With more paid time off for workers brought on by the new year, Northwest Arkansas residents may already be mapping out how they’ll use those days in 2022.
Assuming they’ll use some of that time for travel, the core questions are these: When is the best time for a vacation and where should I go?
There are many secondary questions to go along with those conversation starters. They include:
- Isn’t it a mistake to take time off from work at the beginning of the year, and shouldn’t a person hold out as long as possible? Pam Beesly struggled with that question on The Office.
- Will waiting until summer make a trip more expensive?
- Will traveling in January or February make the trip less expensive?
- Would it be invigorating to take days off now?
- What’s the possibility that some paid time off will go unused if a person doesn’t start using it early?
Every person will answer those questions differently, but one solution may be to split the difference.
There’s no reason to be a Pam Beesly and blow through all the vacation time in January, but it’s possible to use up a little PTO now while preserving most vacation time for Arkansas’ warmer months.
A story in The New York Times last month suggested workers have put off travel time and again due to COVID-19, and they need time off to recharge. They are better employees when they return after being away, the story suggests.
If the goal is to travel now, to recharge, and to save most vacation days for later, a nonstop flight makes sense because it shortens the travel time. Going in February or the first few days of March also makes sense because it gets more expensive to fly during spring break later in March.
With that in mind, we’d go in one of these directions:
Two airlines — Frontier and United — fly from Northwest Arkansas National Airport to the Mile High City. The competition makes the airfare less expensive. We’d go with Frontier at $118 roundtrip, leaving XNA on Feb. 3 and returning to Arkansas on Feb. 6. United can make the same trip for $203 on those days, which is an excellent fare, too.
One option is to stay in Denver. Another is to rent a car and motor over to a nearby ski resort.
The Sunshine State makes about every one of FareFlight’s recommendation lists for good reason. XNA has nonstop flights to eight places in Florida: Destin, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Punta Gorda, St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Sanford/Orlando and Tampa.
Three of those options aren’t great for purposes of this list, though. Allegiant’s flights to Destin won’t restart until April, and its flights to Punta Gorda go only on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which is not ideal for a weekend trip. American’s nonstop flights to Miami, meanwhile, occur only on Saturdays.
With those three destinations out, we’d pick a Friday-to-Monday trip to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Breeze flies nonstop to Tampa, and Allegiant goes to the nearby St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport. Either airline can get you there in February for less than $100 roundtrip.
If the goal is to avoid the crush of travel that Las Vegas often brings, late February is great. It’s before many of the Las Vegas hotels open their swimming pools, before the NCAA’s March Madness basketball starts, and it’s after the Super Bowl on Feb. 13.
Moreover, with both Allegiant and Frontier flying to the city, it’s possible to shorten up the trip as a way to cut gambling losses and use one less vacation day. We’d take Frontier out of XNA on Feb. 18 and arrive in Las Vegas for a late dinner. We’d come home on Allegiant in the late afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 20. It’ll cost $131 roundtrip.
No scenario is better when it comes to preserving vacation days and still getting in a quick trip.
XNA offers so much Texas with nonstops to Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and two airports in Houston.
Given those choices, we’d skip Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston because the traffic in those cities sounds like stress, not a short vacation. Moreover, the fares are great to Austin and San Antonio.
Allegiant goes nonstop to Austin every Monday and Friday, and Visit Austin offers a three-day itinerary on its website. If you do everything suggested by Visit Austin, you’ll be exhausted and not recharged. Maybe it’s best to pick and choose from their proposal.
As for San Antonio, you’d be pressed to find an expensive flight to the city on Breeze Airways during the month of February. You’ll fly there on a Thursday and return to XNA on a Sunday, and it’s probably going to be $39 each way if you make the flight purchase in the next few days.
Visit San Antonio, which has been advertising for weeks on Facebook in Northwest Arkansas, has a helpful guide on its website.