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Spring break preview: What to anticipate and how you can have a easy journey | Viral With Us
Sunday, February 5, 2023

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Spring break preview: What to anticipate and how you can have a easy journey


Ready for spring break? So is everyone else. 

And that’s the problem.

“My phone is ringing off the hook,” says Shane Mahoney, CEO of Lugos Travel. “There’s such a pent-up demand for travel and people can finally travel wherever they want without restrictions.”

Experts predict this spring break — typically from late February to the end of March — will be busier than last year’s and maybe busier than 2019. But this won’t be your typical travel season. Not even close. 

“Many economists are anticipating a full recession as well as a potential energy crisis,” says Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner. “And lingering labor and supply challenges across the board will still affect prices.”

So what does that mean for you? Well, there are places everyone wants to go, which you might consider avoiding this spring break. And there are mistakes travelers will make, but you can avoid these.

I’ve never understood the spring break travel phenomenon. School districts give their students a week during spring; everybody drives to Florida or flies to Cancún, Mexico. High prices and chaos follow. That’s no way to spend your vacation.

Where’s everyone going this spring break?

When it comes to popular destinations, think warm. Many travelers want to head south to catch a few rays — and maybe waves. Here are Priceline’s most popular domestic destinations, along with the percent increase in bookings from last year, for dramatic effect:

  1.  St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (+299%)
  2.  Kailua-Kona, Hawaii (+235%)
  3.  Sacramento, California (+173%)
  4.  Gulf Shores, Alabama (+152%)
  5.  San Diego (+135%)
  6.  Colorado Springs, Colorado (+120%)
  7.  Galveston, Texas (+112%)
  8.  Phoenix (+112%)

But this year, for the first time since 2019, Americans are also considering traveling internationally for spring break. 

“The strength of the dollar, coupled with lifted or lessened COVID-19 restrictions, is leading to an uptick in searches for international travel destinations throughout Europe and even Asia,” says Priceline spokesperson Christina Bennett. “So while inflation is driving up costs overall, your dollars are going further with current conversion rates.”

Travel insurance company World Nomads reports that for the 2023 spring break season, 42% of its U.S. sales are for European destinations, 15% for South America and 14% for Asia. The rest are domestic trips.

“Travelers are seeing 2023 as the year to take the big trips they had postponed due to COVID-19 and border restrictions,” says Christina Tunnah, general manager of marketing and brands for World Nomads.

What are some spring break travel trends?

The new travel trends driving spring break 2023 focus on outdoor activities, fuel efficiency and predictability, according to experts. 

Spring camping. The Dyrt’s 2022 Camping Report, which surveyed thousands of campers and members of the general public, found that spring is one of the fastest-growing camping seasons. “Spring camping is up 27% from pre-pandemic levels,” says Sarah Smith, founder of the camping information app. “Spring break can be an excellent time to snag more competitive campsites before the summer season gets into full swing.” But she says don’t wait too long to book, or you might not find a site for your RV or tent. 

Closecations. Booking patterns for spring break suggest Americans prefer a “closecation” — traveling to a region within three to four hours’ driving distance from home. A softer economy is driving this trend, according to Noël Russell, chief experience officer for Whimstay, a vacation rental platform. “These closecations will be an increasing trend for travelers who want to experience the joy of a vacation while staying within their budget and maintaining more control over their experiences,” she says. 

A return to “normal.” Christopher Falvey, co-founder of Unique NOLA Tours, a ghost tour company in New Orleans, has been analyzing the bookings for spring break. His conclusion: It’s looking a lot like 2019. “Our seasonal ebb and flow has come back to normal,” he says. “Finally, predictability!” But that means all the travel tricks you learned during the pandemic, like waiting until the last minute to find a deal, will no longer work.

Expert advice for your spring break trip

What’s different about this spring break? Experts say this year, everyone is pushing the boundaries a little. They’re waiting until the last minute, trying to squeeze more time into their vacation and taking more risks. Here’s my free guide to holiday travel.

Don’t wait until the last minute. “Book early,” advises Melanie Fish, a travel expert at Expedia. “Last-minute deals are becoming exceedingly rare.” When is the best time to book? At least a month before domestic flights and six months before international flights will save you about 10%, according to Expedia’s latest research. To find out if it’s a good time to buy, Fish recommends setting up a fare alert online. Expedia uses machine learning to identify patterns in historical data and forecast price changes.

Give yourself plenty of time to get there and back. “Spring break is a pretty tight window, usually one week with a weekend on each end to get to your destination and back,” says Michael Rust, a professor at Western New England University. Rust helps plan educational trips during spring, and knows there isn’t a lot of margin for error. “It doesn’t leave much time for changing travel plans if something unexpected happens,” he says.

Understand the risks. Spring break can be dangerous. After all, you’re headed to the beach with thousands of other people. If you have travel insurance — and you probably should — take a few minutes to read the exclusions related to high-risk behaviors. “It’s especially important to understand the alcohol-related exclusions of your insurance policy,” says Narendra Khatri, principal of Insubuy, a travel insurance company. Put differently, if you overindulge during spring break and get into a moped accident on the way back to your hotel, you might not be covered.

So what will happen this spring break? It’s too early to know for sure. And it may be impossible to predict, say experts.

 “The unpredictability of travel, including flight cancellations, labor shortages, the impact of inflation, and potential illness, is unlikely to let up by springtime,” says Angela Borden, a product strategist for travel insurance company Seven Corners.

So for spring break 2023, the only thing we know with absolute certainty is that we know nothing.



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