By SEAN ROWLEY
While destinations to see family are the top request for the holidays, many people use the time off to go on vacation.
“Actually, I get a lot of requests to go someplace warm during the holiday season,” said Linda Spyres of Vacations R Us. “Florida is very popular, especially the Keys. Other destinations are Mexico and the Caribbean - and cruises.”
While some vacationers look for warmer climes, others seek wintry weather.
“A lot of people also want to go skiing,” Spyres said. “They go to Colorado and other places in the west. I recently booked one family that is spending six nights between Christmas and New Year’s on a skiing trip.”
For those willing to spend more on an overseas vacation, Spyres suggested a favorite destination.
“I love the Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkts, in Germany,” she said. “I lived in Germany for five years, and these are wonderful. They are beautiful venues that usually sell crafts and gifts. They set them up in their town squares.”
For those looking for a less expensive vacation during the holidays, Spyres said there are many options.
“Kansas City is beautiful,” she said. “Branson [Mo.] is also a great option if you want to stay close to home. One of my favorites is San Antonio. You can spend a week there and never get bored, and the weather is usually warmer than here. They set up lights along the river, and the Riverwalk is absolutely gorgeous.”
Travel agents such as Spyres are paid by commission. Though individuals can certainly arrange their own vacations, booking through an agent can offer advantages at little or no extra cost.
“The airlines don’t pay a commission, so we do charge $20 to book airline tickets,” Spyres said. “I also charge $100 to arrange custom trips - vacations that are not part of a tour. If the person then goes through me for all booking, then the $100 goes toward the trip.”
Spyres has visited most of the places she books, and that agents have access to deals not available online.
“We receive deals and promotional codes all the time,” she said. “Our destinations are vetted. Some people want to stay at a hotel, but I cannot book it because it has not been approved. One of our sayings in the industry is, ‘If you don’t use a travel agent, you’re on your own.’”
While there is still time to book holiday travel and find some deals, Spyres reminded vacationers that more specials on fares and lodging are available if the trip is arranged as early as possible.
“Most of my holiday clients have already booked,” she said. “Right now is a good time to be considering your vacations for spring break or the summer. Spring is the ideal time to plan trips for fall break or the holidays. You can book up to 330 days in advance.”
Should it be decided to wait until next year, or if there simply isn’t much money in the family vacation fund, Spyres said people shouldn’t forget the local holiday attractions.
“If you want to enjoy a staycation, there are always the lights in Muskogee,” she said. “And then there are Tahlequah’s lights on the North End. We have the outdoor skating rink for Snowflake, and this year all the buildings will be lined with holiday lights. We have a lot of attractions - a lot of people travel to Tahlequah for the holidays, you know.”
WHAT YOU SAID
The Tahlequah Daily Press recently asked readers to respond to an online poll. The question was: “What do you plan to do for the holidays? (This could include Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s.) Pick the one that best describes your plans.” Of 250 respondents, a plurality of 93 voters, or 37 percent, voted for “A combination of staying home, traveling, and/or welcoming family.” Sixty-seven voters, or 27 percent, said, “Stay home for all three holidays, but will welcome family/friends for at least one.” Answering to “Celebrate all three holidays at home with just my nuclear family” were 43 voters, or 17 percent. Thirty-two voters, or 13 percent, answered “Travel to see family/friends for at least one holiday,” and 11 voters, or four percent, voted for “Undecided.” Four voters, or 2 percent, voted for “Travel with my own family to a vacation destination for at least one holiday.”