1. It’s going to be busy. When I ask Best Western CEO David Kong how the hotel or travel industry is doing, he usually tells me to just look at the stock market. If it is rising, he says, then you can be pretty sure that the travel industry is going to follow suit. So, looking at the records being set on Wall Street this winter with the Dow soaring past 20,000 and staying there, I think we could have one of the busiest spring break seasons we’ve had in years.
When the economy is strong and people feel confident about the future, they are more likely to travel. There’s already evidence of this: Best Western reports that its advance bookings for March and April at its 2,200 hotels in the U.S. and Canada are up 6 percent compared to this time last year. Plus, people are spending more and staying longer—the number of room nights booked is up 11.2 percent in the same period. Resort area bookings are up 17.5 percent, which means more travelers are focused on leisure trips this spring.
2. Gasoline prices are higher. The average price per gallon is up about 50 cents compared to this time last year according to GasBuddy.com. This means budget-focused travelers may have to trim back spring break spending to pay for gas, but I don’t think it will keep people at home. While 50 cents more per gallon is a lot, gasoline prices were near historical lows last year (around $1.70 on average) and are still inexpensive by most measures. Also, most Spring Break driving trips take place in or via the southeastern US where gasoline prices are cheapest.
3. Easter is late. This year Easter is on Sunday, April 16—relatively late compared to last year when it was on March 25. (The date for Easter is determined by the phase of the moon and can fall between March 22 and April 25.) What this means for the spring break season is that it is nice and spread out—there is not a single week or two with a significant concentration of travel demand. Generally, collegiate spring break takes place during the month of March. Family spring break takes place during the week of Easter. This year, you’ll find the best deals in early April (once the collegiate spring breakers are back in school), and then again in late April after Easter.
4. Shoulder season deals plentiful- After Easter, we enter the shoulder season of light demand, fewer crowds and lower prices that will last until early June when peak season kicks in. If you have flexibility to travel then and are looking for great last minute deals, this is the time to check around. Aggressive discounting on the part of low-fare carriers is keeping fares low—but be aware of new restrictions for these new “basic economy” fares. Set up fare alerts with airfare search engines and check the Twitter feeds of travel brands to snag last minute deals.
While hotel rates can be less expensive during shoulder season, keep an eye out for promotions, too, like Best Western’s spring deal: Register now and get a $10 Best Western Gift Card with every stay through April 30, 2017. Spring promotions like this can help shave costs on summer vacations or business trips!
After mid-June, peak summer pricing kicks in as demand soars—and looking at the stock market as Kong advises, we could have one of the busiest summer seasons ever. That means that if you have your heart set on specific dates and locations for summer vacation, now is the time to make those reservations.
5. International travel is up. While spring break is mostly a domestic affair, there’s increasing interest in travel to other countries these days as the U.S. dollar continues to strengthen. Right now, the euro is running at about $1.05 and approaching parity. The British pound is at about $1.22 compared to this time last year when it was about $1.45. Low fare carriers such as Norwegian Air and Wow Air are forcing all airlines to lower transatlantic fares to unprecedented levels (as low as $400 round trip), making the idea of spring break in London or Paris or Barcelona not very far fetched at all. The U.S. dollar has also strengthened against the Canadian dollar and Mexican peso making both countries more affordable spring or summer options.
Top spring travel destinations are:
- Nearly everywhere in Florida, especially Orlando and coastal cities
- Cities along the U.S. Gulf Coast in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas
- Las Vegas
- California – Sierra and Rocky Mountain ski areas (due to an abundance of snow that could extend the season into May or beyond)
- Washington, D.C.
- 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.