Centre County’s winters, no matter how majestic, can be a pain in the you-know-what.
Snow relentlessly blasted the local area from Thanksgiving to the first days of March. Sub-zero temperatures caused day-to-day school delays in February. And ice periodically blanketed roads and sidewalks, making a trip to the grocery store or bank nearly impossible.
It’s not surprising some people try to get away from the occasionally arctic-like conditions for sunnier destinations. The Penn State Alumni Association has about 30 annual trips around the world, sometimes reaching Tahiti, Australia and the Amazon. The association’s director of Alumnus and Student Engagement, Deborah Marron, said the majority of people who go on trips are are in their 50s to 80s and that most trips take place between December and March.
“We have a few trips out right now,” she said in late February. “We have 30 people in the Caribbean, and another group just left for the Panama Canal. They’re trying to beat the winter cold in warmer climates.”
Most trips last about 10 days, but some can go three weeks for excursions to places such as western Europe.
“Folks can go away and get totally immersed in the environment and culture of another place for three weeks,” Marron said. “The most popular trips for longer durations are in western Europe. We have three or four trips to Italy a year, because it’s the most requested destination. I also think people look for ways to learn more about the world around them, and traveling opens our perspectives and can be an eye-opening and transformational experience.”
Alumni groups also often travel in North America to Alaska, northern provinces in Canada and the Rockies.
Alumnus Jim Pawelczyk will host a trip near Napa Valley in June.
“It’ll be a new, neat kind of trip that’s adventure-based,” Pawelczyk said. “It’ll be a hike, bike and paddle trip. Paddling will be the weak one for me, but I’m looking forward to learning more there. What a great opportunity to get outdoors and spend a fun week with other Penn Staters.”
While the alumni association offers extended trips, Fullington Trailways offers mostly day trips to regional locations.
The hottest destinations, according to director of operations Mike Dull, are casinos.
“Seniors do really enjoy traveling on one-day excursions, particularly casinos right now,” he said. “They offer packages for free play and a meal, transportation costs are relatively low and it gives them an opportunity to break away from their routines and to spend a few days with friends.”
The company averages about 20 trips a month to regional casinos, dinner shows and trips to see national treasures such as the vast number of monuments in Washington, D.C.
“It’s mostly relaxed entertainment, not over the top entertainment, but things that are certainly an interest to seniors,” Dull said.
Fullington Trailways does most of its tours between March and June and then September and October. The company also does tours up to a week long tours, sometimes to tour the deep south.
“I think these trips allow them to enjoy a common interest and builds camaraderie.”