When Did “Spring Break” Become an Occasion for “Adult” or Family Vacations?

I came across the following list of the “Top Ten Trending Spring Break Destinations.” The folks at Kayak have compiled the list after surveying the number of inquiries made over the past few months to various travel sites. I naturally assumed that most of the destinations would be “beach towns” in Florida, and I was therefore surprised to see that the top destination on the list is Austin and that Phoenix (with special mention of Scottsdale!) has also made the list. So I started reading the descriptive notes, and this part of the note for Fort Lauderdale struck me as particularly odd: “if the weather gets too humid for you after a long, cold winter—duck into one of the city’s many museums.” I myself might actually want to do that, but I doubt that it would even occur to most college-aged “visitors,” unless they should be simply looking for a cool bench on which to “sleep it off.” (And, by the way, since when has Fort Lauderdale become especially notable for its museums?)

As I read further, I came across repeated references to fine dining and to activities for the kids, and I thought, “My God, they are trying to do to spring break what they tried to do to Las Vegas—that is, turn it into a “family-friendly vacation destination,” or “occasion.” But hundreds of thousands of “spring breakers”—in the usual sense of the term—don’t descend on Las Vegas, whereas they do descend  on Fort Lauderdale and many of the other “beach towns” in Florida, the largest of which are on the Kayak list. Although I am not a “snow bird” yet, I believe that the arrival of the “spring breakers” is pretty much the signal for the “snow birds” to begin to migrate northwards again. That said, I doubt that the arrival of the “spring breakers” and the departure of the “snow birds” is a very coordinated affair. I suppose that the “beach towns” are trying simply to wring as much tourist-generated revenue as possible from the final weeks of their peak season. But imagine a family arriving in Fort Lauderdale in the midst of the collegiate “spring break.” That experience would almost certainly provide quite an “education” for the kids in that family.

By the way, I don’t know how to include this digression without it sounding insulting to those “snow birds,” but springtime in Ohio is marked by the return of the buzzards. Yes, large numbers of those large scavenger birds that have circled over the dead and dying in countless Western films choose to spend the warmer months in Ohio. Each year on March 15, their return to the town on Hinckley in the northeastern part of the state is very pointedly promoted as a celebratory occasion (and an opportunity to attract at least regional tourist dollars). The buzzards have been returning to Hinckley in large numbers since 1818, when a systematically planned hunt to exterminate the bears and wolves in the surrounding wilderness lead to an indiscriminate slaughtering of most of the wildlife that the hunters encountered. [See: http://www.hinckleytwp.org/content/great-hinckley-hunt-1818.] The buzzards, or so the story goes, came in large numbers to feed on the large number of animal carcasses that were left to rot in the woods. But why the buzzards should have kept returning to Hinckley when no similarly extensive slaughter has occurred in all the years since has never really been explained, at least to my satisfaction.

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Top 10 Trending Spring Break Destinations (According to Kayak)

1. Austin, Texas: This southern gem has been hot the last few years so it’s no surprise that it’s topped our spring break list of places to escape the cold. The last week of March saw the lowest median airfare ($336) so pack your sombrero and check out Polvos Mexican Restaurant – nothing says spring break like margaritas and a salsa bar.

2. Fort Lauderdale: If you have the luxury of deciding when your Spring Break falls, consider the last week of April where our Travel Hacker Data showed median airfare around $288. “The Venice of America” is known for its beaches, but if the weather gets too humid for you after a long, cold winter—duck into one of the city’s many museums.

3. Los Angeles: Smack in the middle of prime spring break season, LA saves the day with median airfare at just $352 in late April. If you want to pair your beach time with some urban adventure be sure to check out Downtown LA, which is experiencing a renaissance as of late.

4. Miami: Home to the most popular college spring break destination in the US, SoBe (as the kids say) is best to visit at the end of April. In 2014, the week of April 21-27 boasted median airfare around $377. Avoid this beach haven in early April when airfare has historically reached a high of around $592.

5. West Palm Beach: With “Beach” in the name, you can imagine why people are flocking to West Palm for break. The last week in March is a great time to go with median airfare right around $315. If you’re ready for a night on the town, head over to Clematis Street or CityPlace for dinner and dancing-–a fresh tan (or burn) is the perfect accessory.

6. Phoenix: A little desert heat will make memories of this winter melt away. The first week of April is a great time to visit, with median airfare around $370, and the events calendars for both Phoenix and its close neighbor, Scottsdale, are packed to the brim. If you’re in town April 7-12 be sure to eat your way through the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.

7. Fort Myers: Are you sensing a theme here? The beach is, of course, the most popular activity in Fort Myers. Our Travel Hacker Data shows late March as a great time to go. Bringing the kids? The Imaginarium is an interactive science museum, perfect for getting out of the heat.

8. Los Cabos, Mexico: White sand beaches and endless bar crawls? Los Cabos is what (college) Spring Break dreams are made of. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do if Senor Frog’s is not your scene-–hop on a whale watching tour for some time on the open ocean. The second to last week in April saw the lowest median airfare ($453) for March and April.

9. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Between the vast El Yunque Rainforest, vast beaches and the cool vibes of Old San Juan, there is truly something for everyone here. KAYAK Travel Hacker Data shows the last week in March and April could get you the best deals on flights, with median airfare at $361 and $327, respectively.

10. Tampa: Want the beach without the spring breakers? March seems to be the best time during Spring Break season to head to Tampa, with median airfare under $300. It’s close to famous Clearwater Beach and houses plenty of family activities like amusement parks and museums.

 

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