The demand for travel during the American spring break timeframe is substantial—and demand remains strong despite higher prices.
There are approximately 50 million kindergartens through twelfth-grade students in the U.S.—and nearly all of them have a spring break between mid-March and mid-April.
With most spring breaks including school-aged children, family, and multigenerational trips are popular. According to AAA, more than four in 10 Americans with spring break plans are traveling with three generations.
At the start of the year, just over half of all Americans (52%) and 79% of leisure travelers were planning to travel for leisure in the next six months. What’s more, as of early March, one-quarter of American travelers had travel plans in the next 60 days— right over the spring break time frame.
As usual, warm weather destinations top the list for spring breakers. Beaches in Florida followed by Hawaii top the list of domestic destinations. Yet, many Americans are looking forward to more urban sightseeing trips this year as Las Vegas, New York City, Nashville, and New Orleans are also trending.
Another new trend this year is that travelers are stepping out of their comfort zones. Sticking with what is most familiar and revisiting places they’ve previously traveled is less appealing today than during the pandemic when many Americans preferred familiar destinations.
Americans are displaying higher comfort levels with shared transportation options such as planes, trains, and car rentals, rather than relying on their own vehicle.
Additionally, Americans are looking to travel outside of the U.S. The strength of the dollar, coupled with decreased health concerns and reduced COVID-19 restrictions has led to increased demand for international destinations. Even with increased costs overall, the U.S. dollar has more spending power overseas.
Inflation and higher prices are having an impact on travel decision-making. Unrelenting consumer demand has increased prices on nearly everything from airfare to gasoline to lodging to activities. While gasoline is down 6% from a year ago, it has been steadily increasing largely as a result of increased demand.
And two-thirds of Americans admitted to being priced out of at least one of their top destinations, accommodations, and/or car rental choices for spring break travel. Seven in 10 spring break travelers are altering their travel plans and driving instead of flying (32%), shortening their trip (25%), choosing a less expensive destination (24%), or eliminating excursions or activities (20%) to make it more affordable.
But the cost isn’t the only deterrent.
The air travel experience was rated as sub-par for nearly half of Americans (45%). Nearly four in 10 leisure travelers (36%) would travel more in the next six months if the travel experience was not so much of a hassle today.
This isn’t surprising—expensive fares, flight delays, cancelations, crowds, and a cumbersome air travel process make air travel frustrating. That said, in addition, to travel discounts, increased flight availability and flexible booking terms would encourage more leisure travel by air in the next six months.
Flexibility is a top consideration when booking transportation and accommodation for eight in 10 Americans, and many travelers would be willing to pay more for flexible cancelation policies.
Airlines for America estimates that an average of 2.6 million people will fly during March and April each day—a 1% increase from 2019, while capacity remains about 10% below 2019 levels. And while airlines are anticipating and preparing for record air travel demand this spring, pilot shortages, outdated technology, and capacity constraints remain.