Escaping the Cold Will Cost You, St. Michael Travel Agent States

There's bad news if you want to flee the cold to soak up some rays. In fact, you might be better off toughing it out until 2015.

Wanna get away? 

The famous tagline used for years by Southwest Airlines has, perhaps, never applied more to people who live in the great state of Minnesota. 

Brutal cold and about average snowfall have combined to make this a tough winter already. And we may have at least seven weeks to go, depending on what that groundhog sees on Feb. 2. 

So, many people are looking to escape. 

The good news? Travel agents are in high demand, and they're doing more and more to help those on the go. 

The bad news? If you want a good, affordable vacation, you need to be booking for next winter, not this one. 

"Really, right now, we're looking at MEA [teachers' in-service] weekend for bookings," Erica Gindele, owner and operator of Inspiration Travel in St. Michael, said. "Getting away right now is tough. The airfare alone is going to cost so much more because the true trend in travel is to book early. People booked spring break trips for this year in mid-2013, because they're able to plan ahead and save." 

The culture shift is due to airline pricing. Airlines like Delta, Southwest and even independent carriers like Sun Country are offering breaks to those who book early, versus the "last-minute" deals they used to give away. 

"Those don't appeal to families. And frankly, it wasn't fair to the person who had taken the time to sit down, plan things out and get organized," Gindele said. 

Take Disney, for example. Trips to the Magic Kingdom in either Florida or California must, because of things like lodging, dining and park experiences, be planned months in advance. 

"You can't really set all that up and then sit around waiting to see how you're going to get there. And Disney runs the world, so things started to change," Gindele said with a smile. 

But if you're planning ahead, and looking to escape in the fall, or even next winter, travel agents are "trendy" again, according to multiple sources. 

Gindele agreed, saying "most of us are really busy. We're just seeing a lot of people who haven't done a Disney trip before, or a destination wedding, turning back to agents because they find online bookings pretty confusing." 

Plus, agents have done their research. Of the three big agents in STMA - Bonnie Lee at Travel Leaders, Carrie Kritzberger at Pineapple Travel and Gindele - all have been on the scene of some of the most popular destinations for people in this area. 

"Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean; all are flush with great resorts. And you'll have 200 Trip Advisor reviews on each one. So how do you know which one to pick?" Gindele asks. "You have to talk to someone who's been there. And most of us have. So agents are great to have around." 

So if you're thinking winters like this year (extreme cold since early December) or last year's (snow from December through April) are going to be the new rule, and not the exception, you can get away from winter 2014-2015 by thinking about it now. 

"Frankly, you're going to have a better experience if you plan ahead and have a guide going into it, instead of doing something last-minute," Gindele said. "You'll thank yourself later." 


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