A long, cold and snowy winter and low gasoline prices combined with improving consumer confidence and stock market rallies is resulting in what could be a very busy and expensive spring travel season. If you are headed south, you need to prepare for noise and crowds.
NICE SPREAD: Luckily, the spring travel season is spread out this year – roughly six weeks long – beginning this week and ending in mid-April, after Easter (Sunday, April 5). Interest in spring getaways is definitely up– for example, advance bookings for March and April at Best Western’s 2,000+ hotels in the U.S. are up 7.1 percent, compared to this time last year.
STRONG DOLLAR: The recent dramatic strengthening of the U.S. dollar is helping drive increased interest among Americans in international travel this spring – to Mexico, the Caribbean and especially Canada, where Best Western’s advance bookings for March and April have soared 18.7 percent.
PACKED FLIGHTS: Airline trade group A4A projects spring 2015 air travel to rise to its highest level in seven years, with passenger volumes expected to fall just below the 2007 peak. Approximately 134.8 million passengers (2.2 million per day) are expected to fly on U.S. airlines during March and April compared to 132.2 million last year, up 2 percent over last year. This includes a record 17.2 million travelers (283,000 per day) on international flights. To accommodate the expected growth in demand, airlines are increasing the number of seats by 3 percent or 64,000 seats per day during this period.
Late spring travel deals: 6 must-see spring travel flash sales
CHEAP GAS: Gasoline prices have been in free fall over the last six months, but as the peak spring travel season approaches, prices have started to inch up. For example, the average price paid for a gallon of gas has jumped 20 cents from $2.27 in mid-February, to $2.47 in early March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The biggest gas price increases are on the west coast, where the average price per gallon is now back to more than $3 per gallon. The cheapest gasoline (less than $2.20 on average) is in Gulf coast and Rocky Mountain states, which is great news for beachcombers or skiers.
ROWDY COEDS: If you are flying on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays during March, you’ll find airports in or near college campuses and warm weather destinations packed with vacationing students, creating longer lines at airport security. In Atlanta, Emory, Univ of Georgia and Morehouse are on break this week. Georgia Tech and Georgia State start March 14. See Collegiate Spring Break Calendar here. Also, beware of crowding and possible delays on highways and skyways on the days leading up to, and shortly after, Easter Sunday, April 5. To get the lowest fares, try to postpone trips until non-peak times, such as late April or May, known as the “shoulder season.” Also, travelers who can travel mid-week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays are also more likely to find lower fares. TIP: If you are a business traveler staying over in a resort or beachside area, ask for a quiet room away from the pool or other public areas, which may attract a rowdy spring break crowd.
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