Spring break is upon us. It happens every year. Thousands of teenagers and young adults migrate, for a week, to popular destinations on the beach or slopes. On Florida’s Emerald Coast, the story is the same. But, when did the Spring Breakers start flocking?
Schools and colleges in several countries observe a spring break of some kind. It goes by Spring Break, March break, Study Week, and even Reading Week in other countries. Generally, children and young adults seeking a reprieve from the cold have done so between February and April; in the northern hemisphere, that is. Initially, Spring Break began as students fled cold temperatures in order to practice warm-weather sports. These people then started coming to warmer climates for a short recreational break with friends. Fort Lauderdale, Florida – beginning after WWII – was a popular Spring Break destination. Hundreds of thousands of students visited the beach there every year. In 1985 Ft. Lauderdale revelers totaled over 350,000 but, due to damages caused by the uproarious partying and a new minimum drinking age law; by 1989 the number had fallen to around 20,000.
These changes and the dwindling number of party goers traveling to Ft. Lauderdale have had a positive impact on the Spring Break experience in several ways. Popular destinations are now more ready to handle the influx of tourists. Dollars from tourism are now more evenly spread; though a large percentage of Spring Breakers still travel to Florida, they’re going to more cities and spreading their impact. Florida’s Emerald Coast; including Panama City, Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Pensacola, is a huge draw for students looking for a fun and beautiful destination. Its close proximity to so many southeastern colleges has been a great contributing factor to its Spring Break success.
The Northwest Florida Regional Airport’s addition of Vision Airlines to their carriers has made an impact that, in the coming years, may be a huge game changer for Spring Break as a whole. There are now 24 major urban areas with direct flights to Destin/Ft. Walton Beach. The Florida panhandle has long been a popular destination among driving Spring Breakers but, now, an inexpensive flight can bring people from all over to where the fun and sugar-white beaches are. Being stuck in traffic for hours, flat tires, and $4 per gallon of gas are a bummer and definitely not what Spring Break is about.
So, now you know… where will you go?