Thinking about a spring break vacation? You better think fast, because the 2024 spring break travel season will be busier — and potentially more expensive — than ever.
The annual rite, which runs from late February to Mid-April, isn’t just a stampede toward warmer weather. Many ski resorts experience peak demand, too. If you’re traveling somewhere in the coming weeks, you’ll need to start planning now and keep a few insider strategies in mind.
Let’s go over the spring break basics:
- What’s different about the 2024 spring break travel season?
- Should you wait for a better price or book now?
- How do you handle unruly spring breakers?
As you’ll see, spring break is an unusual travel holiday that plays by its own rules. You need a different set of strategies to make the most of your trip.
What’s different about the 2024 spring break travel season?
This year is a little odd, say experts. As of late January, travel prices seemed to be stable, if not falling, for the traditional spring break travel period. Here’s the latest the latest Consumer Price Index for domestic airfares.
- Airfares have leveled off. The average domestic airfare during spring break is $267, which is up about 1 percent from 2023, according to the travel app Hopper.
- Car rental prices have plummeted. They’ll average just $41 per day in the U.S., a 36 percent drop from last year, according to Hopper.
- Gas prices are falling. They’ll drop to an average of $3.36 per gallon, down almost 5 percent from last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Experts are looking for prices to slide during the winter months, followed by a gradual increase by Memorial Day.
- Lodging rates might also slide. They average about $220 per night domestically, a decrease of 43 percent. (Hopper’s methodology for analyzing hotel rates changed from last year, so it’s not an exact comparison.)
But spring break is a sprawling occasion, which makes travel patterns hard to predict. Prices could soar in the weeks leading up to the traditional start of spring break. They could also fall further.
Bottom line: If you see a price you like now, consider booking it.
Should I wait for a better spring break deal?
No. If you’re reading this in January or early February, then don’t procrastinate. Planning a spring break early ensures that you have more choices, which is something you’ll need if your first choice is sold out.
That’s especially true if you’re going to one of the more popular destinations. Allianz Travel Insurance publishes a list every year. Here’s the latest one:
Rank Domestic Destination International Destination 1 Orlando, Florida Cancun, Mexico 2 Phoenix, Arizona San Jose del Cabo, Mexico 3 New York, New York Nassau, Bahamas 4 Las Vegas, Nevada Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 5 Los Angeles, California Montego Bay, Jamaica 6 Fort Lauderdale, Florida London, England 7 Tampa, Florida Oranjestad, Aruba 8 Miami, Florida Mexico City, Mexico 9 Seattle, Washington Paris, France 10 Salt Lake City, Utah Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
A winning spring break strategy: Zig when everyone else zags!
There are rewards for contrarians. Consider a destination that may have fallen out of favor this year or is not a traditional spring break destination.
- Consider a place that is recovering from a natural disaster and that other visitors are writing off. In the past, for example, spring breakers have avoided beach resorts that are recovering from a hurricane. Usually, these places are happy to have visitors.
- Same thing goes for man-made disasters. After the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, many people abandoned the beaches of the Florida Panhandle. But there were deals to be had, and many of the beaches were already cleaned up.
- Consider a B-list destination for spring, such as a northern beach resort. These are places that traditionally don’t get a lot of spring break visitors because the weather is still cooler. But they love visitors. I’ve spent spring break in places like Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., and they are fun and not too crowded.
Bottom line: Savvy planning and steering clear of the herd can yield a better spring break travel experience.
What’s the best way to get to my spring break destination?
You would think a nonstop flight taken the moment you can leave — like on a Friday afternoon — would be best.
Because spring break is basically a school holiday, it means you and everyone else will be trying to catch that nonstop to Montego Bay on a Friday afternoon. Don’t be the unlucky guy standing in line with everyone else.
- Fly midweek. Airfares are far less expensive. It may be worth pulling the kids out of school a day early.
- Consider a one-stop instead of a nonstop flight. A one-stop flight through Miami or Dallas might be far less expensive. But remember, a stop opens you to the risk of missed connections and increases the likelihood of lost baggage, so weigh the risks and consider travel insurance.
- Drive overnight. Roads get clogged during spring break. But they are still relatively clear at night, when everyone is sleeping. I’ve had some remarkable spring break adventures driving on I-10 or I-95 on the “overnight” shift. (Plus, the kids sleep in the back.)
Finally, consider alternate airports or routing. Avoid busy highways or find a smaller airport with lower fares. Outside-the-box thinking is rewarded when it comes to spring break.
Insider tip: Book backward. Instead of making travel reservations and then looking for theme park or other attraction discounts, check for discount packages first and then book your stay around those dates. While the savings can be significant, don’t expect a theme park to give away rooms and tickets during busy times. Attractions have a time for deep discounts. For the Orlando theme parks, it’s early January and September — not spring break.
How do you handle unruly spring breakers?
When it comes to spring break, the real problem may be spring breakers.
A recent survey of spring breakers found the No. 1 priority for millennials will be to “kick back and relax.” So how do you get along with these revelers?
I can’t pretend it’s easy. But there are ways to get along with the kids.
Find common ground
You and the spring breakers have a lot in common — after all, you’re in the same place at the same time. Let the other guests know that you are here and more importantly, set expectations.
You can do that by talking to a hotel representative and your fellow guests. Introduce yourself. Let them know who you are and why you’re here. If you’re a spring breaker looking for a good time, why not introduce yourself to the other hotel guests on your floor? That way, if there is a misunderstanding or conflict, they’ll know who you are.
Offer an olive branch
Engage in a dialogue with the other guests. In any conflict resolution, you have to listen and find a way to make everyone appreciate your point of view.
Practically speaking, that means opening a dialogue between you and the noisy partygoers. And, if you’re a spring breaker, then it means listening to the complaining resort guests who are trying to get some sleep. Dialogue is essential to a conflict resolution. So when things get loud, your first call should not be the front desk, but a polite request in person to turn down the volume.
Be friendly and polite
A friendly tone opens the door to a compromise. For example, imagine a group of spring breakers at the airport talking loudly to each other, laughing and playing music while you’re trying to finish a spreadsheet for work. You’ll want to stay calm and polite.
You can say something like, “You guys really seem to be excited. Where are you traveling?’” Ask a few friendly questions and make some friendly comments: “Lucky you. That sounds like a lot of fun.’” Only then should you ask them politely: “I have an awfully boring spreadsheet to finish for work. I know you’re excited about your trip, but I would really appreciate it if you could be a bit quieter.
The reverse is true for all you kids and young adults out there on spring break. Being polite can cover a multitude of complaints about loud parties. Remember your “pleases” and “thank you’s.”
Avoid the crowds — if you can
Maybe the easiest way to combat spring breakers is to avoid the spring break crowd completely. If you’re headed to Florida or Mexico in March, you’re just asking for trouble. If you can postpone your trip until early April or reroute to another destination, I would do that.
I admit, I’m not a fan of spring break. Whenever I’ve been on the road in March and early April, trouble has followed me. I’ve been threatened with arrest in Daytona Beach and punched in the face in New Orleans. So I try to avoid inexpensive, warm-weather destinations in March and April. If you’re not into big parties, you might want to avoid them as well.
Have a great spring break!
So, there you have it, fellow spring breakers. These practical strategies will help you find the lowest price for a spring break vacation, avoid the crowds and help you negotiate with any unruly spring breakers. Stay safe out there.