Arthur Frommers Budget Travel....
Heading South for the Winter
All those birds heading south every winter must know what theyre doing. Quite simply, warm weather provides the perfect reason for humans to travel south as well. With a wide variety of destinations, accommodations, and activities, heading south this winter just makes good sense and our tips will help you save cents, dollars, and headaches.
Here in the southeast we have always known that birds aren't the only species that fly south for the winter, says Bill Hardman, president and CEO of the Southeast Tourism Society. The coastal areas have long enjoyed the steady stream of our snowbird friends from the north who visit the beaches of the southeast during the cold winter months. In recent years, however, visitors are finding that warm sunshine and sandy beaches aren't the only things that the region has to offer in winter months.
The mountains of the southeast offer skiing and traditional outdoor sports, but the mild climate makes outdoor activities such as golf, tennis, hiking, fishing, and hunting accessible in even the coldest winter months. Unique festivals and events also draw visitors to many destinations in the winter months.
The Southeast Tourism Society's Top 20 Events lists for December, January and February abound with events as diverse as the Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration in Memphis, Tennessee (Jan.); the Lowcountry Oyster Festival in Charleston, SC (Jan.), the Native American Pow Wow in Durham, NC (Feb.); and of course, countless Mardi Gras activities in Louisiana (Feb.). Of course, the months of November and December abound with special holiday events like the Victorian Front Porch Christmas in Opelika, AL; the White Columns and Holly event in Macon, GA; and Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights, in Lookout Mountain, GA.
"The south is a perfect place to head to during the winter months because this region offers some of the greatest scenic and cultural diversity in the U.S., says Jack E. Mannix, a Certified Travel Consultant and president of the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (ICTA). Winter travelers can find everything from beautiful coastlines and warm climates to cultural and historic attractions, fabulous dining, and southern hospitality. Plus, theres sure to be some great deals this winter to attract travelers who stayed home as a result of the soft economy earlier this year, added Mannix.
According to Mannix, smart travelers make the most of winter travel to this region by planning in advance and taking a few precautions. He says, Sometimes searching for the best deal can land travelers far from paradise and cost more than they bargained for. For instance, when making travel arrangements, its common that travelers dont fully understand all the rules and restrictions, are unable to get the advertised fare or quoted price, or end up paying more than necessary, especially during the busy winter season.
The ICTA offers the following tips for upcoming winter travel: do your homework (use the phone, the Internet, and a good travel agent to find and understand the best deal); do a background check, if necessary; pay by credit card (this helps protect against fraud); know the facts about any charter flights chosen, which often operate under very different rules from traditional commercial airlines (for example, its legal to cancel up to ten days prior to departure, to change schedules at the last minute, or to delay flights up to 48 hour without mandated compensation or alternative transportation); review the fine print; consider travel insurance; and know your rights (like being able to cancel a charter flight without penalty if the operator increases prices at the last minute or changes your itinerary (different flight or hotel) and youre not happy with the change).
Thus, from Florida up to the Carolinas, winter travel to the south is definitely for the birds (and smart humans). Its the ideal time to head south!
Theres more to experience in Florida than most people can fit into one vacation--sun, sand, historic sites, unique nature- and heritage-based experiences, modern marvels, and non-stop thrills make the Sunshine State the ideal vacation spot for couples and families alike. Perhaps those are just some of the reasons most people come back again and again. Call toll-free (888) 7-FLA USA anytime for a free Florida vacation guide or check out the sites on the web at www.bt.flausa.com.
Choice Hotels ((800) 4 CHOICE; www.choicehotels.com) offers a great choice in the Sunshine State. With more than 185 locations across Florida and 20% discounts, whether youre headed to the beach, the golf course, or an amusement park, theres a clean and comfortable room at a great rate conveniently located right where youre going. The power of being in Florida (or elsewhere) with Choice Hotels has never been better!
The Choice Privileges(r) frequent traveler program is the fastest way to free stays! Every night that you're a guest at a point-eligible rate at any Comfort, Quality, Clarion, or Sleep hotel in the U.S., you'll earn points toward free stays. Choice Hotels has also teamed up with the American Airlines(r) AAdvantage(r) and U.S. Airways Dividend Miles(r) to provide you with the opportunity to earn airline miles at all U.S. Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Clarion, and Sleep Inn hotels. Beginning August 15, you can earn 250 AAdvantage miles for your stay at any one of the over 2,400 Choice Privileges(r) hotels nationwide. At check-in, simply let the front desk know whether you'd like to earn points or miles. You can redeem your points for gift certificates from more than 100 national retailers and restaurants plus exciting international vacations for two to destinations like Hawaii and the Caribbean.
Best of all, Choice Privileges(r) membership is free and you can choose from more than 2,300 Comfort, Quality, Clarion, and Sleep hotel locations. That's 2,300 hotels across the U.S. where you can earn and redeem points for awards and free stays. In fact, just about anywhere you travel in the U.S., you'll find a Comfort, Quality, Clarion, or Sleep hotel, resort, inn or suites. Other special Choice Hotels offerings include the Sixty Plus Rate and the Kids Stay Free program.
You want Florida, you want it all, and you only want to unpack once. No problem--you want Tampa Bay. In the Tampa Bay area, a single days itinerary might include breakfast at a waterside cafe, Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, a trolley ride to Channelside for shopping, IMAX movies, outdoor concerts, and more. Then, its on to historic Ybor City, where the Cuban sandwiches are hot and crisp, the cigars are hand-rolled, and the colorful streets are lined with fun.
Whats next? What about white sand beaches, sportfishing, jet skiing, parasailing, boating, and some of the most succulent seafood under the sun? For more information about all of this, call (800) 36 TAMPA or go to www.visittampabay.com.
Right next to the Walt Disney World(r) Resort, another world of vacation excitement awaits. When you stay in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, youre just minutes away from all of Central Floridas world-famous attractions. With more than 40,000 rooms, youre sure to find the perfect accommodations for your family. In addition, some of the Sunshine States most beautiful nature preserves, wetlands, and woodlands are located right in the area. For a free Visitors Guide full of great savings, call (800) 333 KISS or visit www.floridakiss.com
Rate the number ten beach in America by The Travel Channel in 2001, Panama City Beach offers 27 miles of emerald-green waters and sugary white sand along the Gulf of Mexico. Legendary worldwide for its beautiful beaches and subtropical climate, Panama City Beach is a natural draw for vacationers seeking warmth and sunshine this winter.
Visitors can participate in a vast array of activities, including dazzling diving, snorkeling, fishing, golf, tennis, and theme parks. For nature lovers, St. Andrews State Park is a must! Rated the top beach in 1995, this pristine park offers windswept dunes, dense pine flatwoods, and marshes teeming with wildlife that are perfect for birdwatching. For further information, just call (800) PCBEACH or visit www.800pcbeach.com.
Pensacola ((800) 874-1234; www.visitpensacola.com) offers a warm welcome this winter at cool costs, with beaches, museums, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and much more. Pensacola, a waterfront community famous for miles of sugar-white sand, also offers activities ranging from a nationally-renowned aviation museum to an accredited zoo. Southern heritage and Gulf beaches provide a scenic setting for rest and relaxation. The National Museum of Naval Aviation covers the age of aviation from the first flight to todays travels in space. In addition, food and entertainment in Pensacola go hand-in-hand!
If youre looking for budget accommodations in Florida or elsewhere, Hotel Reservation Network can definitely help. HRN is one of the Internets leading provider of discount hotel accommodations, supplying travelers with an easy-to-use one-stop source for the guaranteed lowest hotel rates through the Internet. HRN provides business and leisure travelers with the most value for their dollars, offering up to 65% off the hotel rack rate and up to 40% off the hotel corporate rate! To check out this great service, call (888) 511-5317 or visit www.hoteldiscount.com.
If you think all Georgians do is sit on the dock of the bay, think again! They explore the shores of the Golden Isles or shove off for deep-sea sportfishing. They visit the cobblestone streets of Savannah, where Georgia was founded, and then catch a ferry to Sapelo Island to discover Gullah culture. They make their way down to The Land of Trembling Earth in the Okefenokee Swamp. Then they can play more than 500 holes of golf anywhere along the way back up the coast. For more information about the many attractions along Georgia coast, call (800) VISIT GA or visit www.georgia.org.
Situated off the southeast coast of Georgia, Brunswick & The Golden Isles are comprised of the charming town of Brunswick and the islands of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. Vast marshlands, winding rivers, and ribbon-smooth beaches frame this legendary corner of Georgias coast. Glorious year-round weather, accommodations from luxury to camping, and a full range of activities add to any vacation. Additional attractions include 216 holes of great golf, miles of beaches, acres of tennis courts, bike trails, sportfishing and other watersports, historic sites, a water taxi, a casino/cruise ship, and super shopping. The hospitality, like the climate, is welcoming all year. For a free Visitors Guide, call (800) 933-COAST or visit www.bgivb.com.
The Charleston area ((800) 868-8118; www.charlestoncvb.com) is especially enjoyable during the winter value season. Thanks to typically mild winters, visitors can enjoy historic attractions like Fort Sumter, the beautiful antebellum plantations and gardens, or Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum--all while avoiding the crowds! its also an excellent time to work in a round or two of golf on any one of more than 20 championship courses found in the area. Of course, indoor pursuits like antique shopping, the spectacular South Carolina Aquarium, or just enjoying one incredible meal after another remain just as popular any time of year.
Wherever you choose from the above recommendations, youre sure to find a warm welcome to accompany the warm weather. This combination makes southern hospitality hard to beat this winter!