Make a break for spring
Headed for vacation? Expect a lot of company -- and the possibility of some major tie-ups.
Crowds will throng to airports and vacation beaches from now through the first week of April.
The only gloomy note is a possible nationwide airport jam-up because of the federal budget cuts. Air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration agents and customs and border staff may face rolling furloughs. That could cause long lines at airports, federal officials warned.
The busiest college spring break week starts March 10, when 2.7 million students will be on the loose, according to TripSmarter.com, which tracks university spring breaks. The week of March 24 will see 1.8 million students on break.
Besides students on traditional or alternative spring break, March also is a huge travel month for last-minute skiers, baseball spring training fans and snowbirds savoring their final moments in the sun.
For Easter week travel, "we are sending people to Mexico -- the Mayan Riviera and Cancun -- and Florida, and I'm sending some people to Myrtle Beach, which people can drive to in order to keep down costs," said Nancy Fleck, an agent at Joan Anderson Travel in Detroit.
Spring break air fares are up 9 percent over last year, averaging $349, according to Bing Travel's forecast. Fares will be highest the week of March 22 and for itineraries leaving on a Saturday.
And yes, travelers are still booking spring cruises despite widespread publicity about the disabled Carnival ship a few weeks ago, Fleck added.
"They're booking cruises, despite everything that has happened," she said. "It's a good value. That's the draw."
Top spring break destinations
Though many college students do alternative spring breaks, stay home or hit beaches, not all spring break destinations involve sand. According to Student Universe booking data, this year's top 10 college spring break destinations are:
1. Panama City Beach, Fla.
7. New York City
9. Los Angeles
10. San José, Costa Rica