somehow we complimented each other perfectly. I usually took care of the details and, when we finally got there, someone took care of the money," he said.

Although places such as South and Central America, Africa, the Himalayas and remote locations with rustic lodging are Gilbert's top choices for travel, he says, compromising with travel partners is important.

"We've been to Italy four times, and usually rented an apartment there and did our own thing. It wasn't an organized tour. Every once and a while we have to get a little culture."

When it's time to compromise, Brown says, choosing a destination that might appeal to both is smart. "A romantic trip to Paris for a week would be a great for anyone. Being in a big city with lots of cultural opportunities and cafes to sit in would be very un-stressful. Either type could enjoy that."

Type-A history buffs might love learning about old Savannah on the Georgia Queen riverboat, while their type-B counterparts could enjoy taking in the scenery.
Type-A history buffs might love learning about old Savannah on the Georgia Queen riverboat, while their type-B counterparts could enjoy taking in the scenery.

Whether you are planning a trip with a long-time companion or a large tour group, pinpointing personal interests helps in choosing the right vacation. "Chances are, what you would enjoy would be attractive to people like you," Brown says.

For the past decade, Go Ahead Vacations has sculpted group tours around the world with a variety of themes, including walks through Tuscany, city stays in London, Paris and Rome, cruises to the Galapagos Islands, wildlife safaris in Kenya and tours of Egypt from the waterfront of the Nile River.

Dave Nydam, the company's vice president of marketing, says narrowing the choices is one of the hardest parts of planning the trip.

"One extreme is to go on a big city stay where there's tons of free time. The other end of the spectrum is someone looking for an in-depth exploration," he says.

To help focus the answer, ask yourself: What are my hobbies? Do I like history, music or the arts? Do I like walking, hiking, biking or taking it easy? Do I enjoy luxury over ruggedness or is a mixture more appealing?

Gilbert, who has taken trips with large groups and private tours, agrees that following a theme creates excitement. Bird-watching adventures in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana are among his favorite trips. "Both times in Africa we saw about 500 species of birds in three weeks," he says.

Thematic travel has become more popular in the last 10 to 15 years, said Groff. "It used to be a vacation was just getting away and 'vegging out' and in the last 15 years we've seen people wanting to taking trips which involve them educationally or they're active vacations," he says.

Go Ahead is one of several travel adventure companies that cater to this market of thematic travel. Researching on the Internet can lead to hundreds of possibilities, such as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, swimming with great white sharks in Australia and traveling to the edge of space in a MiG-25 "Foxbat."

Once you've discovered where it is you want to go, budget becomes an important factor in vacationing. Groff advises travelers not to let budget or aversion to big tour companies stop them from taking a thematic trip.

"You can very easily develop your own theme. In fact, developing your own thematic trip gives you more independence than going on a tour, where some people feel there're locked in," he says.

When asked how he chooses his vacations, Gilbert says often it's on a whim, such as the time he observed the art of totem carving while staying with Haida Indians on an island in the Gulf of Alaska.

"I keep saying to myself, I'll do the easy stuff when I'm older. I'll be 67 in June. And here, I haven't begun to do the easy stuff yet.

According to the Travel Industry Association of American, Americans will be taking more than 270 million leisure trips in 2003, up 2.5 percent from last year. Here's how to make yours relaxing, adventurous and more importantly, exactly what you want: Compromise with your travel partner, choose an interesting theme and let your spirit guide you to the perfect summer travel destination.

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