Even though we’ve experienced a relatively mild winter in the U.S., Americans are gearing up for a busy spring break travel season.
Well, low gasoline prices are prompting more of us to consider jumping in the car and heading to the beach or the slopes. And despite some bumps on Wall Street, the economy is humming along nicely. So with all that hard work at the office or school we all deserve a nice break, right?
There are some early indications that this spring break season could be a whopper. First, room nights booked for this year’s peak spring break travel season (March 18-31) are up 5.2 percent compared to the same time last year at Best Western’s 1,800 U.S. hotels.
Airlines in the U.S. expect to have their busiest spring, ever: 140 million passengers, up from 136 million last year. Plus, the TSA is expecting a 7 percent increase in the number of fliers passing through airports this spring and warning travelers to brace for longer security line waits.
Increased demand for air travel has provided airlines with the confidence to raise fares three times since the beginning of the year. However, keen competition from aggressive low-fare carriers is keeping a lid on big increases in the markets where they fly.
To avoid the highest prices and the possibility of sold out flights, hotels or rental cars, those planning trips in late March should make reservations as soon as possible– especially if headed to popular spring break destinations such as Florida, the Gulf Coast, Rocky Mountain ski resorts and Mexican beach resort areas.
If you have the flexibility to travel in early March, or later on in April, May or early June, you’ll find lower prices than during the late March peak. After mid-June, peak summer pricing kicks in as demand soars.
What’s different about this year’s spring travel season? Well, late March is usually the busiest time of year for collegiate spring break dates. Early April, when Easter usually falls, is more popular with families. But this year we have a very early Easter weekend (March 25-28), which means families, AND college kids are going to be crowding airports, hotels and the beaches simultaneously.
Due to this concentration, travelers should be on alert for surprise crowds at airports, especially if you live in or near (or are traveling to or from) a big college town OR if you are headed to a warm weather destination like Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean. This is also the case for airport hubs with connections to warm weather destinations such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles or Phoenix.
An early Easter means you’ll find a spring travel “sweet spot” during the first two weeks of April when spring breakers have gone home, or gone back to school. That’s when you’ll most likely find the best last minute deals and smallest crowds.
Don’t forget that St Patrick’s Day falls at the beginning of peak season this year on Thursday, March 17. Travelers should expect extreme vigilance on the part of police and highway patrol when it comes to drinking and driving on that Thursday.
TIP: If you are a business traveler staying over in a resort or beachside area in March, ask for a quiet room away from the pool or other public areas, which may attract a rowdy spring break crowd.
Top spring travel destinations this year are:
- Nearly everywhere in Florida, especially Orlando and coastal cities.
- Cities along the US Gulf Coast in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas
- Las Vegas
- Rocky Mountain and New England ski areas
- Washington, DC
- Low-cost, nearby Caribbean destinations such as Puerto Rico, the Bahamas or the Dominican Republic\
- Mexico, especially coastal resort areas such as Cancun and the “Riviera Maya” along the east coast and Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, and Baja on the west.
This post originally appeared on Best Western’s YouMustBeTrippin.com blog
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