The best summer vacations are carefree and easy — and go off without a hitch. So before you head out, we offer a few guideposts to make your Minnesota getaway great.
Relax and stay a while: Many resorts, especially quaint ones with a limited number of cabins, require a weeklong stay during summer. This long-standing tradition, which renders Saturday-to-Saturday or Sunday-to-Sunday bouts of lakeside fun, is based on sound principles.
Stay for a week, and you get to know the other guests, spend quality time with your family, don’t fuss when it takes a long time to get the slimy worm on the hook. Oh, and also the resort owners — facing a brief season in which to reap the financial rewards of their yearlong toil and lakefront taxes — don’t have to sweat the schedule quite as much. Besides, you’ve driven a long way to get to The Lake, so let the car engine cool for a good long time.
Modern life, unfortunately, doesn’t always fit neatly into traditional ways. If your family schedule won’t allow a full week away, request flexibility. When other families want to skip out early, a resort may have partial-week slots to fill. Just don’t expect to get a “yes” to your plea early in the season, when hope for a weeklong guest is still running high.
Pack the DEET (and use it): According to the Minnesota Department of Health, tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease have increased from 200 to 300 cases per year during the 1990s to 1,300 to 2,000 or more cases per year in the past five years.
Human anaplasmosis is among the diseases on the rise. This unpleasant bacterial ailment causes severe headaches, fever, muscle aches and chills; it is treated with antibiotics.
In recent years, deer ticks — aka blacklegged ticks, the ones that convey most of the tick-borne diseases in Minnesota — have spread from the east-central part of the state to other wooded regions.
Then there is West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes. It arrived in the state in 2002.
Fortunately, avoiding bug bites — and the nasty diseases they can bring — requires a simple squirt of bug spray. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that repellents contain 20 to 30 percent DEET, and that it go on both skin and clothing. Spray, repeat often.
Book early or off-season: Sometimes landing a cabin at a popular resort is as elusive as a loon sighting. That’s because some of the most popular vacation spots have little more than a handful of cabins.
The best way to ensure your chosen resort, during your chosen week, is to secure it very early. How early? Many resort-goers reserve their cabin for the following year as they check out to head home. That kind of devotion can cause difficulty for other people who want to squeeze in.
If you’ve found what could be the perfect place, be flexible about your dates and the cabin in which you’ll stay. Ask to be put on a waiting list. And keep calling. Eventually, your perseverance could pay off.
If it doesn’t, you can still arrive in that particular piece of paradise. Just hit the place in the off-season instead. Not a big sacrifice. Early June or late August? With warm days and cool nights — and with many kids at school — resorts will be less busy and less expensive.
Know what to bring: With a “housekeeping cabin,” you can expect pots and pans and all the stuff you need to make and serve food. But what about towels and sheets? Some resorts want you to bring your own bath, kitchen and bedroom linens; others provide them. Do you have access to a grill? Check to see if you should bring charcoal or if there is a stash for your use.
Don’t wind up at the resort needing to return to the nearest grocery — that might be many miles away.
Chat before you go: Check in with the resort staff by phone before your trip. They can help you find the resort, remind you that the laundry only takes quarters or let you know that every Monday night, they host a s’more party on the beach.
That kind of personal communication gets any vacation off to a good start. Especially one at a Minnesota resort, a place that can feel like a visit to good friends — good friends who landed in a North Woods paradise.