Give the Gift of Travel This Holiday Season

Need some ideas on what to get your partner, a family member or some friends this holiday season?  Does the idea of fighting the crowds at your local mall scare you more than the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?  Are you afraid that your gift budget will once again take off faster than Santa on Christmas Eve?  If you are looking for that special gift that will go down in history, along with Rudolph, look no further.  Give the gift of travel this year! 

Fortunately, traditional travel agents are here to help!  Most agents will be able to talk to you either in person or over the phone and gather some basic information about your ideas and then get back to you with suggested destinations and travel packages.  

The first step is to sit down and figure out the details:  Who?  What?  Where?  When? and How Much? 

Who:  Make sure that the person you are gifting would really enjoy the gift.  You should know the person well enough to be certain that the travel choice you make will be not only appropriate, but also enticing.   Providing this information to a travel agent will assist in matching the person to the correct trip. 

What:  Decide upon the type of trip that you think your giftee would enjoy.   Whether it would be a cruise, weekend get-away, or an international excursion, your travel agent will be able to provide suggestions for different types of travel. 

Where:  As it’s been said before, it’s all about location, location, location!  Just be sure that you don’t send a snow bunny to the desert – it won’t end well.  Trust me.

When:  Timing is everything, especially when you’re planning a trip.  Check to see when the “peak” travel times are for a specific destination.  There are many options from which to choose – a weekend getaway, a cruise, or an extended vacation.  Make sure that you know in advance of any scheduled events, so there won’t be a scheduling conflict.  If you don’t know when would be a good time, you can always pre-purchase flights, tours, or trips through a trusted travel agent.  That way, the trip can be scheduled whenever convenient. 

How Much:  The cost of each individual trip varies according to what it contains.  Just be sure that you know the refund policy and possible fees to make changes, if you are booking directly with a venue or company.  These fees can be substantial and surprising – so make sure you ask questions and read the fine print. 

Traditional travel agents are a wealth of information and will be able to provide suggestions and ideas for any type of trip.  Gift certificates are one of the ways that making the gift of travel easy and trouble free.  Many travel agencies are able to allow customers prepay a trip for family or friends and issue a certificate for that amount.  The recipient of the certificate can then contact the travel agent and schedule the trip at their leisure.  This seems to be the most convenient way for not only the gifter to provide a great gift, but also the giftee to get the type of trip customized to their liking.  All you need to do is sit back and let the agent work their travel magic. 

According to surveys by Lonely Planet, these are the best gay friendly venues world-wide: 

Top 5 Gay Friendly Cities Worldwide:  San Francisco, CA; Sydney, Australia; Brighton, England; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Prague, Czech Republic

Top 5 Gay Friendly Cities in the United States:  San Francisco, CA; New York City, NY; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Seattle, WA; Providence, RI

Top Gay Friendly Cruise Lines/Companies:  Atlantis; RSVP; Olivia; Celebrity; Norwegian; Royal Caribbean

In this age of tech savvy travelers, many people wish to investigate and book trips themselves using online sites.   Some of the most popular sites such as Orbitz and Expedia are generally user friendly and can offer travel deals due to contracts made with certain venues.  Prices for flights, however, are subject to what the airlines decide to charge – no deals there unless you book with mileage points.  Travel agents will typically inform their clients to use Trip Advisor, the online site that issues comments, compliments and complaints from actual travelers.  Venues are then given a rating so that consumers can gather information based upon actual travelers.   Remember, though, if you wish to book a trip on your own, you are responsible from start to finish for planning the perfect trip.   No pressure, though. 

After all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a New Years’ Getaway sounds pretty good, right?  I thought so.  Condé Nast has some great recommendations for trips around the country to ring in the New Year.   From the East:   Quebec City, Quebec, for that authentically French flavor; From the South:  Savannah, Georgia for art lovers or lovers in general; From the Midwest:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for an urban-rustic playground; and From the West:  Palm Springs, California, for a taste of that California sunshine.  So don’t let your chestnuts roast over an open fire wondering what type of presents to buy, give the gift of travel this year for everyone on your holiday gift list.  Now the tough part – who is on the naughty list and who is on the nice list?

Rick Sicilio is the owner of Travel and Tours in Pittsburgh. He is an avid, worldwide traveler and has visited 68 countries to date. For over 21 years, Rick and his staff have been assisting clients to embrace their wanderlust and travel the world.