Florida is the place to be for spring break. Florida is the nation’s most popular spring break destination, ahead of Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, according to AAA.
About 40 percent of Floridians are planning or have already taken a spring break vacation, an increase of 26 percent from last year. The state’s beaches, theme parks, and multiple cruise ports are a big draw for tourists.
“AAA is anticipating one of the busiest spring break travel seasons in years,” said Debbie Haas, vice president of travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Previous spring travel seasons have been affected by COVID-19. However, Americans are largely more confident about traveling again, and AAA has seen very strong bookings for beach destinations, cruises and attractions.”
Although some of Florida’s popular West Coast spring break destinations, including Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, were affected by Hurricane Ian and some locations are dealing with a prolonged red tide, visitors continue to flock to the state as a whole.
Cruise travel is a popular vacation option this spring break, and the top two ports in the world are the Port of Miami and Port Canaveral, according to the 2023 State of the Cruise Industry Report by the International Cruise Line Association.
Each year, the Port of Miami receives approximately five million visitors who embark and disembark at the port or visit it in transit. Port Canaveral receives about 4.3 million visitors who embark and disembark at the port or visit it in transit. Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale is also a popular port and the fourth most visited.
Miami and Orlando, which are on the East Coast and in Central Florida, respectively, are some of the best destinations in the state for spring break.
Both cities’ international airports saw record numbers last year and early this year.
This momentum continued into the spring break travel period.
The spring break travel period at Orlando International Airport (MCO) began on March 4th and ends on April 18th. The airport expected about 7.3 million passengers then, about 1 million passengers more than last year, according to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
During the first two weeks of spring break, several passenger traffic records were broken at the airport.
About 2.7 million passengers traveled through the MCO in the first two weeks. The airport had about 95,282 departures on March 11, breaking the airport’s previous record for the most departures in a single day. The previous record was from March 2019, the last year before the pandemic.
March 18 was the second busiest day in the airport’s history with 93,801 departures, and March 19 was the third busiest day with 93,662 departures.
Miami International Airport (MIA) was also expecting a busy spring break travel period, which for them continues throughout the month of March.
As of Tuesday, about 4.7 million passengers had arrived or left the airport in the past month, said Greg Chin, MIA’s director of communications. This year there were fewer airline seats available in March, but passenger numbers were still on par with last year’s numbers at the same time.
Since the pandemic, MIA has seen a drop in international travel but an increase in domestic travel. Last year, domestic travel increased by 10 percent, but international travel is already recovering, Chin said.
“We think this year we will go back to what we saw in 2019,” he said.
Local transportation services like Workman Transportation are also breaking records this spring break. The business offers shuttle service to and from Orlando International Airport.
“It’s unprecedentedly busy. More passengers than ever before,” said Linda Workman, co-owner of Workman Transportation. “We are hosting more people in a week than ever before. … They come to visit their families and escape the bad weather.
The numbers this March were better than what the company saw in March 2017, the company’s busiest spring break month until recently.
In March 2017, 9,358 people used the shuttles to go to or from the MCO, Workman said. She believes this month will be better based on what the weekly numbers have been.
For example, during the week of March 19 to March 25, about 2,100 people used the shuttles.
When work is slower at Workman Transportation, smaller shuttles that can hold 14 or 22 passengers are used. With current numbers, shuttles are used during spring break that can hold about 40 or 56 passengers.
The business recently purchased four new tour buses that hold around 40 passengers to meet demand.
An increase in airline passengers and the growth of Orlando International Airport, which opened a new terminal in December, is affecting Workman Transportation’s business.
“It’s busier than we expected,” Workman said.