BLOOMINGTON — While some Central Illinoisans are hunkering down under their blankets with mugs of hot chocolate, others are keeping travel agents' phones ringing as they look for a warm-weather oasis.
“They're coming out of the woodwork,” said Tim Davis, head of Suzi Davis Travel/Direct Travel, Bloomington. “There was a lot of pent-up demand. People were waiting and thinking it might stay 50 degrees all winter.”
Dianne Van Dettum, director of leisure sales for Alexander Travel, Peoria, said January is always busy. But on Monday, she said, the travel agency received a lot of calls from people saying, “I want to go somewhere warm.”
Kasey Wynn, owner of Dazzling Getaways in Bloomington, added, “This winter there have been far more last-minute trips (requested) than in the last five years I've been doing this.”
She said more people are asking to get away quickly, saying, “I want to go in three or four weeks.”
Good deals are available on charter-type, all-inclusive resort vacations, said Davis.
Because the relatively warm November caused people to hold off on booking winter trips, prices dropped, he explained.
“Prices came down, the weather got bad and the consumer is benefiting from still good availability and excellent pricing for the ability to escape the Illinois winter,” said Davis.
Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are the most popular resort getaways, according to Davis and Wynn.
Flights on regularly scheduled airlines are still relatively available, but the prices aren't as good as chartered trips, said Davis.
Nevertheless, Wynn said, even if a super-cheap, last-minute deal isn't available, “people seem to be willing to pay more when it's so cold it hurts your face.”
Nearly everyone Wynn has heard from is looking for a resort stay, not a cruise.
“They just want to go and lay on the beach,” she said.
As long as the stock market and the economy remain strong, Davis expects travel to remain strong, too.
“Travel had a great year in '17 in general and '18 looks to be better,” he said.
But there is a downside to being a busy travel agent this time of year.
“Every time I book a trip for somebody, I'm wishing I could go,” said Wynn.