April 13, 2010— -- Spirit Airline's latest baggage fee -- up to $45 for the privilege of stuffing your bag into an overhead bin -- has at least one travel group hoping vacationers will start packing light... very light.
The American Association of Nude Recreation advocates vacation at nudist resorts and says the rising baggage costs make these so-called "Nakations" even more attractive.
Spend a week at a nudist resort and all you'll need -- sunscreen, cap, sunglasses, shoes and toiletries -- will fit in a bag easily stowed under the seat in front of you, said Erich Schuttauf, executive director for the AANR.
Nakations are not just for aging hippies, but for Gen X-ers and echo-boomers as well, according to the AANR. It says that 23 percent of echo boomers and 18 percent of X-ers are looking for a nude recreation experience, proving that the times they are a-changing.
"Obviously, we have tons of boomers," said Donna Daniels, owner of Castaways Travel, a clothing-optional travel company that is a division of Fox Travel, an American Express agency in Houston. But they get younger travelers, too: Castaways' clients range in age from mid 30s to 70s.
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What's the appeal?
Well, clothes can be a cause of stress for some folks. Lose your clothes; lose your stress, and not worrying about your baggage reduces anxiety even further.
Who goes to nudist resorts? Bankers, bus drivers, lawyers, housewives, families, you name it, they're here, according to Carolyn Hawkins, the AANR's public relations coordinator.
"You have all walks of life here," she says. "The good thing about it is that you don't know the banker from the bus driver if they're not wearing their clothes."
Hmm. She's got a point.
Sounds good, but, boy, a lot of us are pretty self-conscious when it comes to walking around buck-naked. But some people are just natural nudists.
Tabitha Pearth, 26, Kissimmee, Fla., is one of them. She grew up on a lake and lived in a swimsuit most of the time and has always found clothing constraining.
"As soon as I walk through my door at home, I take them off," she says.
She'd never heard of nudist resorts, but when she ran across one in the phone book, she was an immediate convert. She and her husband, Regis, 36, just got back from a nude cruise.
Herman Galon, 38, also of Kissimmee, started out "not wearing anything as I slept," then moved on to watching TV in the nude, "Holy cow!" he thought, "this is the most relaxed I've every been!"
Then he discovered nude resorts and cruises, where he could sit by the pool, order a drink, play tennis and do anything else he could think of.
Nude Vacations for Families?
The AANR is working to make nakations more attractive to families, and, with a few limited exceptions, parents are even encouraged to bring their children to AANR clubs, and
Though nudist resorts are often associated with swingers, association's mandate is to promote, enhance and protect family and social nude recreation. Its 250 member clubs (in North America, Canada and the Caribbean; the AANR is affiliated with the International Naturist Federation, which has clubs in Europe) foster a wholesome, nurturing environment for members and their families.
The association has about 45,000 members, but of course nudist resorts are not for everyone, Schuttauf and Hawkins hasten to say.
Schuttauf, who discovered the appeal of nude resorts while working a high-stress job as a lawyer for a big firm, compares it to the difference between walking on the beach with shoes on and walking barefoot on the beach.
"When you go to a nudist resort for a day visit, it's like a weekend of vacation in terms of relaxation," he says. "Go for a weekend and it's like getting a week's vacation."
Daniels and her husband, Jim Bailey, started Castaways in 1991. Clothing-optional vacations were a hobby for them at the time, not a business. But message boards for like-minded travelers showed them that there was a dearth of information about clothing-optional resorts. It's turned into a colorful sideline for the company, which chartered "naked flight" to a clothing-optional resort in Mexico back in 2003.
Turns out the Federal Aviation Administration doesn't care what you wear or don't wear, as long as you buckle that seatbelt. Of course, it's still not wise to show up for a regular commercial flight wearing nothing.
Castaways is currently planning a nude river cruise in the south of France this summer.
"There are a lot of people who lead a stressful life and want to get as far away from the every day as possible," says Daniels.
No Clothes Means No Sun Protection
Nudist travel doesn't always guarantee no luggage. Daniels is passionate about shoes, and used to bring as many as 20 pairs. These days she says she holds herself to 10 or 11 pairs.
And, reminds the AANR, be sure to pack that sunscreen.