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Spring break splurges spark personal finance stories

February 26, 2013

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Spring break is coming up for college students and families, and it’s an opportunity to prepare not only some interesting feature stories about the tourism, transportation and hospitality industries, but to take a look at college student spending patterns in light of the ongoing drumbeat about the trillion-dollar student loan “bubble” some say looms.

Travelocity says some spring break destinations buck the trend of higher airfares this year, and is out with a release noting pricing to popular destinations like Cancun, Florida’s beach resorts, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.   And the San Francisco Chronicle offers some insight into this year’s spring break season, which overlaps a very early (March 31) Easter — meaning families traveling for the holiday will be competing with college students for good airfares, seats on airplanes and other financial aspects of travel.  A heads-up on this potential conflict might make for a good spring travel story for general audiences.

Here’s an interesting 2011 paper from the Journal of Tourism Insights, “Spring Break: Pulling in the student market,” which analyzes the decision-making process students go through when planning spring break, including factors such as cost, geographic destination and so on.  If you’re in a spring break destination, this paper might help you compose some good questions for executives in the tourism industry.   And ask them about Easter too; does the overlap of the family holiday and college travel season crimp business?  Or boost it?

If you’re covering spring break from an economic or personal finance aspect, the paper also offers some good stats, though uUnfortunately, the authors decided not to pursue the source of spring break funding, that would’ve been interesting in light of the student loan debate.) They find that half of students spend less than $500 on spring break; it would be interesting to intercept a handful of students as they plan their trips and show a breakdown (maybe they could blog daily spending?) of the cost of various vacations.

If you’re doing any student loan packages, this might be the time to ask recent grads to look back at how they spent the funds they now are paying back.  No doubt many were prudent, but there’s no denying that some people use loan money for fun and travel — this TIME column on the matter of student spending raised a lot of umbrage in its comments area — why not ask loan-repayers to pull up their credit-card statements or bank statements from past spring-break season, tote up the spending, account for which funds were used (loan money, earnings, etc.) and ask how they feel in hindsight about the expenditures?   Whether or not they feel the splurges were worthwhile, the reality check will be interesting food for thought as current students plan spring break.

Don’t forget about pre-trip spending too, and what opportunities that makes for local merchants from fashion and apparel outlets to tanning salons.   And check out what merchants, attractions such as museums, spas, pubs, cinemas and other businesses may be doing to attract the staycation crowd, both the college and family demographic.

And finally, if you’re in a storm-struck area, you might want to see if curtailed mid-winter breaks for K-12 students (making up for earlier snow days) is causing pain to any businesses; here’s a CBS News story that says indoor venues like bowling alleys suffer when kids don’t get expected school vacations.

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