Winter getaways to embrace the winter weather or escape to the sunny south.
By Dan Carpenter
Abilene’s moderate winters send some area residents looking for other climates to travel to in search of summery temperatures or more snow for winter enjoyment.
Tim and Jenny Fox, owners of Fox Coffee in Abilene, were stationed in Alaska for nine years, while Tim was on active military duty, before moving to Abilene, so they’re familiar with cold temperatures and finding ways to have fun in the snow.
“When we lived in Alaska, we would go to places like Fairbanks to see the ice sculptures,” Jenny said. “Where we went often depended on finances and time.”
Since moving to Abilene, the Fox family, which includes four children, age 9 to 17, has been both north and south for vacations.
“We often head to Idaho to visit family,” said Jenny. “We took one vacation to the Oregon coast with Tim’s side of the family. We chose that location as I love the Oregon Coast and Tim’s family does not travel far from home. We rented a house as it was way cheaper than a hotel.
“In the colder climates, the boys love hunting, and we all go sledding, and do winter activities like dog sled and ice sculptures, snow machining, and just playing in the snow.”
Jenny said she and Tim always try and find houses to rent so they can have more room and have the ability to cook meals.
“We love to rent cars and just explore the area,” she said. “We also love to try ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurants; they are cheaper and most of the time the food is better. We tend to stay away from the tourist places, and go more local.”
North is not the only direction the Foxes go, however. They have also vacationed in Mexico and Hawaii when the temps were cold.
“We went to Hawaii twice; once with the kids and once just Tim and I,” Jenny said. “Then my side of the family all went on vacation to Mexico … twice.”
On the Mexico trip, the families all pitched in to rent a house, as again, it was cheaper than renting hotel rooms for everyone. In Hawaii, they stayed in a hotel half of the time, then a condo the other half as they visited more than one island.
“I don’t think it really matters to the kids … they can have fun in either climate,” said Jenny. “I’m kind of a beach and sandals girl, and Tim loves to snorkel and play golf. We just love being together as a family.”
Connie and Dan Pritchett have lived in Abilene for 26 years and choose to head south twice a year to get away from the Abilene colder weather.
“We started cruising (going on cruises) with friends from California in 1996,” Connie said. “After we moved to Texas, we started going on a cruise once a year to get together with them.”
Connie said they prefer to head to warmer climates when the temperatures start to change in Abilene and usually again in the coldest part of the winter. Since 1996, the Pritchetts have been on 16 cruises to warmer climates.
“We’ve been to the Mexican Riviera three times, the Caribbean six times, Panama twice, Europe twice, Hawaii once, the Bahamas once, and Australia and New Zealand once,” she said. “We’ve also done cruises to Alaska twice, but that is usually in the summer when it is not as cold along the Alaskan coast.”
Connie said they definitely prefer the southern cruises, primarily because there are more ports to visit, and because the Caribbean has “beautiful water and the weather is great.”
“Cruising, for us, is laid-back, no-stress travel,” she added. “It’s a complete change of pace from daily life and we love being treated special for a time.”
Some of the favorite activities the Pritchetts enjoy while cruising are eating, variety shows, art shows, reading a good book, sleeping and spa massages.
“The food is always spectacular on the cruises, and it’s usually always included with the price of your ticket,” said Connie, who has four children and seven grandchildren. “One of my favorite memories was having 18 of our friends and family go with us on one of our cruises and shopping in Mexican Rivera to see who could get the best price.”
Connie said some of the keys to getting the best deals on cruises are being flexible, be willing to travel off-season, and traveling as a group.
“If you can get a group of 10 or more together, there is usually a discount,” she said.
“Oftentimes, we will pick a location and then find a deal – or someone in the group would find a special trip – and we would all sign up. It’s great to travel with friends and family.”
Connie said she and Dan are currently planning a trip to Canada to see Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Nova Scotia, Saint John, Boston, Rhode Island and New York.
“We were looking for a fall trip to do after a hot Abilene summer, so when we came across that cruise, it sounded inviting,” she said. “Next year we’re planning our third cruise to Europe.”
Connie said that being retired, she and Dan have more flexibility to find the right trip at the right price, but ultimately, those deals are out there for anyone, not just retirees.
“Now that we are retired it is easier to go last minute and are more flexible to find a trip,” she said. “We took a 21-day trip back in January (2016) after finding a half-price special offer.”
Whether you want to frolic in the sand or ski through the snow, there are plenty of options. All it takes is some planning … and maybe a little advice from a seasoned traveler who know how to “get away” and play.