By the time Martha Barkley was done sharing her ideas about family vacations with the Monitor, she had run out of room on a couple of recycled sheets of paper and signed her letter on the envelope flap.
Such enthusiasm was reflected in letters and e-mail messages received from readers in response to the Monitor's April 1 call for travel tips and suggestions for family vacationers.
After 60 years spent in the Washington, D.C., area, Ms. Barkley and her husband have retired to Charleston, S.C., an attractive destination in its own right. But her first-line recommendation is for families visiting the nation's bustling capital.
A side trip to Gambrill State Park near historic Frederick, Md., she says, makes a nice break from the usual landmarks - and only about an hour from the Beltway. This "drive to the mountains" offers "marvelous views of the Frederick area" and a "mini vacation from the city."
Leonard Murray of Methuen, Mass., north of Boston, is in no hurry to escape the big city. His idea of an enjoyable urban adventure is a trip to Montreal, the world's second-largest French-speaking city, after Paris. Mr. Murray calls Montreal friendly, safe, and cosmopolitan, plus American dollars go further there because of a favorable exchange rate.
For some, summers are an invitation to flee cities. The maritime provinces of Canada come highly endorsed. Alice Atkinson of Mashpee, Mass., says Prince Edward Island is an ideal family vacation spot, with plentiful campgrounds, golf courses, and charm, while Robert Donaldson of Bath, Maine, compares the island's sandy beaches to those on Cape Cod, only without the crowds.
Another popular Northeast destination is Maine, where backwoods serenity awaits at Greenville's Spencer Pond Camps, says Deborah Scheetz of Dracut, Mass. "It's remote - the nearest 'civilization' is an hour's drive on dirt roads," she says. "We've never been there without seeing moose." Ms. Scheetz says the cabins make it "like camping without camping," and the fishing is good right off the dock.
Ann Russ of Tofte, Minn., says her family of four loves to maximize their outdoor vacation time by looking for the cheapest charter flights that land near national and state parks. "We've explored the Everglades via Miami, Zion National Park via Las Vegas, Myakka State Park via Sarasota [Fla.], and Padre Island via San Antonio." The Russes pack a car-top carrier so that everything fits into a small rental car.
Karen Ruberti of Longwood, Fla., has nothing but praise for Callaway Gardens Resort in Pine Mountain, Ga., which offers family packages of nature-oriented and recreational fun. A plus for children is a day camp organized by circus and ski-show performers.
Bill and Martha Kilgour of Madison, Wis., couldn't resist sharing details of their trip to Britain with two young teenagers. They ran an ad in the Monitor's World Edition, explaining who they were and what sort of accommodations they sought - homes "preferably with children, piano, near church and mass transit."
The Kilgours got six replies and stayed in all of them for a "grand summer on a low budget."