Getting Away: A Look at America’s Vacation Evolution

Packing up and getting away for an annual vacation is a ritual many Americans plan for and anticipate all year long. Whether we prefer the allure of the shore, the call of the wild or bright lights and big cities, we rely on vacations to help us recharge and reconnect.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, taking time away, especially time at the beach is proven to benefit your health and your career. And we learned that too many people still leave vacation time unused every year.

Hopefully, you’re already in the process of planning your summer 2020 getaway. Vantage still has popular weeks available at all kinds of Ocean City rentals. As you think about making your next escape, we thought it would be interesting to see how vacations have changed over time.

Reserved for the rich

From our nation’s infancy, leisurely getaways were privileges enjoyed by society’s most well-to-do. Even then, their trips away from home were for health reasons as much as they were for pure pleasure.

Over time, camps and spas started popping up in different regions, offering more affordable options for a respite. Yet only around 1 percent of the nation’s population visited a tourist destination in 1860, according to economist Thomas Weiss. After the Civil War ended in 1865, railroad travel allowed people to explore more of the country with ease.

Vacations came into style in the early 20th century, as wealthy New Yorkers retreated to the quiet wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains and the fresh air of the Hamptons. In fact, the word “vacation” came into fashion at this time (replacing the standard British “holiday”) because families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts announced they were vacating their posh city homes for more rustic surrounding.

Though the concept of vacations grew more familiar to Americans, actually taking one remained a privilege for the wealthy. And then…

Middle class on the move

America’s post-World War II economic boom welcomed more people into the middle class and put more discretionary income into family coffers. Meanwhile, the notion of paid time off from work was becoming more common. It had originated years before with workers’ unions and some progressive-thinking employers who understood the value of giving salaried workers and manual laborers a break.

In just a few years more Americans than ever had the key ingredients for a vacation: money and time. They also had the means. The automobile became more affordable, and new highways and byways connected Americans to more places than ever, much like the railroad did decades before.

Motels and hotels sprung up along the roadsides and in destinations that promised all varieties of peace, quiet, fun and sun. City dwellers headed to the mountains and ocean shores, while those in the suburbs and beyond experienced the glitz and glamour of the modern metropolis.

Ocean City emerges

If you want to see how vacations have change over time, just look at Ocean City, Maryland. The first beach-front guest cottages opened for fishermen in 1869. Six years later, Ocean City’s first major hotel opened, boasting 400 rooms. Tourists arrived by ferry, stagecoach and railroad to spend a few days along the sunny shore.

Beach trips in those early days bore little resemblance to modern-day Ocean City. They were much fancier affairs, as people often dressed formally for dinner and danced the evenings away to live orchestras in hotel ballrooms.

Like so many other beach towns along the Eastern seaboard, Ocean City aimed to draw even bigger crowds by adding piers and a boardwalk, where visitors could enjoy all sorts of games, rides and amusements. The gorgeous Trimpers hand-carved carousel made its first go-round in Ocean City in 1912. It remains America’s oldest continuously running carousel, and you can still climb aboard for a ride.

Progress happened quickly, though some was not planned. In 1933, a hurricane created what’s now the Ocean City Inlet, helped establish the town as an important fishing port and ultimately the White Marlin Capital of the world. In 1952, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened for travelers, making Ocean City more accessible to those from Baltimore and Washington. After the Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened in 1964, enabling easy passage from Virginia, Ocean City became—and remains—one of the East Coast’s largest vacation areas.

Make your own history this summer

We may not roar into Ocean City by rail or dress to the nines for our seafood dinners, but we enjoy tremendous advantages over previous generations of tourists. We have more choices in how and when we travel and where we stay. The greatest of all may be the convenience of finding and booking a vacation rental 24/7 online.

Take advantage of modern technology and book your Ocean City rental with Vantage to avoid extra fees and see our full selection. Our reservationists are also standing by at 410-723-2002 to help you find your happy place.

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About Vantage
Founded in 2007, Vantage Vacation Rentals specializes in delivering exceptional experiences for both vacation property owners and their rental guests in popular
Maryland destinations such as Ocean City, Annapolis and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the Delaware beaches and North Myrtle Beach, South
Carolina. Vantage serves owners with extensive property marketing and promotion as well as comprehensive property management services to help maximize rental income
opportunities. With over 550 managed properties, Vantage makes it easy for vacationing guests to find and reserve the perfect option—then enhances their stay with exclusive benefits and discounts. To learn more about Vantage Vacation Rentals, visit,,, and