Polar Vortex Boon for Warm Weather Vacation Destinations

PHOTO: Tourists rest at Bavaro beach, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on January 16, 2012. Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images
Tourists rest at Bavaro beach, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on January 16, 2012.

The polar vortex is good business for more than hat and mitten makers. Warm-weather vacation destinations are at the top of mind -- and internet searches -- this week.

The phrase "warm weather vacation" was searched on Google more than two times as often in the first seven days of January than it was the entire month of January 2013.

The polar punch, said Gabe Saglie of travel site Travelzoo, "will only drive consumer desire for warm weather travel upward."

Travelzoo is one of several companies seeing double- and even triple-digit spikes in volume when it comes to searches for warm-weather vacations.

Travelzoo reports some warm-weather destinations are being searched as much as 300 percent more now than they were during the same time period last year. Volume for searches on trips to Los Cabos, Mexico, is up more than 300 percent; to the Bahamas, 190 percent; to Puerto Vallarta, 170 percent; and to Jamaica, 160 percent.

And it's not just dreaming about the warmth that's happening, actual money is being spent. Hotwire.com said the spike in bookings to warm-weather destinations started over the weekend when the cold weather began to ramp up. Orlando (up 17%), Honolulu (up 30%), Phoenix (up 25%), Las Vegas (up 28%) and Los Angeles (up 10%) are some of the more popular destinations benefitting from the cold.

Even without the cold, January is typically a good month for the industry. Travelocity spokesman Joel Frey travel shopping typically is at its height in January and into February.

But, he said, some of that cyclical booking strength can be attributed "to people stuck in cold weather destinations booking a trip to look forward to escape to."

Despite the increase with people traveling more this year than last, there are still deals to be had. Priceline said last-minute deals are available to those who simply can't stand the freeze any longer. Want to leave town Friday? A flight from LaGuardia to San Juan will only cost you $391 including tax, said spokesman Brian Ek. There are also deals this weekend to Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) and Cancun (Mexico).

Hotel deals are there for the asking, too. Ek said a room at the five-star Sanctuary Cap Cana (DR) is going for just $213 per night this weekend. His advice?

"Get outta Dodge, for crying out loud."