March marks the well awaited end of winter, bringing warmer weather, spring cleaning and blooming flowers to mind. For college students across the United States, it’s also time for Spring Break. While this particular school recess has become infamous for teeny bikinis and wild parties, we at Jumpshot wanted to gain an understanding of how students are really choosing to spend their spring breaks. Read on for our data-driven travel analysis.

Winter Planning

We analyzed the web traffic metrics, onsite searches and click throughs from search to the student focused travel site StudentUniverse, as well as the unique searchers and click-throughs from search of U.S. millennials to Google Flights Search between October 1, 2015 and February 15, 2016. Our goal was to identify the 2016 destination hot spots and map out how students plan for spring break. We found that spring break travel activity on both domains peaked during January, with four times the amount of searches than those seen during the previous month.

Spring Break Unique Searchers on Google Flights and StudentUniverse by Jumpshot

Using the Jumpshot Keywords Research solution, we quickly identified a correlating search trend. Click throughs to StudentUniverse from Google searches more than tripled in mid-January, as college students were looking for “spring break ideas” and “cheap spring break trips” during their winter break or their first week back at school.

StudentUniverse Spring Break Keyword Trends by Jumpshot

The Death of MTV Spring Break

For those old enough to remember, MTV Spring Break was a popular event when college students would flock to tropical towns like Daytona Beach, Florida and Cancun, Mexico for a week of alcohol-fueled debauchery. Although beach vacations are still popular, the data proves that today’s millennials have different thoughts on spring break. They want more than just wild parties. They favor experiences over things, as described by Forbes.  As such, they focused their attention on more metropolitan destinations like New York City and Los Angeles. In fact, spring break searchers were 2.3 times more likely to to search for a flight to New York City over a Flight to Miami.

This finding intrigued us, so we decided to dig deeper into that data to identify state-specific spring break travel trends.

The State of Spring Break

We ran a Jumpshot Competitive Analysis report to compare the user demographics of StudentUniverse to those of Google Flights Search, and found that Florida, South Dakota and Massachusetts have the most active spring break searchers. Let’s dig into our findings:

1. Massachusetts: Student from Massachusetts are 2.33 times more active on StudentUniverse than the general population, and their focus is on international travel – London, San Juan, Paris and Berlin were searched and viewed by more than a quarter of the students.

2. Florida: Floridians are consistently 1.6 times more active on both StudentUniverse and Google Flights Search than the general population. These students searched for spring break flights and deals to New York City more than any other destination on both platforms.

3. South Dakota: Students from South Dakota are 2.7 times more likely to search for spring break flights on Google Flights Search than the general population. This year, Las Vegas is the destination of choice –  as an astonishing 65 percent of the students searched for flights to Vegas, outpacing the second highest destination searched (Orlando, Florida) by 243 percent. This also proves that students from this state still have the old school MTV-style spring break mentality.

The data reflects that most of today’s students prefer to spend their spring breaks in metropolitan areas within the country, but what about outside of it?

National and International Spring Break Trends

Focusing on millennials’ Google Flights Search activity, we found that students’ metropolitan preference extends to international destinations. We discovered this by analyzing the Google spring break search and click-through behavior of students from the three leading states for Google Flights Search activity: Florida, Wisconsin and California. Take a look at the leading domestic and international destinations for students from these states:

Leading domestic and international spring break destinations on Google Flights Search by Jumpshot

Bottom line:  If you’re marketing towards a specific customer cohort or demographic, it’s important to understand what drives their interest in order to capture their attention. Whether you’re catering towards millennials or baby boomers, understanding customer behavior is essential for successful marketing programs. Without that understanding, marketers will just be hitting a dead end in their attempts to attract diverse consumer groups with generic messaging.