“I’ll definitely be buying bathing suits, sunglasses, and beachwear” – Spring break according to Gen Z college students

Three people in the sea laughing

We caught up with three college students to find out how they’ll be spending spring break 2022 – and what they hope to see from brands this year. 

Media representation of spring break – myth or truth? 

Our research reveals that 73% of Gen Z students believe the media representation of spring break is inaccurate. That’s not to say that the party culture of spring break is a complete myth, but rather points to the fact that students spend their spring break in a variety of ways to suit their circumstances. Paula, a Biology student studying in New York, explains: 

The first thing that comes to mind [when thinking about media representation of spring break] is the movie Spring Breakers. To me personally, that is such an inaccurate representation. A lot of times, spring break is portrayed as kids, college kids especially, partying, drinking and doing a bunch of crazy stuff, which I don’t feel like for the most part is completely accurate. Yes, college students are looking to have fun and relax away from school, but I feel like we’re mostly focused on enjoying time with our friends or our family.” 

“The media definitely gives me Spring Breakers or almost Teen Beach kind of vibes, all the teenagers or college students are just out and about enjoying the beaches,” adds Krisane, a Criminal Justice student. “But I don’t think that’s entirely true. I can use my younger brother as an example – we’re five months apart and he goes away for college and when he comes home, it’s just all our siblings together playing video games. We’re not really going out partying or anything like that, we’re just trying to enjoy as much company with each other, because normally we’re so far apart from each other during semester time.” 

Group of friends at San Francisco

For brands, it’s important to understand the different routes students take to enjoy their spring break. Paula, for example, is planning a vacation abroad. Krisane on the other hand wants to continue working for her volunteering program while spending time with family and friends. 

Planning for spring break

Whether they’re heading to Miami beach for a party, soaking up the sun on a family vacation, or embarking on a work or volunteering program, every student will need to plan out what they’re doing. On the run up to spring break, they’ll be searching for transport, holiday clothing, event tickets and anything else that needs organizing. 

Performing Arts student, Lacey, who plans to start work at her new job and hang out with friends over spring break, tells us more about how she approaches the lead up to spring break: “I’m someone that likes to plan in advance for trips, vacations, or anything like that, but for spring break especially, it’s my one chance to go home and see my family and friends and catch up with people I haven’t seen in quite some time. My spring breaks are really short, so I plan probably about a month or two in advance to give everyone a heads up so we’re not scrambling to make plans at the last minute.” 

Monthly planner with a blue and pink pen

For those travelling abroad like Paula, a couple months planning beforehand is considered a good amount of time to get the essential details down. However, according to Paula, a touch of spontaneity around spring break doesn’t go amiss: 

“Usually, plans of what we are going to do come about pretty spontaneously. I’ll talk to my friends from back home and we start expressing interest around places we like the look of or things we’ve always wanted to do. So from there we start to plan when we should do it and work out when everyone has time to, since usually my friends have completely different schedules than I do. So that’s kind of how the conversation starts, and that’s usually a couple of months before it actually happens, too. So it’s spontaneous, but not unplanned.” 

For travel and accommodation plans, putting out feelers of destinations and flight deals on your website and via social media ads a few months before the spring break season begins, is the perfect time to grab the attention of students in the midst of their online search.

Spring break purchases 

When it comes to purchasing on the lead up and during spring break, our panelists already knew exactly what was on their lists – and it’s not just vacation outfits making those lists. Indeed, spring break is considered a good time to indulge in more activities like eating out, and to do some shopping for homewares and more luxury items. 

“It’s always this time of year [spring] when I start to invest in some shorts, sundresses and sandals – gearing up for the warm Los Angeles weather,” says Lacey. “But as well as clothes, I would also like to look for some furniture for my apartment. Being a college student moving out of the dorm life and living in my own apartment for the first time with my roommate, it’s been kind of difficult trying to navigate furniture and home brands that are affordable for college students, and ones that will offer discounts for college students.” 

person walking by the sea with a bag and shirt dress

For Krisane who does a lot of volunteer work, her priorities are slightly different: “For clothes, I choose comfortability over trendy any day as of right now. Also food – definitely my money will be going down that drain.” 

Paula adds, “Because I am planning to travel, I’ll definitely be buying bathing suits, sunglasses, and beachwear. That type of stuff is definitely my top priority right now. My money mostly goes into fashion and clothes for spring break, and a lot of my money also goes on food and I definitely want to get things for my apartment. I also really like buying nice quality bags for the beach or for taking out and moving stuff around. I’m usually looking for something like, but a lot of the time for a good quality item, there aren’t a lot of student discounts available.”

With students looking to buy across numerous verticals around spring break, brands have a key opportunity here to make a good impression on Gen Z consumers. As Paula suggests, offering student incentives is the best way to position yourself as a student-facing brand and gain loyal customers. Students are actively looking for discounts every time they make a purchase – and they’re more likely to shop with the brands that offer them. 

Watch the full student panel discussion on-demand now, and put what you’ve learned into practice with our upcoming spring break masterclass – save your seat today! 

Gen Z and the Future of Ecommerce

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