Duluth—Plenty of people love last-minute trips to the North Shore.
If you’re one of them, perhaps you have an unexpected weekend free, or are in desperate need of a mid-week getaway, so you decide to contact local hotels and resorts to find an available room.
Attempt this, and you’ll quickly realize that locating a last-minute room on the North Shore can be extremely challenging.
“That spontaneity holds an allure for some people,” said Linda Jurek-Kratt, executive director of Visit Cook County. “There is an allure to not having a plan, waiting until the last minute, and saying, ‘let’s see what beholds us as we travel up the North Shore.’”
For more than five years, Visit Cook County has had an informal program in place through the local information centers to help spontaneous travelers locate lodging. Properties know to notify the information centers if they have last-minute availability, and the centers keep a running list.
Information center staff members are also prepared with their own call list and are prepared to contact properties before busy weekends. The list is massive; it contains more than 300 properties from hotels to lodges to vacation rentals. Visit Cook County said the “pillow count,” or the places where guests can rest their head, totals more than 6,000.
Kjersti Vick has been Visit Cook County’s marketing manager for about three years. “Sometimes, when you are planning a trip,” said Vick, “you can miss some of the organic opportunities that arise when you’re traveling.”
She said that’s why the program is in place—to support people’s unexpected trips so that they may take in the beauty of the North Shore. Year round, during peak travel times, people will call the information centers daily and ask if anyone knows of room availability.
Visit Duluth offers a similar service, only electronic. Their website is set up to showcase current room availability. Each week, the organization has two travel information managers call more than 80 nearby properties and ask about room openings during the upcoming weekend, or inquire about availability surrounding special events.
Bob Gustafson, media communications manager for Visit Duluth, said they have provided this service for more than 10 years, “to make it easier on the visitor, regardless of what type of Duluth experience they are looking for,” he said. During the travel information managers’ weekly calls, staff members also inquire about local charter fishing and campground availability.
To increase your chances of finding an open room, Gustafson suggests turning to social media. “Being able to be in communication with the different properties, or even us, on social media, is a big component,” he said.
Properties often offer last-minute specials on Facebook, Twitter or other platforms, or they may post about unique events that week that could be of interest to spontaneous travelers.
Check out the current room availability here:
Visit Duluth: www.visitduluth.com/lodging/current-availability
Visit Cook County
Grand Marais Information Center: (218) 387-2524
Lutsen-Tofte Information Center: (218) 663-7804