Area travel agencies gearing up for spring and summer

January and February are the peak season to book trips before prices sore
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

It’s peak time to book trips for spring break and summer vacations, area travel agents said. 

Travel consultant Lori Dahm of Biever Travel in Port Washington said it’s difficult to quantify the number of requests she has received since the start of the new year.

“I can’t even count. We’re constantly getting requests for pricing. It’s been crazy around here,” she said, adding she has also set up a number of bookings for destination weddings in the summer. 

The peak season to arrange travel plans during the next six months is between January and February, she said.

“Now that the holidays are over, people are looking at the weather and thinking they need to get out of here,” Maureen Schommer, owner of Yonder Travel Lounge in the Town of Grafton, said. “It’s the tail end of one season and the start of another. It comes to a head in January and February.”

Schommer and Dahm said they are receiving many requests to book for trips to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Mexico, Florida and cruises to Alaska and Europe.

“Punta Cana had a light year last year, but this year a lot of people are going back because the prices are good there,” Schommer said.

She said it’s crunch time to finalize plans for spring break in March because many schools are off at the same time. Typically there is a three-week period when schools are out. 

“For one week, from March 21 to 28, every public and private school is off throughout the United States.  A lot of people are scrambling, and there’s not a lot of availability left for that week,” Schommer said. “Flights book up so fast and prices will go sky high.” 

Dahm said it’s a common misconception that waiting until the last minute to book flights and hotels will save people money.

“That’s the total opposite of what happens because it typically costs more the closer to departure,” she said. “My advice is book earlier and plan ahead, especially when traveling over spring break or holidays. We have people come in and they want to travel next month. They think if they wait, they are going to save money.”

Another myth is that travel agencies are no longer relevant because of online travel websites.

“The internet is saturated with travel information and consumers don’t know where to turn,” Schommer said. “They are inundated with booking companies and search engines. There are too many options. People are finding that out now. They don’t want to look through seven different websites to try to find the best price.”

Dahm said in the early 2000s there was a dip in business because of online booking for flights and hotels, but the industry has experienced a resurgence.

“People have come back because they are finding out it is taking too long to do their own research and they would rather have us take care of it for them,” she said.

The consultants said travel agencies not only provide the best prices, but can also help travelers if an issue occurs during their vacation.

Dahm said she is currently discouraging customers from booking trips to Australia because of the wildfires. 

“We’re debating if we should send them or have them cancel and go to a different destination,” she said.

Schommer said Mexico and the Dominican Republic remain popular for experienced travelers, but first-time visitors are less likely to book a vacation in those countries because of safety and health concerns. 

“People who are used to traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean have no fear. They’ve been there before and know what it is really like. People who have never been there are not going,” she said.

Schommer’s clientele is made up of young professionals, families and retirees. She said people are more willing to travel to new places because of the strong economy and greater accessibility to visit distant destinations. Schommer also said TV shows and social media are encouraging people to visit places they never thought of before.

A popular trend Schommer sees is generational trips, which involve grandparents, parents and their children taking a vacation together.

“Having eight to 12 people go on vacation can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” she said. “It’s challenging finding something that is going to fit for all the generations, but it’s fun for me.”

The consultants said they expect business to slow down in March and April, but people will begin planning for fall getaways.  

“We will still have summer bookings coming in and then people will start booking for fall travel. European river cruises and places where the leaves change color are really popular,” Schommer said. “Fall is a good time to travel because of the cost and weather. A lot of people take off in fall.”

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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