With the arrival of spring, Ohio travelers are no longer so concerned with escaping the state’s snow and cold (although April snowstorms are not unknown here — I’m just sayin’).

But when winter has the Buckeye State in its icy grip, Ohioans flock to warm-weather destinations. This year’s brutal winter pushed even more of us to the sunny south, according to the AAA Ohio Auto Club.

“This is always a busy travel booking time, but there was definitely an increase in people wanting to go to warm-weather destinations this year,” said Krista Whorton, vice president of travel sales for AAA Ohio.

This year, for example, has seen a 29 percent increase in bookings through AAA to the Caribbean and Mexico compared with the same period last year, Whorton said.

The top five of those destinations are Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; St. Lucia; and Aruba.

I think I got a tan just reading that list.

Car travelers also headed south from Ohio in big numbers, AAA reports.

Topping the list of destinations was Orlando, Fla. AAA notes that Orlando is among the top three driving destinations throughout the year.

The auto club credits the growing popularity of Universal Orlando Resort plus other attractions such as Walt Disney World for the city’s top ranking. But I suspect that this winter, the city’s weather played a bigger role than normal in attracting Ohioans.

Whorton agrees with me.

“We think the cold had a lot to do with it,” she said.

“We’ve also seen people who haven’t traveled in the winter in the past who were booking several days or maybe a long weekend to Las Vegas or Florida just to escape the cold.”

In fact, six of the top 10 driving destinations from Ohio so far this year have been in Florida — and all of the destinations are due south.

AAA Ohio’s Top 10 Driving Destinations for 2014 (so far):

  1. Orlando, Fla.
  2. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  3. Naples, Fla.
  4. Fort Myers, Fla.
  5. New Orleans
  6. Sarasota, Fla.
  7. Kissimmee, Fla.
  8. Hilton Head, S.C.
  9. Tampa, Fla.
  10. Charleston, S.C.

(c)2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Tags: florida, ohio
Photo Credit: Tourists walk around Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Robert Linsdell / Flickr