No need to head to the airport next time you have a long weekend. Who's got patience for baggage claim when time's a-tickin'?
Instead, gas up the car and hit the road. And we don't mean head for the nearest HoJo.
That's because in every state there is a host of inns, bed-and-breakfasts and lodges that offer amenities comparable to the world's top hotels. These include gourmet dining options, large spas with a long list of treatment options, plenty of activities and plush guest rooms with touches like Frette linens and marble-topped bathrooms.
With air travelers experiencing increasing delays and cancellations--data from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that 75.4% of all U.S. carrier flights were on time in 2006, down from 77.5% in 2005--not to mention long lines at security, U.S. hotels and resorts have upped the luxury ante to lure local vacationers from international destinations.
"There has been a backyard marketing effort by hotels to target vacationers who want to stay near home," says Cheryl Boyer, president of Lodging Advisors, a New York City-based hotel consultancy. They "realize that air travel has become more of a hassle, and they're trying to get people to realize what they have in their own backyard."
To do this, hotels and resorts are highlighting such amenities as spa services, gourmet dining and plush accommodations.
"Hotels do very focused marketing to bring in the local population, and creating packages and putting ads in newspapers is a very effective way to attract them," says Britton Colbert, principal of Pittsburgh-based Colbert Hotel Consulting. "Consumers will often read about a fun package and think it's a great idea and be excited to go."
New England Charm
Take the Virginia Hotel, a luxury property in Cape May, N.J. It proves that the words "Jersey shore" and "upscale" can be synonymous. Just a half-block from the beach, the hotel has 24 rooms that boast LG plasma TVs and Bulgari toiletries. Its three-night Life's a Beach package includes accommodations in a standard room with a queen-size bed, continental breakfast and two days of cabanas on the beach with lunch.
If you're more of a nature lover than a beachgoer and live in the South, the Old Edwards Inn & Spa in Highlands, N.C., promises a taste of nature in a tony setting. This inn, completely redone in 2004 to include a new spa and seven suites and amenities like Frette linens and Bulgari toiletries, is situated in a bucolic mountain town. Its 32 guest rooms have period antiques and baths equipped with rainfall showers and heated-tile floors. Outdoor activities include hiking and mountain biking.
On the other end of the country, the 422-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino in Incline Village, Nev., offers guests every imaginable activity, like jet skiing on the private beach, rock climbing, whitewater rafting or gambling in the casino. The resort gets plenty of visitors from the Bay Area, which is less than a four-hour drive away. Guests can jet ski or swim on the property's private beach. The rooms have wood furniture and an airy mountain feel.
Properties like these, which offer a weekend's worth of activities and are a few hours' drive from major metropolitan areas, have a slight edge over more remote destinations.
"If you stick closer to home, you don't have the imponderables that come with flying that can cut short your vacation time," says Bob Harrell, founder of Harrell Associates, a New York City-based travel and airline consulting company.
With ritzy possibilities so accessible, you can spend more time actually enjoying the luxury and less time on the journey there.
© 2012 Forbes.com