Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Escape To The Sun

Beloit Daily News

Travel agents say business is brisk

“Enjoy each day the best you can.”

That’s what Roger Allen, 76, of South Beloit said about leaving the Stateline Area to enjoy the warmth of Lake Havasu, Ariz., on Saturday for his annual weather respite. He, like many other locals, are flocking to warmer climates to escape the frigid weather.

According to local travel agents, business is better than ever. They say people have reached the point where they just want to enjoy themselves, seize the day and take a vacation.

That’s something Allen knows quite well. After a long career owning Village Cleaners of Rockton the retiree started traveling to Arizona about 10 years ago with his girlfriend who has since passed away. Allen, who rents out condos, said he likes to lay out, get a tan, golf and do some more gambling in California and Las Vegas during his trips.

He added the weather is usually in the 60s or 70s.

“I don’t like the snow and the cold,” Allen said.

Allen will stay in Arizona until April 1. He said one of the highlights of his time out there is reconnecting with friends he’s met during his Arizona winters. Then other friends and family often travel down to stay with him. To Allen, the investment is well worth it.

“I always look forward to this time” Allen said. “You never know what the next year is going to bring. “I wake up in the morning and try to take every day by itself.”

Nancy Dix, owner of Action Travel Agency, 644 Broad St., Beloit, knows a lot of people like Allen.

“We are busier than we were last summer and fall. People have decided they are going. They work hard all year and want to take vacation time and go somewhere warm,” Dix said.

Florida, Texas and Arizona seem to be the most common destinations to settle in for a few months. Cruises to Mexico, Jamaica and the Caribbean are also popular. People sometimes prefer cruises where all the food and beverages are taken care of ahead of time.

“There are no surprises,” Dix added.

She said it’s usually the retired generation doing the extended stays.

“They have gotten to point in life where they can get away,” she said. “Once it starts getting cold and ugly they remember why they did it other years.”

Jeannie Fischer, owner of the Travel Connection, 593 Berkshire Court, has also seen business pick up. She said a few customers are even planning South American and Mexico cruises as well as to Ireland, Hawaii, Jamaica and Alaska. She said people have gotten to the point they are ready to travel and aren’t being deterred by the economy.

“My business has increased, and I’m very happy about. I already got 20 bookings for Alaska cruises for next summer. It’s pretty good to be booked that far out,” Fischer said.

Fischer said the only thing a little different this year is the heightened security. When she was leaving Milwaukee for Arizona, she said the rivets on her blue jeans alerted security. Guards were also pulling people out of lines and rechecking their carry-on bags.

Dix advises her customers to pack their patience if traveling. While she typically advises clients to arrive 90 minutes ahead of time, she tells them to go a minimum of two hours ahead of time for domestic flights and three to four hours ahead of time for international trips.

It’s also important to pack liquids, gels and aerosols in three-ounce or smaller containers.

All liquids, gels and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Each traveler can use only one, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Other liquid items must be packed in contained in the checked-in baggage, according to the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site,

Dix added that mascara, deodorant and lipstick count as the items which need to be in the storage bags. People who don’t adhere to the rules may have to throw it away.