Finding the Recession-Proof Vacation
Have you been a good boy all year long - or have you been bad? If the latter, did you at least contribute a few new categories to Santa's naughty list? Did you make your own list, check it twice, and get gifts that meet the above average standards expected of the average gay men? Did you go home for the holidays when you'd really rather be getting it on with a dude?
If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you owe it to yourself to get away from it all with a fabulous winter vacation. But with the economy in the tank, is it really the responsible thing to do? EDGE put the feelers out for gay-friendly early 2009 vacation destinations - and found that you don't have to break your little pink piggy bank to take a well-deserved break.
Come Fly With Me
Think you can’t afford jetting off to a far away locale? Think again, says gay travel expert Andrew Collins, from About.com Guide to Gay & Lesbian Travel. "The key to finding great bargains isn’t necessarily to stay near home." says Collins. "If you’re traveling within the United States, airfares have dropped significantly - and hotel rates have dropped even further than post 9/11."
Collins is an enthusiastic advocate of Priceline.com. "The deals that are showing up there are tremendous." he says, noting "I used Priceline a few weeks ago to book a hotel in Seattle and got $100 a night rate at the Hotel Monaco, run by the very gay friendly Kempton Company."
International travel isn’t necessarily out of the budge-minded gay’s reach either: "It’s cheaper now to fly to Europe, Mexico and Canada than it has been in the past three years." Once you’re there, "The currency rate in Mexico and Canada is 20 to 25 percent, which is more favorable to Americans now than a year ago."
If you’re making hotel reservations by interacting with an actual live person, "There’s great opportunity to barter and talk down rates. Some aren’t necessarily going to post or advertise lower rate, but that doesn’t mean they won’t negotiate with you." If you think asking to pay less than the asking price is only for the bold or just plain bad manners, Collins reminds us that it "never hurts to call and say ’look, I see your advertised rate. Is there any chance you can drop it a little bit?’ You can also let them know you’re only able to afford a certain amount. It never hurts to ask politely."
Good hotel rates are to be found in a handful of cities whose recent building boom coincided with the economic bust: "In terms of warm weather destinations, think about cities like San Diego, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Fort Lauderdale. These are places that had new hotels opening recently, and there are deals to be found."
Once you’ve booked airfare or reserved a rental car, Collins recommends "checking back to see if the rate has changed before your trip. With a rental car, generally, it’s not a guaranteed rate, just a reservation. Book it again and cancel the original one. With airfare, call the airline and ask them what their policy is. If it’s Southwest, you can cancel with no fee and rebook."
Photo: Andrew Collins from bout.com Guide to Gay & Lesbian Travel.
Bed, Breakfast and Boys!
With the possible exception of a picnic basket, is there anything gayer than a cozy little Bed and Breakfast experience? Mary White, founder of BnBFinder.com, has made it easy for we Friends of Dorothy to find B&Bs that identify as gay owned and/or gay friendly. From the home page, just scroll down to the bottom and access Gay & Lesbian Travel.
White promises the B&Bs you’ll find there "are very warm and gay friendly. The inns themselves determine whether we market them to a particular segment of the population" (including other special interest groups such as those who seek vegetarian cuisine or green lodging). "So you can be sure the places you find in our Gay & Lesbian section are going to be very welcoming." In the current economy, White says B&Bs represent the opportunity to "get away for the weekend, not travel too far and still feel as if you’ve done something different." Those who simply want to get away and not spend money on activities and expensive meals get an experience that’s "not a cookie cutter feeling."
Like LGBTs, B&Bs "have a lot of character; it just depends upon the type of character you want: cottages, cabins, elegant or historic. You’re never going to feel like you’re in a hotel. In a downturned economy like the one we’re in now, you wouldn’t say let’s pick up and go to a hotel that is 30 minutes away." Going to an inn can be a destination event in and of itself, says White, owing to the fact that many offer "refreshments and treats, often times in your room; afternoon socials, high tea, or wine and cheese socials." The real attraction, she points out, comes from the last half of that name: "Often, breakfast consists of a three course sit down meal." Asked to name some gay-friendly B&Bs by state, White recommends:
East Coast, West Coast, Gulf Coast
Now that they’ve joined Massachusetts as the only other state in America in which gays and lesbians can marry, Connecticut deserves our consideration, if not our support. Karin Burgess, a representative for The Quiet Corner, describes the northeastern destination as "not unlike Vermont, but much closer to Boston, Providence and NYC. There are lovely inns, spas, top rated restaurants (by Connecticut Magazine) and quiet wooded paths to bike, hike, ski and more." Visit www.mysticcountry.com for ideas and details.
The Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret lets you tour and taste before "enjoying a gourmet meal in the wine garden or the fireside tavern." There are tours and tastings daily from 11am to 5pm. For an authentic winter experience, The Golden Lamb Buttery offers wagon or sleigh-rides prior to dinner. Casual window shopping abounds at the Antiques Marketplace in Putnam. Connecticut’s largest and most diverse antique mall, it has "30 vendors and great prices."
Finally, Connecticut butters you up by rubbing you down at The Pomfret Healing Center & Spa and The Spa at Norwich Inn, in Norwich.
Situated on the outskirts of Olympic National Park (Washington State) Kalaloch Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula "has some attractive packages that would resonate with the EDGE audience." From January 2 through March 28, you can stay at Kalaloch Lodge. A special two-person inclusive package offers two nights for two for $499 (Sunday through Thursday) and $499 (Fridays and Saturdays). That price gets you and lover boy a cozy Log Cabin and two dinners. For more information, visit their website.
Inside the park itself, Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Forest offers an "Out and About in the Quinault Rainforest" package that provides two nights’ lodging "in our best of house Fireplace Rooms and two dinners. Rates and dates are the same as the Kalaloch Lodge offer. For more information, visit www.visitlakequinault.com.
New York’s Hudson River Valley is home to Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa. Situated on 70 acres of cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, they "host a large number of gay and lesbian couples on a regular basis." The eco-friendly, $3 million spa was "designed and constructed implementing state-of-the-art geothermal and solar technologies. The spa uses the power of the earth and the sun to heat the sauna, steam room and unique mineral saltwater pool."
Although it’s nice to know you won’t be desecrating mother Earth while doing unspeakable things to your traveling companion, it’s even better to know the price you pay won’t desecrate your wallet. They’re offering 35% off all rooms Sunday through Thursday and 15% off all spa services through the end of January.
Offering prices that are competitive with, and comparable to, a week’s billing for just the cost of a landlocked stateroom, the Atlantis Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas gives you "all meals and soft drinks; all onboard entertainment; admission to all onboard parties and activities; and travel to the various destinations that the ship visits throughout the week."
Prices start at just $1,499 for ocean view staterooms and go up to "$2,049 per person for balcony staterooms. Plus, at no additional cost, you get to hang out with "more than 3,000 other gay men and lesbians and wake up to a new port every day!" When you’re not busy staring at the guys (many of whom, safe to say, will be shirtless), you can ice skate, surf and rock climb. The cruise departs from Miami on January 25 and returns on February 1, 2009, with stops in San Juan, St. Martin and Royal Caribbean’s private island Labadee. Check out the Atlantis Events website for more information.
Photo: Promotional photo from the Atlantis Events website.