Spring break is getting a makeover.
What was once considered an opportunity for coeds to overindulge on the sunny beaches of Florida, California and Mexico is being reinvigorated to include more adult destinations such as Las Vegas and Europe as well as volunteer opportunities in cities across the country.
Karen Stapley of STA Travel said her agency has seen an increase in travel to nontraditional spring break destinations, but they have not surpassed the tried and true spring break hot spots.
Kathleen Gonzalez, of the online airfare broker cheaptickets.com, said bookings on its Web site indicate more consumers are traveling this spring than in recent years. Gonzalez said the Web site has seen a 64 percent increase in travel bookings compared with last spring, a 68 percent increase in domestic travel bookings and a 35 percent increase in international travel bookings.
Gonzalez and Stapley said Las Vegas is one of the places more people, including students, are visiting this year than in the past.
At MU, fliers and ads around campus and in student publications offer cruises to the Bahamas for as low as $299 and air travel and hotel accommodations in Acapulco, Mexico; Panama City, Panama; Jamaica and Nassau for as low as $499.
“I think people are interested in doing something different,” Stapley said. “Mexico is still the big thing, but other things are becoming increasingly popular, such as volunteer spring breaks.”
Representatives of the travel industry say Las Vegas’ surge in popularity among young adults could be a result of the increase in television shows based on Vegas life, such as the ESPN series “Tilt” and poker tournaments.
Marina Nicola, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said her office has not targeted college students. Its ad campaign “Vegas Stories,” however, is aimed at a variety of age groups. Nicola also said her office has developed new marketing initiatives, which include TV ads to reach those between the ages of 24 and 35.
GOING FOR BROKE IN LAS VEGAS — OR NOT?
Mark Goth, 22 and a senior finance major at MU, will travel to Las Vegas next week with three friends. He said he and his friends decided Las Vegas would be the site of their last spring break trip as college students. He said they hope to make it their best spring break trip yet.
“They’d never been before, and we knew it would be fun because it’s a city that never sleeps,” Goth said. “You’ll definitely do it when you’re in college as opposed to when you’re an adult.”
Goth has traveled to Las Vegas with his family, and his parents recommended the Excalibur hotel, where he and his friends will stay. Goth plans to spend about $300 on food and the hotel for five days. He’s also budgeted $250 for entertainment.
The average hotel price per night is $83, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The organization also reported that the average gambling budget per trip is $480.
Goth said visiting Las Vegas is not just about hitting the casinos. He and his friends plan to rent a car and visit the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.
“I just think it’s the time I’ll have to spend with the guys,” Goth said.
Many college students are also heading to Europe, despite a strong euro and a weak dollar. Stapley said low airfares and the availability of discount lodging such as hostels have allowed European cities to edge their way onto students’ radars.
HEADING TO THE BEACH WITH NO HASSLES
Hotels in many traditional spring break destinations, having grown tired of the crowds of drunken students, have raised room rates and beefed up security to ensure a quieter environment for families and other travelers. Industry experts say both moves are intended to attract people who spend more money and are less likely to cause damage.
“Some hotels raise prices to discourage spring breakers, but students always find other hotels that will take them,” Stapley said.
Stapley added that there will always be places willing to take a reasonable number of spring break travelers because student travelers are a great source of revenue.
Courtney Curtis, 22, planned a trip to Miami Beach through Collegiate 100, a social and volunteer organization for male college students. Curtis, a junior economics major, is president of the MU chapter of the group.
The Miami Beach trip costs $330, including transportation via charter bus with a stop in Atlanta, and was advertised at MU. Curtis said about 30 students have paid through the MSA/GPC Box Office in Brady Commons.
Curtis said he has faced few difficulties in booking hotel accommodations for such a large group. He used discount travel brokers such as hotels.com and took advantage of group discounts. He also said he’s familiar with the area and with the hotel where everyone will stay.
A WEEK ON INSTEAD OF A WEEK OFF
Some students are getting on board another trend by choosing not to spend the week relaxing. They’re paying to travel to various parts of the country, and even the world, to do community service projects.
MU freshman Kate Devaney, 18, will travel to Philadelphia and Chicago next week as part of a service trip with MU’s Alternative Spring Break. The program pairs students and sends them to major cities, small towns and state parks or other outdoor environments where they perform community service.
Devaney will spend part of the week in Philadelphia, where she will tutor students at an inner-city elementary school, and the remainder in Chicago.
In Chicago she will work as a server at Inspiration Cafe, which serves meals in a restaurant setting to women and men at risk for or dealing with homelessness.
“I don’t normally get to see people who are less fortunate” as an MU student, Devaney said. “It puts things into perspective.”
Devaney said she went on three similar trips during high school and said she is excited about helping others.
“You’ll definitely feel better about yourself than you would if you were going to get drunk every night on the beach.”