Cold spurs an exodus southward

January 31, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

The cold weather's extended stay in Carroll County is chasing residents to warmer climes.

FTC "People are coming in here saying, 'I want to go someplace warm,' " said Jodi Bunty, manager of Travel Agents International in Cranberry Mall. "They've said, 'I don't care where you send me. I just have to go south.' "

Local travel agents said they usually see a surge in business during the winter as people confirm their summer vacation with employers and begin looking forward to spring. But this year's cold snap, starting with a treacherous ice storm Christmas Day, has area sun worshipers running to travel agencies.

"The day after Christmas, people starting coming in here, and it's been going gangbusters ever since," said David H. McCabe, who owns Travel Agents International with his wife, Lynn.

"People have this sense of cabin fever. They're getting out and around, but there's still a sense of confinement to an extent," he said.

"People have the urge to get away from it all and be able to be free."

Susan Douglas, manager of the Singer Travel Agency in Eldersburg, agreed.

"There are a lot of last-minute trips because of the weather," she said. "This is normally one of the busiest seasons, but it's extra busy this year because of the weather we're experiencing. A lot of them basically want to get to warm weather, no matter what."

Popular destinations now are the Caribbean, Florida Keys or the Bahamas, the agents said. In many cases, travelers are only looking to spend three to four days.

"People are calling up saying, 'I just got two days off from work and would like to go away,' " Mr. McCabe said. "Requests are mostly for the Caribbean at this point, where it's a nice and balmy 70 degrees. We've been thinking about putting up a sign announcing the temperature in Nassau."

For snow bunnies, Colorado, Utah and the Poconos have been popular cold weather destinations.

"Resorts like the Poconos are all enclosed and, in the winter, have winter activities, including entertainment," Mr. McCabe said. "We haven't had as many requests for the northeast United States, like Killington, as we have had for Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

"Quite a number of people go in small groups, like three or four couples. It's a nice getaway, even though it's cold."

Some people are happily planning trips to Alaska -- for next summer.

"I am amazed at the number of people who are thinking about Alaska at this time of year, especially with the ice out there," Mrs. McCabe said. "But now is the time to get the early booking discounts."

Agents are having a tough time filling customers' last-minute requests. Often, wholesalers -- who sell trips to individual agencies -- have already sold their allotment of hotel and cruise spaces, forcing agents on a search mission for bookings.

"Contrary to what you'd expect, that agents would be delighted to fill last-minute spaces on a cruise, they tend not to be because they've been booked for quite a while," said Mr. McCabe, noting that late trips are often scheduled "on request."

"When you get something on request, you have to guarantee it with a credit card number or check," he said. "They won't block it unless they are sure you're going to take it. It doesn't seem to pose a problem because people really want to go, but to some, it's something of a surprise."

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