February 3 2014 by Chris McGinnis
Record cold temperatures, snow and ice may be slowing down travelers right now, but as cabin fever sets in, get ready: Cold, dark winters nearly always lead to very busy, crowded and expensive spring breaks. Already, advance bookings for March and April at Best Western's 2,100+ hotels in North America are up 10.4% compared to this time last year.
To avoid the highest prices and the possibility of sold out flights, hotels or rental cars, those planning March trips 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 area.
The good news about this year's spring travel season is that it is spread out over March and April. That's because the peak of collegiate spring break will last from roughly March 7-March 22. Then there's a nice long lull until Easter, which comes relatively late this year on Sunday April 20.
A late Easter means you'll find a spring travel "sweet spot" during the first two weeks of April when the college kids have gone home (for the most part) and families have yet to embark on Easter trips. 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 smack in the middle of spring break on Monday, March 17 this year. Travelers should expect extreme vigilance on the part of police and highway patrol when it comes to drinking and driving throughout this weekend that precedes it.
Peak spring break travel season should end on about Tuesday, April 22. From then through May 21 (just before Memorial Day) there will be an shorter-than-normal "shoulder season"--of the best times of year to save money and avoid crowds--and one of the smartest times time to schedule business trips. During shoulder season, demand for travel (and prices) drops significantly from the highs you'll see during the spring and summer peaks.
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:
-Nearly everywhere in Florida, especially Orlando and coastal cities.
-Cities along the US Gulf Coast in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas
-Rocky Mountain and New England ski areas
-Low-cost, nearby Caribbean destinations such as 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.
Chris McGinnis is Best Western's travel trends expert and business travel blogger on www.youmustbetrippin.com.