Travel a Cure For The Wintertime Blues
By ALAN OLSON
The winter blues is a phenomenon that hits hard many of those living up north, and with local travel agencies, an increasingly common request from people is the desire to break out of the area and go travel during the holidays.
Not all wintertime trips have to go south, though. Patrick Viola, owner of Wheeling’s Security Travel Inc., said many people come through in the fall seeking to share in celebrations elsewhere in the region.
“We have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade New York City trip, the Biltmore Estates Christmas trip in North Carolina — it’s gorgeous, a big castle decorated all for Christmas,” Viola said.
Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel also offers day and weekend trips across the region, offering the chance to see the sights with a group. Most popular, owner Bill Bryson said, are trips to New York and Pittsburgh to see live productions.
Later in the year, Bryson said trips to sports outings make great gifts for the more athletically minded. In particular, March trips to the Major League Baseball spring training event in Florida are a recurring favorite among baseball fans; these take place from March 13-18 in Florida.
“We had 40 people last year,” Bryson said, adding that those he talked to later spoke highly of their experiences. “That’s why we thought we’d do that one again.”
Also popular are day trips to catch Pittsburgh Pirates’ games, once the season is in full swing.
In addition, West Virginia University baseball games, offered for the first time in 2017, are expected to be popular, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. the Dallas Stars, which includes a flight down to the arena in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. These events take place in the last three days of February.
In terms of giving vacations as gifts, Bryson said the workers at Uniglobe pride themselves on being able to enhance the delivery, beyond simply announcing the vacation or presenting the recipient with tickets. “We’ll help them — say, get them a baseball and put ‘Pirates-Yankees April 23’ to give them that gift with it, so you’ve got something to wrap up,” Bryson said. “With cruises, they might get a captain’s hat. Same thing with Disney, where the kids unwrap the gift from mom and dad and it’s a Mickey Mouse hat or a stuffed animal — ‘We’re going to Disney Land!'”
With Security, Viola said an increasingly common way to gift is for the gift-giver to arrange the trip without the details, allowing the recipient to explore their options before the final cost is returned to the gifter for payment.
“I’ll have a certificate made up without the price — ‘Mom and Dad are giving you the Caribbean cruise’ — with no money involved,” Viola said. “We call mom and dad, tell them this is the cruise, and then they book it with their card.”
This same arrangement, Viola said, is becoming increasingly common for newlyweds, who can arrange for their wedding guests to provide funds for their honeymoon, rather than traditional wedding gifts.
Cruises are also offered by Uniglobe and are highly popular for wintertime destinations to warmer climates. “A lot of time, people are wanting to get away without wanting a group trip. These are real popular, especially January-February-March,”Bryson said.
Viola said Security also sees its fair share of people seeking warmth, and the agency is happy to help coordinate. Trips down south are taken either by coach or by plane. “Sometimes, they want to get out of the cold, like the Apple Vacations — airfare to Mexico, the Dominican Republican, drinks on the beach, that’s your beach destination trip,” Viola said.