Metro Detroiters are throwing off their gloom, opening their wallets and traveling again for winter and spring breaks, travel agents and travel watchers say.
AAA Michigan reports its 31 travel agencies have seen substantially higher traffic in the last two months. Among those booking winter and spring break trips are college students and families heading for Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean.
“We are absolutely swamped. We have over 100, maybe closer to 200 families, going on Easter break with high school seniors to Mexico,” said Laurie Pelko, owner of Shamrock Travel in Rochester. She is busier than she has been since 2008 for winter-spring bookings.
Leisure and business travel among Americans overall has been on the upswing in the past year as the country climbs out of recession. International travel was up 3% through September 2011, the U.S. Commerce Department reported. And leisure travel should rise 5% this year, according to the Travel-Ticker Travel Intentions Survey of 2,300 U.S. consumers. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they plan to take the same number or more leisure trips this year compared with last.
And 24% of those planning trips credit the economy.
Chilly Michiganders escape to warm locales this year
They’re packing their bags and bathing suits.
Jerry Schleicher, 60, of Ann Arbor will loll on a Dominican Republic beach in February.
Deborah Bryant, 50, of Romulus will lie under a palm tree in Hawaii in March.
And Ron Harwood, 64, of West Bloomfield is headed on a blues music cruise Sunday out of Ft. Myers, Fla.
“Generally speaking,” he said, “in this economy most of us are looking for a place that is warm and reasonable.”
As the long, cold arms of winter, otherwise known as a Michigan January, clutch tight, its shivering citizens are dreaming of warmer climes.
Stay-cation? That’s so 2011. Real vacations are back.
“Spending money on something discretionary like spring break travel indicates people are feeling brighter about their finances,” said Carol Wagner, owner of Travel Plus/Travel Leaders in Commerce Township. “We are starting to see people plan further ahead because they are feeling more confident.” She’s seeing fewer high schoolers going alone on spring break; instead, the whole family is going to places such as Negril, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.
At AAA Travel offices in Michigan, spring travel bookings are brisk.
“People have a little more money and are planning ahead to get the best prices on airfares and hotel deals,” said spokeswoman Nancy Cain. Fewer customers want a stay-cation and more want Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. But they are still controlling costs by requesting all-inclusive resorts.
Michigan travelers also may be spending money on travel instead of spending it on something else, valuing experience over possessions.
“We live in Michigan, but spending all of winter here at some point becomes a little intolerable,” said Harwood, who also took a family trip in December to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, near Cancun.
Most people think Christmas is the airport’s busiest season. It’s not.
“Spring break is typically our busiest period — this year, I’d expect we’ll be busy between late February and the first week or so of April,” Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Scott Wintner said.
One lucky break: With Easter falling on April 8 this year, most college breaks in March and most public school winter breaks in February, couples, families and partying college students won’t have to overlap beach space.
But even though there’s an uptick in spring break travel this year, some of us still aren’t going anywhere just yet.
“Consumers remain cautious about discretionary spending in the months ahead, including spending on travel,” said Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of MMGY Global travelhorizons. An October survey by MMGY and the U.S. Travel Association showed just 52% of U.S. adults planned to take a trip between October and April.
What if you have to stay home this year? What if everyone except you seems to be taking a fabulous vacation this winter or spring?
If you are one of those people, take heart.
“There are lots of things it would be nice to have — a fancy car, killer shoes, a wonderful spring break trip,” said Jennifer Crocker, who studies self-worth issues as a professor of social psychology at Ohio State University. “Focusing on those desires can either make us feel envy, lead us into debt or cause us to fall behind on responsibilities.”
One way to cope with envy of others’ cool vacations, she added, is to count up a vacation’s costs, not just its benefits.
“Vacations have costs associated with them, and those costs have consequences for other priorities,” she said. “Once I’ve considered those costs I may conclude that it’s not that I can’t go on an awesome vacation, it’s that I choose not to.”
Contact Ellen Creager: 313-222-6498 or email@example.com
More Details: 2012 school breaks
Michigan schools’ winter/spring break weeks vary. Here’s a look at the weeks some fall this year:
• Feb. 5: Kalamazoo College
• Feb. 12: Some public schools, such as Grand Rapids
• Feb. 19: Most public schools, such as Detroit and Warren Consolidated, as well as Oakland University
• Feb. 26: University of Michigan, Alma College, Oakland Community College
• March 4: Michigan State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Grand Valley State universities, Albion College and Macomb Community College
• March 11: Wayne State and Western Michigan universities
• April 2: Some public schools, such as Grand Rapids and Troy
• April 8: Most public schools, such as Dearborn and Birmingham, plus Wayne County Community College District
More Details: hot spots
1. Cancun, Mexico
2. Panama City, Fla.
3. Miami Beach, Fla.
4. Europe: Netherlands, London
5. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
6. Acapulco, Mexico
7. (tie) Jamaica
9. South Padre Island, Texas
10. Puerto Rico
More Details: Unusual spots
2. Whistler, British Columbia
3. St. Lucia
4. Death Valley, Calif.
5. Stowe, Vt.
6. Barcelona, Spain
7. Puerto Morelos, Mexico
8. Big Island of Hawaii
9. Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
10. New Orleans
If you take a trip, don’t forget to take the D with you! See www.freep.com/travelwiththed for more details