Many students have scalled back on their spring break travel plans as the country’s deepening recession eats into their pocketbooks — and their parents’.
A study released by the Office of Tourism Analysis at the College of Charleston shows that 45% of the college students surveyed indicated that they have spent less this year than in previous years during Spring Break.
The downturn might actually be helping popular Florida spring break destinations like Panama City Beach and South Beach. President of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, Dan Rowe said that "the number of room rentals in the area has held steady this year."
The manager of Sangrias in Fort Lauderdale, Jay Olivera, indicated that spring breakers had provided some relief to a disappointing winter vacation season. Businesses across the state have seen a dramatic increase in traffic compared to February, but sales are still 20% lower than last year.
Spring break has been good for the Florida Economy, but it hasn't been as good as it has been in the past years.
Beaches across America will again be full of students this March with 65 percent of respondents saying they will be going to Mexico, the Caribbean or a beach in the United States.
The most popular destinations for beach-goers in the United States were South Padre Island and Panama City, at 24 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Miami was also high on students' lists at 19 percent.
In Mexico, Cancun was the top choice for travelers at 55 percent of respondents, followed by Cabo and Acapulco at 16 percent each.
The majority of travelers opting for the Caribbean -- 44 percent -- are making their way to the clear skies and blue waters of the Bahamas. The second choice destinations for those heading to the islands are the Dominican Republic at 23 percent, and Jamaica at 22 percent.
With students looking for the best value for their vacation dollar, 65 percent of respondents said they are booking early in October or November. By booking early, students can select from more travel options and lock-in the current price, without having to worry about the price increasing and blowing their budget.
"Booking early allows students to budget and save for their vacation," said Celko. "If they wait until the last minute, their ideal Spring Break may not be available or may have increased in price."
Many of the Tour Operators are offering students who book a Spring Break package to a hot spot like Cancun or the Bahamas early, additional perks like free drinks and meals during their trip.
Also there are Tour Operators that will try to pass off a slice of pizza one night and a hot dog another night as "Meals Included" or as a "Meal Plan". This is expectable to some travelers, just beware.