“I want to go somewhere warm.” The classic winter travel quote.
We’ve all said it, I’m sure we’ll all say it again sometime this winter and in years to come. Minnesota seemed to get very cold, very quickly this year and my thoughts have already turned to going somewhere warmer, even just for a few days, sometime this winter.
Where, then, shall we go?
For those who don’t know, I love to travel. I don’t care if it is a quick two-hour drive to Duluth or if it is to Europe, I love to go places. There are a few questions I ask myself when planning a winter trip, so if you need a place to begin you could start with these:
- How warm and what kind of warmth do I want?
- How do I want to get there?
- What kind of lodgings are available?
- Is there something specific I want to do?
- How can I best book my winter travel plans?
Let us begin, then, and dive into a Minnesotan’s winter travel guide! Disclaimer: the following are my opinions and based on my own experiences. Your own experience may be different.
1. How Warm and What Kind?
If you know anyone who goes away for the winter, they’ll tell you that they picked their destination based largely on weather–more specifically the humidity. Some people love the arid warmth of Arizona. At one point, my grandfather was recommended by a doctor that he spend some time there for his sinuses. Other people, individuals like myself, yearn for the humidity of a place like Florida. The winter is hard on our skin and Florida always feels very nice in January or February!
To be fair, you really don’t have to go that far to find some very nice winter weather. Recently, my family has started visiting Branson, Missouri right after Christmas. Its not HOT there but it is about 30° warmer that it is at home! 55° in December always feels VERY nice. The East Coast is also a nice winter destination, really as far north as North Carolina. They have temperate winters, humidity for the dry skin, and it isn’t always packed with winter escapees as Arizona and Florida.
It really is a little humorous, however, that Minnesotans really don’t have to travel very far to reach a temperature that will feel good…it is a blessing and a curse, I guess!
If you still aren’t sure of where you’d like to go for your winter travel, try a handy travel quiz and see what they tell you!
2. How Do I Want To Get There?
This may seem like a simple question, in my house it is not. My husband flies for a living, I drive for work all of the time. You can see the issue there!
Flying and driving each have their advantaged and disadvantages of course. Depending on your destination, your all-in costs could be a toss up. Hopping a 3-hour Delta Airlines flight to Las Vegas from Minneapolis in February can cost anywhere from $370 to over $1,000 depending on your cabin. Driving to Las Vegas would be a bear considering the mountains, hotel stops, and gas costs.
Rather than trying to compare flying and driving apples to apples as far as costs, I ask myself a couple of things:
How much time do we have?
Would it make sense to fly and rent a car instead?
What kind of wear-and-tear does this put on my personal vehicle?
The first and second questions lead right into each other. If you’re planning a trip to Florida but only have a week to spend there, two days on either end will be spent driving. If you’re going to a “temperate warm” like Missouri or Tennessee, you can reach those states in 10 hours from Minnesota. It all depends on what you want but sometimes I believe travelers fail to factor in the actual travel time, realize they have less time at their destination that they thought, and then come home disappointed.
The third question is one that is often overlooked- what will a road trip mean for my car? Is your car well maintained? How old is it? If you’re driving from Minnesota to Florida, Arizona, etc, you’re traveling well over 1,000 miles in one direction. Probably closer to 1,500 miles. This means at least an oil change before you go, possibly one when you return as well. If you lease your vehicle, will traveling 2,000+ miles affect anything in your lease agreement? Just a few things to consider if contemplating winter travel, or any travel!
Winter travel also means potential weather and road hazards. Salt can be terribly hard on a vehicle and if you know your car doesn’t perform well in snow, I’d consider either renting one that does for your trip or to consider flying.
When all else fails, you can check out this Fly or Drive calculator. It isn’t fool proof but it can give you an idea of what you’d be looking at.
3. What kind of lodgings are available?
Never mind how you’re going to reach your destination…where are you going to stay? Does a hotel suit your needs? Do you want an all-inclusive resort? What about renting an entire home?
Many hotels provide at least breakfast with your stay, some like the Drury Inns and Suites are doing breakfast AND dinner. Extended stay hotels like Homewood Suites, Candlewood, etc are also doing dinner service as well. I’ve come across some Hampton Inns that have ventured into that arena as well.
In the past few years, the vacation rental home market has really taken off with the advent of websites like Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, and HomeAway. In most instances, these rental homes can be rented at a better rate than most hotels. Sometimes it is nice to come back to your own private place rather than battling it out at hotel with a public pool. The only drawback of doing a vacation rental is that some have minimum stays required to book or have damage deposits that are non-refundable. Read the fine print!
4. Is there something specific I’d like to do?
This might be the easiest question to answer in planning your winter travel. If you know for a fact that you need to go to a beach during your trip, that narrows your options down very nicely. If you find you’d rather go skiing, this isn’t the article for you…just kidding! Are musical shows are your thing? Consider a place like Branson or Las Vegas. If hiking is what you desire, consider Arizona. It isn’t all desert like people envision. Check out this hiking guide to get started on your hiking adventure.
For the history nuts out there, like me, you can visit any one (or several) of hundreds of Civil War battlefields starting as far north as Kentucky and Missouri. Paducah, KY is a very easy Civil War site to reach if coming from the Bold North. Wilson’s Creek, MO is on the way to Branson and if you keep heading south Pea Ridge is just in Arkansas!
If Southern Charm is what you’d like to see, visit Charleston, South Carolina or Savannah, Georgia. These two gloriously historical cities are magical and the weather isn’t too shabby either! Charleston boasts quite the array of restaurants as well and I’d recommend Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island right off the bat. Amazing burgers and very close to the beach!
5. How can I best book my winter travel plans?
Here is where the rubber really hits the road– how do you get all of your winter travel plans booked? Again, not such an easy question to answer. In my experience, it depends on how detailed your trip is. I’ve self-booked most of my trips in my life with the exception of international travel. If your trip is going to be relatively simple, I’d say just tackle it yourself if you feel comfortable doing that.
If you are going to DIY it as most of us do, double and triple check the prices you’re being quoted. I prefer to book airline tickets directly from the airlines and not a third party website like Expedia or Priceline. Same with hotels for me. Delta also has Delta Vacations where you may be able to find a package deal for your airline tickets and a hotel. Just plug in where you’d like to go and your options will populate. I also recommend employing not only Google reviews for your research but also TripAdvisor. In my experience, you’re more likely to find a balance of reviews on TripAdvisor as firing off an angry review is easier to do on Google.
Getting Some Help
If you feel you need some guidance…or you just want someone to do it for you…I’d recommend contacting a travel agent. One I’ve used in the past is Viaku: Curated Travel Experiences. Karen Listgarten is the founder and is the best travel agent I’ve encountered. Big trip or small, domestic or international– Karen is the person you should talk to. Karen helped my mother and I book a mother/daughter trip to Italy this fall. I’ll tell you, without Karen’s services there is no way we would have had the experiences we did or found the deals that we couldn’t find. In fact, you can see our review on Karen’s website!
If you’d like to get in touch with Karen and set up some travel plans, just head on over to her website and let her know I sent you!
Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you in planning your winter travel adventure this year or in the future! As always, safe travels and enjoy the warm(er) weather– whatever kind of warm you might choose!