Airports won”t be empty when spring break begins tomorrow, but some area travel agents say students booked their spring break trips much later than they did last year.

Paul Wong
Located in the Michigan Union, STA Travel is a popular place for students to book their spring break travels.<br><br>BRETT MOUNTAIN /Daily

Many students postponed making plans or opted not to travel following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Deanna Kierczak, leisure sales and group manager for Boersma Travel Services. Boersma”s student spring break business at the University dropped to two-thirds what it was last year, she said.

The trend goes beyond the University, Kierczak said. Boersma had to close its Michigan State University office a few months ago because spring break business had fallen, she said.

Business held steady at STA Travel, said Ryan Tell, branch manager at the South University Ave. location, but students booked their trips later than usual. Typically, spring break reservations begin pouring in before winter break. Tell said this year many customers booked their trips in mid-to-late January instead.

“Air travel was down until probably the end of November,” he said. “We”re probably back on target now.”

LSA freshman Alyssa Lin booked her spring break trip to Cancun at the end of January. She and three friends selected a package including a charter flight and hotel accommodations from STA Travel. Although the group booked the trip relatively late, Lin said it was more an issue of finding time to plan the vacation together than worrying about the terrorist attacks.

“The thought of (a trip) didn”t really come up until the snow came, and then we started thinking tropical,” she said.

One of Lin”s travel companions did need to convince her parents that it would be safe to travel. But Lin, who flew home to Atlanta for Thanksgiving and winter break, said fear of future attacks was not a problem for her.

Tell said the war in Afghanistan and the economic recession also affected decisions to hold off on vacation planning since parents and students aren”t willing to spend as much money or travel as far from home. Now, low fares are encouraging students to book trips, particularly cruises, he said.

Cruise lines are offering some of the best deals right now, with five nights trips costing $350 to $400. In contrast, plane tickets may not come cheap, Tell said.

“The biggest myth out there is that flights may be cheaper,” he said. “There are half the flights, so the prices are going back up.”

Kierczak agreed that prices have risen since the end of 2001, but she said students may still spend less money than they did on last year”s spring break. The top destinations for college students remain Cancun, Acapulco and Negril, Jamaica, regardless of price, she said.

Vacation deals tempted some students, including LSA junior Steve Warnick. He said he looked into a $400 cruise off the coast of California before deciding to stay closer to home.

“It was kind of alluring because of how inexpensive it was,” he said.

Instead, Warnick opted to spend most of his vacation in South Quad, where he is a resident advisor. He said he wanted to relax and catch up on work. Spending the week in Ann Arbor also will allow him to save some money and avoid the hassles of travel such as flight delays, he said.

Spring break vacationers can expect additional delays this year because of heightened airport security, Tell said. Travelers should be careful to arrive at the airport two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international trips, he said. Airline passengers must be careful not to pack sharp metal objects such as scissors and nail clippers that will be confiscated, Tell said.

“It”s generally better to follow the airline rules and not jeopardize your vacation,” he said.

Some students decided to steer clear of air travel altogether. Tell said a number of STA customers are planning to drive to cruise departure points in Florida and New Orleans rather than flying.

But for many prospective travelers, confidence may be returning after Sept. 11.

“There was a time period where most people were choosing not to get on a plane,” Kierczak said. “I feel that is changing, though.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *