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Deep Freeze

Travelers Looking to Escape Snow and Ice Seek Out Sun

Bitter cold across much of the U.S. has many travelers saying "Get me out of here!" for spring break.

"People are literally crying to help us get them somewhere with guaranteed good weather," said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a member of the Virtuoso luxury travel network.

"Our winter business has spiked 38.5 percent in the past three weeks. And last-minute business, meaning requests 10 days out or less, accounts for a whopping 78 percent of our business this year for winter travel," he said.

Several online agencies, including STA Travel, a discount student agency, report the same.

"We have definitely seen an increase in requests recently, mainly to Cancun," STA spokeswoman Teresa Cordova said. Some of the more popular places are sold out, and prices at other properties are about 30 percent more expensive than they were six weeks ago, she said.

CheapOair.com's data show travel to warmer destinations has increased 27 percent over the past few weeks to destinations including Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.

"If you haven't booked your spring break yet, do so immediately and have a backup list of where you want to go," said Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer for CheapOair.com. "Consider counter-seasonal destinations or international destinations, such as Central America, perhaps more so this year due to the weather and its impact on bookings."

Rooms are booking up quickly at the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, said general manager Jean-Marc Jalbert. "We are right in the middle of the perfect storm — a good one. We have not raised our prices because of the weather, but we have been pretty much sold out since the second week of January."

Unlike previous years, Jalbert said there is no negotiating on room rates right now. "We have also seen people extending their stay at the last minute, reluctant to go back to the cold."