As appeared in The Park Slope Courier and Courier Life Publications: By Camille Sperrazza There’s a weekend coming up, and you want to go somewhere sensational, but where? Log on to Escapemaker.com (with offices located in Brooklyn at 180 Fifth Avenue, 718-398-5766) and you’ll find an array of getaways, concerts, festivals, and special events, all happening within a 500-mile radius of New York City, including last-minute offers and special deals. This site is the best travel dot-com I’ve seen. It’s fast, friendly, and filled with relevant information. What a refreshing change to discover a website where you don’t have to visit 35 screens before finding the one that contains the information you need. Have no idea how to spend this weekend? No problem. Answer five simple questions on the screen, all designed to help you discover a destination you’ll enjoy. Just check off the desired length of your trip, (from one day to three nights or longer), who you are traveling with, (there’s a list that includes single, couple, kids), the scenery you prefer, (beach, mountains, for example), whether you’re looking for a quiet, romantic getaway, or an active vacation; and if you prefer to stay at a hotel, bed and breakfast, campsite, or resort. When I made my entries, I instantly received a list of fabulous suggestions almost all of which appealed to me greatly. There’s no doubt I’m using Escapemaker.com the next time I plan a weekend vacation. The inspiration for the website came from the site developer’s love of travel, and it shows. Caylin Sanders, president of Escapemaker.com, noticed that “Most travel agents don’t book local.” Consequently, making weekend travel arrangements was a time-consuming task. “It involved a lot of research and phone calls,” she says. She also noticed that books written about weekend getaways were usually outdated, sometimes expensive, not to mention bulky to carry. Having the advantage of already being knowledgeable in the computer field, Caylin returned to school to fine-tune her business skills. Escapemaker.com was born because Caylin was sure it could provide the information so many were seeking. She takes pride in the fact that, unlike many websites that depend on funding from venture capitalists, her website is “funded the traditional way.” Caylin took out a small business loan from a Brooklyn bank, and runs her own company. It made its debut in September when a troupe dressed as butterflies arrived in the Wall Street and Rockefeller Center vicinities, passed out butterfly magnets, and encouraged New Yorkers to “make their escape through the net.” These outings were followed by colorful ads in publications such as The New Yorker. The site now averages about 800-1,000 users a day. Look for the human butterflies to fly around Manhattan again this spring. What’s also unique about Escapemaker.com is that it understands not everyone drives. That’s why it provides information on how to reach destinations by public transportation, and even links to transit schedules. But Escapemaker.com provides even more than that. It encourages visitors to share travel experiences, sending free T-shirts to those who post their favorite travel memories on bulletin boards. Or, log on to find someone with whom you can share your travel plans and expenses. Can’t get away unless someone takes the dog for the weekend? Don’t give it a second thought. There’s even a section for those willing to care for pets, and one for house sitters while you’re away. Money may not even be a travel obstacle, if you’re fortunate enough to win one of the free weekend getaways offered each month. Escapemaker.com sent one lucky couple on a family-oriented getaway to Mystic, Connecticut last month, and sent another, the following month, on a romantic trip upstate New York. It doesn’t cost a dime to enter these vacation sweepstakes. Restaurant reviews, gift shops that can’t be missed, and discount coupons, add to the website’s informative fun. Caylin lets us in on the “many little known gems” she’s discovered in her travels. “For instance,” she says, “who would guess that you could take a romantic cruise to a deserted island in Connecticut?” Or, that just hours away from Manhattan, “you can kayak with the dolphins at sunset or become a dwarf for a day at a giant sculpture garden?” Whenever she visits a town, she does so “as if I have never been anywhere before,” Caylin says. It is this way that she is able to provide insight into the many questions travelers ask, such as: Where can I get toothpaste? A disposable camera? Contact lens solution? Even an ice cream cone? “These are questions I ask the locals,” she says, knowing that residents don’t patronize tourist traps. Caylin provides the answers to these questions — and so much more — on Escapemaker.com. Don’t plan your next escape until you’ve checked it out.