A monthly column about gay and lesbian travel

As the Odometer Turns
A gay welcome to the new Millennium?

by Sasha Alyson

You've got some tempting options for celebrating the Millennium. Just don't expect them to be cheap.

Above: Some of us will use the millennium as a reason to take that big trip we've always dreamed about, but never got around to: An African safari, for example.



The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.



Table of Contents of Venturing Out columns

Do you know yet what you'll be doing when the clock turns to 2000?

Don't worry. Most of the people I spoke with for this column didn't know yet, either.

Tour companies began planning their millennium parties and packages years ago, blocking out hotel space, airplane seats, and every venue that lends itself to a big bash. Although a few of these packages are already booked up, you still have plenty to choose from.

But first things first. Ask yourself several questions before making plans.

How much of a premium are you willing to spend? Expect to pay at least 50% more, and in many cases 2 or 3 times as much, as you'd pay for a similar vacation before December 15 or after January 15. (And don't even think about cashing in frequent flyer points for your travel! Remember that "blackout dates" provision in your Frequent Flyer brochure? The airline remembers it, too.)

How much potential travel stress are you ready to endure? Personally, I'm confident the much-heralded Y2K problem will not cause any airline crashes, but it could lead to delays and disruptions in a few airports. Those delays, compounded by a snowstorm here or there, will accumulate if every airplane seat is filled. Massive confusion? Probably not. Your odds of spending a night in the airport waiting lounge? Higher than usual.

Don't book the land till you've got the air. At this writing, you cannot book an airline ticket from anywhere to anywhere, between next Dec. 20 and Jan. 10, for under a thousand dollars. (Yes, I'm exaggerating, but not by much. If you want to fly from Topeka to Indianapolis, you're still in luck.) Your best bet is a package that includes air from a city within driving distance.

Where do you want to go? Don't pay that extra money unless that trip will be special to you. If you never liked Caribbean cruises, they're not going to be more fun just because the calendar suddenly acquires a bunch of zeroes. If you're going to do this, find a trip that really stirs your soul - then grit your teeth and pay the extra.

How important is a millennium vacation? If you've just got to be somewhere special when those zeroes appear, then book now and pay the price. If it's not that important - well, the fact is, nobody really knows what level of demand to expect for millennium tours. Some operators might have excess capacity, in which case their prices will drop toward the end of the year. But you can't count on it.

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You've read all that and still want to go? Good. It would be a duller world without you party animals. Here are the most enticing gay and lesbian offerings that still have openings.

Starting at the high end, David's Trips and Tours, with a well-deserved reputation for selecting the finest restaurants and most luxurious hotels, hosts a fantasy getaway to Morocco, as well as bashes in South Africa, New York, New Orleans, and Budapest. Prices range from about $6500 for Morocco to $1500 for 4 nights in New Orleans; air not included. (888-723-0699)

Greet the millennium from Sydney or Fiji, and you'll greet it hours ahead of your friends. Above and Beyond, with the widest selection of any gay tour company, offers these two sites, and five others to choose from. Above and Beyond also includes airfare from selected U.S. cities. (800-397-2681)

Call Family Abroad for a 12-day "Millennium Celebration at the Pyramids," including a celebration at the foot of the Giza pyramids -- a glorious spot at which to welcome a new millennium, albeit one of the few locations where the passage of another thousand years might seem insignificant! Expect to pay about $6000 per person -- double what you would at other times -- which the company emphasizes is the result of high pricing by its Egyptian suppliers, not by Family Abroad. (800-999-5500)

Same continent, quite different location: Venture Out (no relation to this column!) offers a 14-day "soft adventure" to South Africa that incorporates a traditional wildlife safari, non-strenuous hiking, a visit to the Winelands area, and more. The trip begins Dec. 20. African safaris, in case you didn't know, are nowadays about seeing and photographing wildlife - not shooting it. If you've never seen elephants, lions, and zebras in the wild ... and if you can line up airfare ... this is a great price for a memorable experience. (888-431-6789)

The above trips are generally open to all, but most participants will be gay men. Women may prefer to get away from the crowds on an all-women, 11-day sea kayaking adventure with Mariah Wilderness Expeditions, in Baja and the Sea of Cortez. Another Mariah trip offers a variety of activities in Baja: hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, as well as sea kayaking. (800-462-7424)

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Any gay travel agent will know about other millennium options. The website of the Rancho Mirage travel agency has a page all about the millennium.

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May, 1999

Next Month: Where The Crowds Are (Major Gay & Lesbian Summer Events)