Happy Holiday Travels

Air travel, destinations and travel gear galore—these experts have what it takes to make your getaway great

Whether you’re jetting off to the beach or the slopes, or driving to the Dells for fun and games, you really should book your holiday trip now—if you haven’t already. The closer the holidays get, the more prices climb and availability drops. While it’s true that last-minute bargains can be had if you’re flexible, locking in your dream trip now can be worth your peace of mind. And it will give you time to make sure you have the perfect luggage and accessories before you take off!

Affordable airline tickets

If you’re booking air travel, you’ll generally find better prices and more seats available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, says Brent McHenry, director of marketing and communications at Dane County Regional Airport: “Avoid Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays; business travel doesn’t stop as the holidays approach, so it’s better to book around it.”

McHenry notes, too, that many travelers find it much less stressful to fly from DCRA, rather than drive to Milwaukee or Chicago to catch a flight. “The holidays are hectic enough; you don’t need a long drive or a hotel stay the night before you leave,” he says. “Here [in Madison] you’ll get through security quickly and easily—and we have a beautiful facility.”

In addition, parking at DCRA compares very favorably with what’s available at farther-away airports. “Parking is adjacent to the terminal, so it’s close, convenient and affordable compared to other big city airports,” McHenry notes. “It’s covered, so if the weather is snowy, you don’t have to shovel your car off. And you can park for a week without breaking the bank.”

DCRA has worked to add affordable nonstop flights and offers a number of options. As of November, there are two nonstops daily to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. “The city is a great destination for holidays, with all the productions and shows, and with these convenient flights you can even go for a quick weekend trip,” McHenry says.

He’s anticipating more traffic to the New York area. “LaGuardia is now a Delta hub, with a new, very beautiful terminal,” says McHenry. “You can get flights there to over 200 destinations. If you’re planning a trip overseas, you can get a nonstop to New York and it’s an easy one-hop to international destinations.”

This presents new possibilities for local travelers, says McHenry: “You can leave Madison in the morning or later in the day, which is helpful. If you’re catching a long international flight you’ll want to get to New York in the morning, but most eight-hour flights leave in the evening and fly overnight, so you can leave Madison later.” 

Delta is upgrading its equipment, too, which in turn improves customer options. “The majority, 91 percent, of Delta flights from Madison will have two-class service—they’re not small planes—so if you’re a frequent flyer with upgrades, you can use them,” McHenry explains. “That’s a great thing for us.”

The airport also offers quite a few nonstop flights to Denver on United and Frontier Airlines for ski destinations. And for sun-lovers, there are nonstops to Orlando. “It’s a great holiday spot, with the theme parks and the great weather,” says McHenry.

Atlanta is currently the busiest airport in the United States, and DCRA has three daily nonstop flights. “You can go anywhere in the world from Atlanta in one stop, including Australia,” McHenry marvels. “And Atlanta is also beautiful in the winter—it’s warm and sunny, but not hot.”

McHenry says that Madison airport staff continue to listen to travelers’ needs and add flights. “The more we can all use the DCRA, the more flights we can continue to add, keep what we have, and get new routes,” he says. “It allows us to work with airlines to offer new routes, larger aircraft, and more destinations.”

Wisconsin Winter Wonderland 

If a drive to the Dells is more your holiday style, Ho-Chunk Wisconsin Dells has pretty much everything you need. And Nehomah Thundercloud, public relations senior manager for the resort, recommends booking as early as possible. “Check www.wisdells.com often for offers and specials—it lists our specials along with others in the Dells area,” she says.

“We have a complimentary shuttle service to the Dells,” she adds. “We’re very unique and fortunate to be so close to its shopping and entertainment venues.”

Of course, you may not even want to leave the resort. Ho Chunk has a newly renovated hotel with 302 rooms and suites, from custom and deluxe rooms to hospitality, executive, VIP and romantic honeymoon suites.

“Our VIP wing has amazing suites and rooms and its own secure door, so traffic is limited,” says Thundercloud. “The décor is top-notch and the beds are a dream to sleep in.”

The resort also offers an RV park, which is winterized for hardy, year-round travelers. There’s a comfort station with showers and laundry, and guests have access to the indoor pool, the four in-house restaurants, and the ballroom concert venues. The resort’s famous casino has table games, slot machines, bingo, and two lounges.

“A lot of guests traveling from the Twin Cities, Chicago, or Milwaukee like to stop in the Dells,” Thundercloud says. “They like our adult atmosphere, but we also have Kids Quest and childcare available—parents can relax knowing their children are in good hands. They can do day trips, come back, and have the convenience of our amenities.”

The biggest holiday event at Ho-Chunk is New Year’s Eve. Every year Ho-Chunk Gaming and the Ho-Chunk Nation join with a community partner to raise money for a worthy cause. Last year the event raised more than $20,000 for the LeRoy Butler Foundation. This year it’s the Honor Flight for World War II veterans—all wrist band sales for the night’s events will go to this great cause. “It’s $13, but many people donate more,” says Thundercloud.

“We have big band music in our Upper Dells Ballroom, country music in the Lower Dells Ballroom, and a rock cover band in our sports bar, pretty much all night,” she adds. “There are three different parties—it’ll be a very happy New Year.”

Your Adventure Starts Here

Wherever you travel, your trip will be smoother if you understand the logistics you’re likely to encounter, and that’s where the travel experts at Landmark Luggage come in. “We help educate travelers about regulations, climate—everything they need to know,” says owner Ray Krut.

His stores, including the one in West Towne Mall, offer popular travel seminars where vendors bring in industry experts. The next seminar is scheduled for November 3, says store manager Lenore Capacio; on tap is adventure-travel company Eagle Creek, which will bring in Travel Channel veteran Angel Castellanos to talk about federal Transportation Safety Administration rules, airport dos and don’ts, and more.

There are also iPads with travel apps in the stores. Consumers can use the U.S. State Department’s SmartTraveler app to check for travel alerts in various countries, along with such things as entry and exit requirements, medical facilities, or crime statistics. They can also create “e-tineraries,” so the State Department knows where they’ll be and can help in the event of an emergency.

The My TSA app shows the status of your local airport, the TSA regulations for any item you key in, what you can carry onto a plane, and what items you’ll need to check.

Eagle Creek packing videos show how to use the company’s packing systems to organize and make the most of the space in your bag. And video clips from travel expert Rick Steves offer advice about traveling to a variety of locations.

Landmark Luggage stocks the latest travel necessities, from four-wheeled spinner suitcases to quick-drying, wash-and-go travel underwear and accessories of all types to make your trips easier. “People are more attuned to TSA and weight requirements, and we have what it takes to simplify compliance—lightweight luggage, small containers for liquids, and much more,” says Krut.

Soon you’ll see a 28-page Landmark Luggage holiday catalog. “It will feature a variety of products; a lot of gift items like globes of the world and tech-y travel gadgets,” Krut says. “Early next year we’ll have an e-commerce site.”

Happy travels indeed.

-Judy Dahl

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