The revered tradition of the family vacation seems to be under siege. Could private jet charter be an option?
Many traditional vacation spots have “gentrified” from simple rustic cabins by the lake to overdeveloped (and overpopulated) resorts. And for many folks, the idea of getting on an airline flight these days is anything but fun and relaxing, especially when traveling with children or older parents.
So, with a little help from our friends at Southern Living Magazine, we looked for places that meet the following criteria:
- Must be in nonstop range for our least expensive private aircraft, the luxurious four-passenger Cirrus SR22.
- Must be under $200 a night for lodging, so you have more of your vacation budget to spend on activities and dining.
- Must be less than a two-hour drive from the airport, so you can spend less of your time in transit and more of our time enjoying your vacation. (We can help you arrange for ground transportation, if you like!)
- Must have activities that will get kids away from their electronics and adults out of their daily grind.
Even if you’ve never considered a charter flight as part of your family vacation plans, we’d like to make your first experience a great one.
Here’s the list:
Gulf Shores State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama
Editor James T. Black recalls family vacations at the park: “Stretching from the Gulf of Mexico inland to Lake Shelby and Middle Lake, the park’s snow-white beaches and cool, green pine forests were the perfect remedy for a weary family escaping the workaday, late-for-school world. We’d spend mornings watching fishermen drop lines and pull up crab baskets from the park’s pier that rose above the turquoise waves, and evenings listening to crickets from the porch of a lakeside cabin.”
After battles with hurricanes, a $100 million renovation of the entire state park system recently refurbished 20 of its lakeside cabins and added 11 cottages. After all these years, it’s still a great family destination (and a great bargain, with two-bedroom cabins starting at $125 a night). alapark.com/gulfstate or 251/948-7275
Fly into – Foley Municipal Airport (13 miles from Gulf Shores State Park)
Big South Fork, Jamestown, Tennesee
Editor Kim Cross recommends a horseback ride at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, whose hundreds of miles of trails are famous among equestrians but blissfully undiscovered by everyone else. “Southeast Pack Trips’ sure-footed steeds carried us 500 feet down into a sandstone gorge, across streams, and back up for a summit photo op,” she says.
At the end of the day, retire to one of the Laurel Fork Rustic Retreat Cabins, which are just as nice as a cabin in the Smokies but cost considerably less. (Three-bedroom cabins start at $145.) For the “best hike-in lunch deal in any neck of the woods,” try Charit Creek Lodge (reservations are required)—barbecue beef and homemade yeast rolls are cooked on a propane stove for just $8
Fly Into – Scott Municipal Airport (13.8 miles to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.)
Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, Florida
The remote island of Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys is home to one of the state’s most beautiful state parks. Six cabins on the bay side of the island offer air-conditioning and kitchens but no TVs, Internet access, or telephones. Rates start at $120 per night. floridastateparks.org or 305/872-2353
Fly into – Summerland Key Cove Airport (11.9 miles to Bahia Honda State Park)
Falls State Park Lodge, Dawsonville, Georgia
Amicalola means “tumbling waters” in the Cherokee language, and the falls—a short hike from the park’s 56-room lodge—certainly live up to the name. Tumbling for 729 feet, it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the Eastern U.S. The park about 90 miles north of Atlanta gets extremely busy in the fall, so summer’s a super time to visit. Rates start at $79 a night. georgiastateparks.org/amicalola or 800/573-9656
Fly into Lumpkin County Airport ( 17.4 miles to Falls State Park Lodge)
Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast, New Orleans, Louisiana
Located in the historic Garden District, this 17-room B&B is just a few steps from the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line and 10 minutes from the French Quarter. Owners Joe and Bebe Rabhan welcome children and are glad to share their extensive knowledge of the Big Easy’s colorful sites with their guests. Rates start at $99 a night: Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast or 800/490-8542
Fly into New Orleans Lakefront Airport, (11.1 miles to Avenue Inn Bed & Breakfast)
Shaker Village, Harrodsburg, Kentucky
“Shaker Village was the perfect place for our departure from modern life because that’s what the first inhabitants were all about: simplicity,” editor Amy Bickers says of her family vacation there. A New England-based religious sect, the Shakers founded the village in the rolling Kentucky hills in 1805. Today, the restored 3,000-acre Shaker village is the largest of its kind in America.
Amy recalls memories of fishing at the village pond and hiking around the property during the day. “Walking behind my children while they ran ahead of me, laughing and yelling, was better than any virtual reality,” she says.
Rates at The Inn at Shaker Village start at $99. shakervillageky.org or 800/734-5611
Fly into Bluegrass Airport (LEX) (28.7 miles from Shaker Village)
Wisp Resort, McHenry, Maryland
A popular ski destination in the winter, this full-service resort in western Maryland offers fly-fishing, golfing, swimming, hiking, and other activities. Also on the property, Adventure Sports Center International features the country’s only white-water rafting course atop a mountain. Summer lodging packages start at $102 a night: Wisp Resort or 301/387-4911
Fly Into – Garrett County Airport 2G4 (4.1 miles to Wisp Resort)
Carolina Heritage Outfitters Edisto River Treehouses, Canadys, South Carolina
Situated on the banks of the Edisto River, this unique lodge features three tree houses sitting some 15 feet in the air. The tree houses are accessible only by canoes that can be rented from Carolina Heritage Outfitters. Rates start at $150 per person per night (kids pay $100). canoesc.com/treehouses.htm or 843/563-5051
Fly Into St. George Airport – (13.9 miles from Carolina Heritage Outfitters Edisto River Treehouses)
Cataloochee Range, Maggie Valley, North Carolina
This ranch in the clouds has been welcoming guests to its mountaintop location since the 1930s. On the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the ranch offers 1,000 acres for horseback riding, fishing, and hiking. Amenities in its lodge and log cabins are rustic but comfortable. Rates start at $173 a night. cataloocheeranch.com or 800/868-1401
Fly into Jackson County Airport – 37.8 miles from Cataloochee Range.
Tallahatchie Flats, Greenwood, Mississippi
Set on a cotton plantation near the banks of the Tallahatchie River, these updated tenant houses offer an authentic glimpse of what life in the Delta used to be like—but with air-conditioning and full kitchens. Rates start at $65 a night. tallahatchieflats.com or 662/453-1854
Fly into Greenwood- Leflore Airport – 14.6 miles to Tallahatchie Flats
Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma
The popular resort in southeastern Oklahoma includes Beavers Bend State Park, Hochatown State Park, and Lakeview Lodge. Sitting above Broken Bow Lake, the 40-room lodge offers terrific views from the rooms, golf on an 18-hole course, and home-cooked meals in the restaurant. Rates start at $115 a night. beaversbend.com or 800/435-5514
Fly into McCurtain County Regional Airport 4O4 (24.3 miles to Beavers Bend State Park)
Mather Lodge, Petit Jean State Park, Morilton, Arkansas
Overlooking Cedar Creek Canyon, about 60 miles northwest of Little Rock, this 24-room lodge and great family vacation spot features such amenities as a full-service restaurant and a swimming pool. Rates start at $65 a night. petitjeanstatepark.com or 800/264-2462
Fly into The Clinton National Airport in Little Rock (73 miles from the Mather Lodge)
Indian Lodge, Davis Mountains State Park, TX
Built to resemble a multilevel Pueblo village, this 39-room lodge about 200 miles east of El Paso offers comfortable lodgings a mile above sea level in the Davis Mountains. Rates start at $90 a night. Tpwd.state.tx.us or 512/389-8982
Fly into Seven Springs Airport in Balmorhea, TX, 33 miles to the Indian Lodge
Are Private Jet Charter Rates Reasonable Enough for a Family Vacation?
SSC’s clients enjoy chartering the small but luxurious aircraft for business or recreational travel because of the flexibility, range, safety record and budget-friendly cost. The aircraft are available for rental to licensed pilots or full-service charter with one of SSC’s professional pilots.
The Cirrus SR22 is a four-seat aircraft with interior amenities similar to a luxury automobile. It also includes some of the latest and most innovative safety features, including the famous parachute that has brought aircraft safely to the ground in several high-profile news stories, including the incident captured on video last year where a father and daughter walked away after their Cirrus was brought safely to the ground by a parachute eight miles from their destination. (http://www.flyingmag.com/another-cirrus-parachute-deployment-caught-on-video) This aircraft can land on very small airstrips convenient to business and recreational destinations in the southeastern United States. Weather permitting, popular destinations as far away as New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Florida and the Bahamas can typically be reached without a fuel stop.
For a small family or business trip for a family of up to 4 people, the cost of chartering this small plane can be comparable to an airline ticket, but without the inconveniences of airline travel, such as planning your trip around scheduled destinations, making connections, and long lines for security or customs.
For larger families, SSC can offer a range of aircraft that serve these destinations.
Generally since chartered flights in the Cirrus can fly direct and use small airports, passengers can arrive much closer to their intended destination. SSC makes arrangements for ground transportation, catering and other amenities convenient for travelers.
“We’re very proud of our safety and service record, and we take care of your family like we take care of our own families,” noted Doug Goldstrom, President of Sales and Marketing for SSC.
About Special Services Corporation (SSC)
SSC is an aircraft charter, management and maintenance company located at the Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU.) It is the oldest business resident to the airport and has been in business since 1958. SSC is a Cirrus On Demand and Cirrus Training Center provider. SSC is a Wyvern registered operator and an Arg/US Gold Rated Charter Service Provider. They are also the recipients of the NBAA 60 Year Safety Award.
Besides the four Cirrus SR22s, the SSC charter fleet also includes larger business jets – the Citation II, Citation Encore and Ultra have a longer range and larger cabin with seating for up to 8 passengers.
SSC’s office is staffed twenty four hours a day and can be reached at 866-242-3383, or via their website at www.FlySSC.com.