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Warm weather travel spikes as ice, snow return

The beach bar at the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin.
Source: Radisson Blu Reseort, Marina & Spa, Anse Marcel, St. Martin
The beach bar at the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin.

The "get me out of here!" calls are rolling in to travel counselors around the country as spring break kicks off and yet more winter storms bring bitter cold weather to many parts of the United States.

"People are literally crying to help us get them somewhere with guaranteed good weather," said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a member of the Virtuoso luxury travel network.

"Our winter business has spiked 38.5 percent in the past three weeks. And last minute business, meaning requests 10 days out or less, accounts for a whopping 78 percent of our business this year for winter travel," he said.

Several online agencies, including STA Travel, a discount student agency, report the same.

"We have definitely seen an increase in requests recently, mainly to Cancun," STA spokeswoman Teresa Cordova said. Some of the more popular places are sold out, and prices at other properties are about 30 percent more expensive than they were six weeks ago, she said.

CheapOair.com's data show travel to warmer destinations has increased 27 percent over the past few weeks to destinations including Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.

(Read more: Carnival reports record cruise bookings in January)

"If you haven't booked your spring break yet, do so immediately and have a backup list of where you want to go," said Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer for CheapOair.com. "Consider counter-seasonal destinations or international destinations, such as Central America, perhaps more so this year due to the weather and its impact on bookings."

At the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin "rooms are flying off the shelves," General Manager Jean-Marc Jalbert said via email. "We are right in the middle of the perfect storm—a good one. We have not raised our prices because of the weather, but we have been pretty much sold out since the second week of January."

Jalbert said unlike previous years, there is no negotiating on rate room rates right now and that if superior or deluxe rooms are no longer available, "the guests buy suites, just to get out of the cold weather. We have also seen people extending their stay at the last minute, reluctant to go back to the cold."

(Read more: A guide to increasingly sky-high airline fees)

Ovation Travel's Ezon hasn't noticed many hotels raising their rates as a result of the bad weather in the United States, but says many properties are blocking out promotions or are instituting minimum stays.

"The other big challenge right now is getting people to their destinations," said Ezon.

The unrelenting winter storms are motivating people to plan and book trips to warm weather destinations, but bus, train and airline cancellations often get in the way.

"My advice for all winter refugees is to buy insurance that covers either 'cancel for any reason' or delay/cancellation based on weather," said Ezon. "And make sure to buy it from someone who understands the nuances in the policies, because not all will pay for your vacation if your flight is merely canceled due to snow."

(Read more: Phone calls on planes? Your last chance to comment)

—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC.com. Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.

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