My first travel column for Philadelphia Gay News appeared one year ago this month. As promised, I have shared with you the tips, deals and steals that I hope made your travel more affordable and more fun. When this column debuted, 2010 was hailed as the “Year of the Great Gay Travel Deal.” So, what’s in store for 2011? I predict a second renaissance of “The Golden Age of Travel.”
Like most things in life, travel will become more expensive in 2011 compared to the last two years. Experts predict that hotel rates and airline fares will rise and, if you’re already planning 2011 travel, you see that they are right. The spike is partly due to pent-up demand and a rebounding economy. However, if you play by their rules and are flexible with your travel plans, 2011 can be the year that you break your old travel habits and discover a new destination, hotel, hotspot or even fall back in love with places in your own backyard.
If you are open-minded about your travel, you can find destinations far and near that exceed your expectations and are kind to your pocketbook. Here are a few of my 2011 favorites. Destinations
Yo, Canada! OK, the Canadian dollar, called the Loonie, is on par with the U.S. dollar, so gone are the days of great exchange rates for U.S. citizens. However, dollar for dollar, you are going to get a great gay trip! Both Toronto and Montreal are about one hour away by plane, so you can argue that they’re the closest foreign cities that require a U.S. passport that also have lots of gays and lesbians and offer ample LGBT events and bars. Insider’s tip: Go during Gay Pride and check out the brand-new Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. It is gay-fabulous with a capital “F.” Check out www.germainmapleleafsquare.com for opening deals.
Gay B&Bs are back! You can choose the Ritz Carlton, the Westin or the Hyatt on Ft. Lauderdale beach, but the gay-owned Grand Resort and Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is an awesome value, especially midweek summer and fall. Located just two blocks from the beach, the gay resort defines LGBT luxury with a gym, daily breakfast, evening cocktails, a pool and clothing-optional hot tub. There is a full-service spa on the premises and free hotel parking. Check out www.grandresort.net for deals, steals and specials. Insider’s tip: Even if you stay elsewhere in Ft. Lauderdale, the spa is open.
R Family Vacations is still the only inclusive LGBT and straight vacation tour company out there. You can bring your mom, your child, your partner and your straight friends and everyone will feel welcome. Gregg Kaminsky, the brainchild of this vacation company, has reinvented it (sans Rosie), and now you can choose from an all-inclusive Club Med resort to group tours on cruise ships throughout the world. To find the latest deals and destinations, visit www.rfamilyvacations.com.
Philly, the Countryside and Pennsylvania
This column is about travel to other places, but it’s also important to be a tourist in your hometown. Don’t forget to think about your own backyard as a great getaway too.
Jeff Guaracino is a vice president for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and author of “Gay and Lesbian Tourism: The Essential Guide for Marketing.” He has learned to how to find the best deals and travel resources out there for our community. Check out www.visitphilly.com!