Spring break season at colleges and universities revs up in about a week, and it’s a great excuse to explore how college students are faring as we creep out of recession.
This handy site, SpringBreakDude.com lists spring-break schedules for dozens of alma maters and indicates that – counting only the colleges listed – in the next three weeks about 3 million collegians will be on break. (Though I can’t vouch for the Dude, so do double-check dates for schools in your region.)
That’s a powerful spending demographic, and the momentum rolls through late March. Any cutbacks will be felt, not only in vacation hot spots but by regional transportation providers, retailers (particularly purveyors of resort clothes, cameras and other Cancun survival gear), pet sitters – anyone affected when would-be vacationers stay home.
Travel and tourism angles abound. If you’re in a destination city or anything resembling a warm climate this blustery winter, you can tap the hospitality industry for forecasts. (Don’t forget about online resources such as Travelocity, Expedia, StudentUniverse.com and Orbitz, which may be able to tell you about bookings originating in your area.)
Talk with airlines, hotel chains, charter operators. Even as I typed this blog, a spring-break-themed British Airways e-mail ad hit my inbox, touting low airfares and package deals. Our slightly stronger dollar makes Great Britain and Europe somewhat more affordable than they have been in recent years, so check interest in those destinations as well.
If you’re in the kind of climate people generally want to escape, look into the economic impact of more “staycationers” treating themselves to local getaways instead of heading toward the southern borders.
Bing Travel earlier this month released its 2010 Spring Break forecast indicating that airfares are up and hotel rates are down this year compared to a year ago. Hot spots for packages include Las Vegas (down 14 percent) and Maui (down 21 percent.)
You might consider a “spring break on the cheap” personal finance package using data from Bing and other sources about affordable destinations, alternatives such as volunteer work via outfits Habitat for Humanity and other charities.
Check with universities in your area; a quick Google search turns up a plethora of group travel discounts sponsored by schools and colleges.
The Student Travel page at About.com, complete with blog and message board, is a timely and informative portal and a springboard for your story ideas.
Or, take a contrarian look at the issue. There’s no shame in staying home or on campus for winter break, and many students would devour a personal finance feature on making the most of a stationery winter break, either by tapping local businesses as fill-in employment or striking out entrepreneurially to be pet-sitters, house sitters and other service providers for absent friends and neighbors.
Be sure to contact local law enforcement and your state’s attorney general to get the latest on student break scams, too. Here, for example, is a State of Wisconsin alert to students about spotting shady travel bookers.
Once you get on a roll regarding student finances, you may want to broaden out to more coping angles. We’re getting close enough to summer break that vacation jobs – or post-graduate employment – are on the minds of area students. And making ends meet in the meantime can be troublesome. Some college students are eligible for food stamps, while others are tapping nutrition banks and other forms of public assistance.