Some schools are canceling Spring Break 2021 — here’s what that means for your travel plans

Sep 20, 2020

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The COVID-19 outbreak has lasted far longer than most people anticipated. And as students and educators begin the school year anew, Spring Break 2021 may become the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Concerns are warranted: A number of universities saw massive outbreaks amongst their student and employee population after students traveled over Spring Break 2020, and transmitted the coronavirus across campus upon their return.

The University of Michigan, several schools in Iowa, a number of Big Ten schools including Purdue and Ohio State University, and the University of Tennessee are amongst dozens of colleges that have preemptively eliminated the popular collegiate respite.

When spring break goes bye-bye

Spring break dates vary between schools and regions, but typically fall between mid-March and mid-April across the U.S. Arguably the best break of the collegiate academic school year, spring break provides the perfect opportunity to relax and explore the world with friends new and old.

There are no formal holidays associated with spring break, eliminating the familial obligations that come with Thanksgiving and the winter break. And over the past decade or two, college students increasingly spend big bucks (or points) planning more and more elaborate trips with larger and larger groups of friends before returning to campus to finish out the semester.

Related: Best credit cards for college students

All of those trends increase the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 across campuses, and schools across the nation are planning ahead for potential future waves of infection.

The University of Kentucky has publicly declared that spring break is canceled — and is reinforcing the decision with a trimmed-down academic calendar that’s “designed to discourage student travel outside of town mid-semester,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Many other schools have similarly structured their 2020 to 2021 programs so that students who insist on leaving town without approved reason will be considered absent from class attendance.

Still, rest is an important aspect of growth and health within any setting, and academia is no exception. Many schools are spreading out the traditional five days of spring break throughout the semester. Sometimes called “reading days,” these off days provide a brief respite for students and educators alike.

Meanwhile, for 2020, many schools are pushing to shorten the fall term to end before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, so that students who travel home for the holiday can stay put instead of returning for a couple of weeks before disseminating again after finals.

How will canceling spring break 2021 impact the travel industry?

So how will the lack of spring break impact airlines and hotels in 2021? Companies that have been reeling from a steep drop in 2020 revenue can’t count on guaranteed numbers for early next year. Back in March 2020, Yahoo! Finance published an op-ed entitled, “What’s an airline nightmare? No spring break.

Airlines have already been fighting through multiple rounds of layoffs and furloughs this year. And as the winter months grow colder, travelers who typically book for sunny destinations may be loath to click “confirm” under such uncertain times.

Cruise fanatics may be the one major exception within a population that has become more travel-shy in recent months. Even cruise line executives are surprised by the number of customers still rushing to book voyages for 2021. That being said, cruisers should be careful: After several months of no sailing, a handful of cruises cautiously resumed operations, only for COVID-19 to crop up on board — not once, but several times in quick succession.

When life gives you quarantine, take a socially distanced getaway

If 2020 has been hard on your mental health as it has been for many of us, the idea of canceling spring break can be heartbreaking. While a traditional spring break getaway on points and miles may no longer be in the cards, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun, whether you pay by cash or with the stash of points you accumulated from food delivery and elevated bonuses you earned over the last six months.

Related: A country-by-country guide to reopening

Here at TPG, we firmly believe that 2021 will still be an epic year for travel, and the best way to keep it thus is by being as responsible as possible. As always, health and safety is the number-one priority, for both yourself as well as everyone else around you. Many international destinations now require a negative COVID-19 test before you depart for foreign soil, so be sure you plan ahead. You’ll also need to observe all face mask and social distancing guidelines, which is easier on some airlines over others.

If you aren’t sure where U.S. travelers can visit right now, TPG’s guide to international travel is regularly updated with new information. And a number of airlines recently eliminated all change fees on most North American flights, which makes planning ahead much easier.

Featured photo by Flystock/Shutterstock.

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