I dream of palm trees

When the snow starts to pile up and digit-threatening winds have buffeted the roads down to an icy sheen, it seems only natural that people turn a thought or two to warmer climes. Some may even feel compelled to go that next step and head for the airport, not stopping until they’ve found themselves surrounded by sunshine, sand, and surf.

“When it gets cold and we see snow like this, instantly the phones start ringing,” said Michele Schrader, owner of Preferred Travel & Tour.

“I think there’s a correlation between when the mercury drops and the phones ring,” said Amber Thorne, travel consultant with Satrom Travel & Tour. When the weather finally plunged to negative 20 degrees two weeks ago, she recalled an uptick in business. “It seems like that was the day we had the most people walk in, despite the cold.”

While the Internet has enabled holiday-goers to hunt out flights, itineraries and hotels on their own, many still seek the aid of a travel agency. Over the past 10 years, Schrader has found that her agency’s emphasis has shifted away from all-inclusive packages toward more customized trips. Travel agents still help prospective vacationers book flights and find reasonable accomodation for the dates they have in mind, but can also provide recommendations for sights and activities based on their clients’ preferences.

“One benefit is you have a number to call” when things go awry, said Rhonda DeMakis, owner of International Travel Agency. During the winter months, typical problems include missed connections and flight delays, for which her business helps its traveling clients find and secure the next ones available.

So where are most Minoters flocking toward?

“With this weather, definitely Mexico or Jamaica,” Schrader said.

Thorne has noticed they have been booking “a lot of Mexico, a lot of Hawaii, the Caribbean” trips.

“Mostly what we get is anyplace warm,” said DeMakis, ranging from cruises and seaside resorts to last-minute getaways to someplace balmy. “We’ve had them all, today.”