NEW YORK (AP) — Spring break is right around the corner. For some travelers, that means seeking out beaches and sunshine. Others may be tempted by Europe, which has become more affordable for Americans, or by spring skiing.
AIRFARE, DESTINATIONS AND BOOKINGS
Airfares vary considerably this time of year. Travelers not tied to a holiday week may find flights are cheaper at other times. Most colleges schedule a week off in March, but family vacations often revolve around school breaks for Easter (April 16 this year) or Passover (beginning April 10).
Booking.com's data shows that travel March 18-April 30 will be 2 percent more expensive overall than last year, but a few domestic destinations are cheaper, including New Orleans, 8 percent cheaper than last spring; Miami Beach, 4 percent cheaper; and Tampa, Florida, 9 percent cheaper.
And take a look at Europe: A strong U.S. dollar has made vacations there much more affordable for Americans.
Expedia's top 10 destinations for March and April are Cancun, Mexico, followed by Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas; New York; Miami; Los Angeles; London; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Phoenix and Paris.
American Express Travel's top five international destinations are London, Cancun, Rome, Paris and Tel Aviv. But American Express reports a few other spots spiking compared with last year, with spring bookings to Iceland up 150 percent, to Auckland, New Zealand, up 129 percent, to Madrid up 114 percent, to Casablanca, Morocco, 103 percent, and Zurich, 101 percent.
AAA's bookings have three Florida destinations — Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami — in the top five domestic destinations, along with Anaheim, California (home to Disneyland), and Las Vegas. Internationally, AAA's top five are Punta Cana, Rome, Jamaica, London and the Bahamas.
At StudentUniverse, which caters to travelers 18-26, top spring break destinations are London; Los Angeles; New York; Miami; Paris; Madrid; Orlando; Barcelona, Spain; Cancun; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Tokyo and Dublin.
Debbie Sebastian, a Travel Leaders agent in Danville, Kentucky, says she's seeing lots of "groups traveling with Punta Cana being the most popular choice this year. The flight times and charter options make it a great option."
March is typically the Miami airport's busiest month for domestic arrivals, with 1.08 million passengers in March 2016.
Karen Malone, with Travel Leaders in Woodbury, Minnesota, says in addition to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica is also proving popular, with both destinations offering new resort choices. "We here in the frozen North are attracted to those turquoise blue waters and white sand beaches," she said.
Cancun's always big for spring break, but it's not just a destination for the pina colada-and-party crowd. "Cancun also serves as the gateway for more quiet environs like Isla Mujeres, which is growing in popularity, as well as the entire Riviera Maya and all points directly south of Cancun, including Playa del Carmen," said Travel Leaders spokesman Steven Loucks. The region has all-inclusive resorts for every kind of traveler — couples, families, multigenerational groups.
SPRING SKIING, SPRING TRAINING
Some ski resorts schedule fun events to mark the end of winter, from concerts to costume contests and parties with a beach-and-barbecue theme. Vail, Colorado's Spring Back to Vail festival is April 14-16 and includes the World Pond Skimming Championships, where skiers land in the water. Breckenridge, Colorado, has a Spring Fever festival, April 1-23.
Baseball fans often schedule trips to catch their favorite MLB teams getting ready for opening day. Late February through April 1, the Cactus League plays in the Phoenix area, the Grapefruit League plays in Florida.
Not everybody hits the beach for spring break and not every family heads to theme parks. Wendy Perrin, founder of the travel planning site WendyPerrin.com, says her best spring vacations with two boys have been to Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia; Paris; and a Panama Canal cruise. This year, she's taking the family to Morocco, "to introduce the kids to a completely different culture."
If you like visiting museums, note two important openings this spring: the American Writers Museum in Chicago on May 16 and the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia on April 19.
Other noteworthy events include the Whitney Museum of American Art's Biennial 2017 in New York, a contemporary art survey opening March 17; in Kansas City, Missouri, special exhibitions at the National World War I Museum and an April 6 commemoration of the centennial of America's 1917 entry into the war; and at the Dallas Museum of Art, opening March 12, a survey of 200 works of Mexican modern art by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and others. A new attraction opens at Graceland in early March, "Elvis Presley's Memphis," with museum exhibits, a stage and more.
Finally, spring means flowers. In Washington, D.C., the National Cherry Blossom Festival runs March 20-April 16 with various Japanese-themed events, though bloom times vary depending on the weather. And at Walt Disney World in Florida, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs March 1-May 29.