Winter weather has pounded the country, particularly the Northeast, and New York City residents have experienced more snowfall this January than any other on record. For the hearty, the mounting snow is a welcome transformation from the typical bleak winter landscape found this time of year. Many others, however, feel enough’s enough.
Historical Travelocity data shows the majority of spring vacation bookings are made at this time of year. With seven weeks to go until the official start of the spring season, it’s no wonder for many, beaches are on the brain.
According to booking data, Florida beaches remain the most popular for those seeking sun, sand and surf, though spots in Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico also made this year’s top 10 list.
1. South Florida
Encompassing the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, South Florida takes top honors as this year’s most popular spring beach destination. Competition among airlines to this popular market means competitive pricing. The top three feeder markets to this destination are New York City, Detroit and Boston.
2. Fort Myers
Besides being home to some of Florida’s most beautiful Gulf Coast beaches, Fort Myers is also hot destination for die-hard baseball fans that can’t wait until the boys of summer make their official return. Both the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox head to Fort Myers for spring training, which begins at the end of February. Tickets are available here.
Once upon a time, Cancun was the hotbed for college-age spring breakers. Today’s Cancun is still a place to party, but you’re more likely to see couples and families getting their groove on than the student set. If the vibe still seems too rowdy, you’re better off heading to the nearby Rivera Maya, where gorgeous beaches and upscale hotels cater to those looking for a more relaxing respite.
4. Tampa / St. Petersburg
Much like Fort Myers to the south, St. Petersburg’s location on the Gulf of Mexico means white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. Nearby Tampa is a city known for fun, especially in Ybor City, a district famous for nightlife, dining and shopping. Baseball fans will be pleased to know this is the spring training home of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. Tickets are available here.
5. San Juan
Direct flights to San Juan are available from many major cities in the U.S., making it ideal for a long weekend getaway. Many hotels in Puerto Rico are offering free nights to entice travelers to stay a little longer. Members of the user-generated site IgoUgo.com rank the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino as their favorite beach hotel.
This paradise city on the Hawaiian island of Oahu narrowly edged out nearby Maui to take the number six spot on this list. Home to dining, shopping, nightlife and the world-famous Waikiki Beach, Honolulu is a vacation destination dreams are made of. Don’t miss out on nearby Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for a touching and sobering look into our nation’s history.
Known for its beaches (of course), volcanoes and upscale hotels, it’s no wonder Maui is consistently a top choice for families and couples alike. If you can manage to pull yourself out of bed, schedule time to see the sunrise from the top of a crater over 10,000 feet above sea level at Haleakala National Park.
8. U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S.V.I. is comprised of three islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix – each with a distinct appeal. For travelers without a passport, the U.S.V.I. is the perfect Caribbean destination as none is required. For beautiful secluded beaches and lush landscape, a visit to St. John, where over 7,000 acres are national park, is a must.
The Bahamas is comprised of 700 islands and thus truly offers something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a high-end resort vacation with all the bells and whistles or for a secluded bungalow on a deserted beach where cell phones are useless. You can save $300 on Bahamas vacation packages when you use the code BAH300B and travel before March 31, 2011.
The temperature in Aruba is in the mid-80s right now. If that’s not enough to get you to book your airfare, how about the sugary beaches, glitzy casinos and some of the Caribbean’s best nightlife? Whether you arrive by airplane or cruise ship, there’s a good chance that if this is your first trip to Aruba, it won’t be your last.