“We’ve had a lot of people walk in and say, ‘I have to get out of here. I wasn’t necessarily planning a winter getaway, but I need one now!’ ” said Gail Weinholzer, director of public affairs for AAA Minnesota, headquartered in Burnsville.

The biggest challenge for the travel agents there is finding flights for people. Because airlines are flying fewer, smaller planes to hold down costs, many of the flights headed south are full, Weinholzer said. “Last-minute flying isn’t as easy as it used to be.”

It helps, though, that many people aren’t particular about the destination. They just want to get somewhere warm. AAA Minnesota agents find that hot spots (so to speak) are Jamaica, other Caribbean islands, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Looking for more ideas for a winter escape away from here to, well, anywhere with sun?

Sun Country lists bargain trips to tempt winter-weary Minnesotans. At www.sun country.com, click on deals, specify in the top bar that you are looking for beaches, and be prepared to dig your swimsuit out of deep storage. An all-inclusive week in Cozumel for $1,135, or Mazatlan for $815, sound good? You may come back with a sunny outlook and your savings still mostly intact.

Log onto www.kayak.com/explore, and you’ll get a page that shows airfares from Minneapolis-St. Paul International to locales around the country. Dallas caught my eye, with a tag reading “$108.” I clicked it, and found a Spirit Airlines flight in the middle of February to that Texas city.

Also, try www.skyscanner.com. Type MSP in the “from” field, leave the “to” field blank, and a host of cheap options appear. It’s enough to warm your heart — temporarily.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.