While some locals shudder at the thought of crowded beaches, and traffic jams; Okaloosa law enforcement and local businesses are well prepared for this years spring breakers.



“We are ahead of pace from last year,” said Allison Mellinger, General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express. “The first weekend and the last two weeks are the busiest right now.”



Mellinger explained that the first week of spring break bookings officially begin March 7, and the last week leads all the way into April.



“Spring break is a bit spread out this year,” Regional Marketing Director for Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Martin Owen told The Log. The spring break schedule for schools whose students are known to frequent Destin shows breaks spanning from March 1, to April 18; a much wider time span than 2013.



“The best thing about this year is that we get a long spring break, we get the whole month of April,” said Greg Fisher, CEO of TripShock.



“The last week of March last year was sold out, but this year we won’t have just one massive crowd like we did last year,” Fisher said. He said a majority of spring breakers came during that single week in 2013, causing one fat week, but lower sales for the rest of the spring.



Public information officer Michele Nicholson gave The Log a rundown of Okaloosa county law enforcement’s spring break preparations.



“Typically we’re busy during spring break but there’s a definite game plan,” Nicholson said.



“A lot of the businesses in Destin hire off duty deputies, and we have extra patrols on the beaches.”



Nicholson said that Okaloosa County typically fares better than Walton County in issues and arrests, and she is hopeful for this year to be a good season.



“The kids that come here for the most part are well behaved,” she said. “It’s underage drinking that is the main issue we encounter, and occasionally you’ll see some possessions of marijuana and shoplifting, but not a lot of felony arrests.”



While spring break is notoriously associated with college partiers, Owen explained that for Wyndham that is not the case.



“Our spring breakers are mostly families,” he said, noting that Wyndham restricts renters to a minimum age of 25 years old. Fisher also said he’s noticed a trend in families over single young adults during the spring season.



“Families are our target market,” he said, “I would say that it’s about 75 percent in favor of families.”



Nicholson was shocked to find out vacationer demographics given by local businesses. “That kind of surprises me,” she said. “From a law enforcement perspective, you won’t have the potential misdemeanors with families that you would with high school and college kids.”



Even though families claim the bulk of spring tourism, a few Destin businesses are taking advantage of the youthful crowd.



“We are really trying to do what the kids want to see this year,” said Fudpucker’s Entertainment Director, Tim Morinelli. “We are going to be doing teen nights … have live music, and try to get a beach atmosphere on the water, lots of cooler stuff,” he said.



Fisher also highlighted several discounted activity packages with the presentation of a valid college ID, but commented that college students are usually more spontaneous.



“Our spring breakers don’t really book in advance, they book on the fly. But families they’ll plan it out,” Fisher said.



To the locals that may find spring break daunting, Nicholson offers this advice, “Understand that we live in a gorgeous, popular tourist spot, and just be patient. If you see any suspicious things impaired drivers or reckless behavior, don’t hesitate to call the sheriff’s office.”



All in all, the consensus seems to be hopeful for this year’s spring break season. Mellinger told The Log that for her, repeat customers, and the long 2014 spring season are very promising, “I look for a really hopping spring break this year.”



Sheriff’s Office gears up



The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is holding a Spring Break 2014 kick-off meeting on Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. The meeting will be held at the South Walton Substation located on Highway 331 approximately ¼ mile north of Highway 98, just past the South Walton Visitor Center.



This meeting will be advising the community of existing laws and other changes for this year, and will cover what the Walton County Sheriff’s Office can do to assist with Spring Break traffic.



 



Who’s coming when for spring break 2014



This list, compiled by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, includes schools whose students are known to frequent the area during spring break.



March 1



Kennesaw State University, Ga.



University of Florida



Vanderbilt University, Tenn.



Rice University, Texas



Florida Institute of Technology



Columbus State University, Ga.



University of Central Florida



Loyola University, Ill.



University of South Alabama



 



March 8



Illinois State University



Southern Illinois University, Carbondale



University of Miami, Fla.



U.S. Naval Academy, Md.



Northern Illinois State University, Ill.



Ball State University, Ind.



 



March 10



Texas A & M University



Emory University, Ga.



University of Mississippi



Auburn University, Ala.



University of West Florida



Mercer University, Ga.



University of Georgia



Indiana State University



Jackson Public Schools, Miss.



Mississippi State University



Jackson State University, Miss.



Mississippi Southern



Tennessee Tech University



Fort Worth Independent School District, Texas



Mississippi State College



Florida State University



Eastern Illinois University



Hillsborough County Public Schools Tampa



University of Southern Indiana



Eastern Tennessee University



University of Memphis



Missouri State University



University of North Texas



 



March 15



Walton County, Fla.



State University of W. Georgia



University of Maryland



Towson University



St. Louis Public Schools



Duval County, Jacksonville



Leon County, Tallahassee



Georgia Tech



University of Illinois, Springfield



Central Missouri State University



Knoxville



University of Tennessee



Indiana University, Bloomington



Southeast Missouri State University



Escambia County (Pensacola)



University of North Florida



Georgia Southwestern



Johns Hopkins University, Md.



St. Mary’s College of Maryland



Georgia State



New York University



Houston Independent School District



 



March 21



Okaloosa County (Destin)



University of Alabama



University of Missouri St. Louis



 



March 24



Samford University, Ala.



University of Arkansas



Orange County, Orlando



Birmingham School District



Dothan School District



Huntsville School District



Nashville School District, Tenn.



Little Rock School District



Arkansas State University – Jonesboro



University of Arkansas at Little Rock



Wayne Township School District, Ind.



Bay County, Panama City



 



March 31



Indianapolis Public Schools



Fayette County, Ky.



Jefferson County, Ky.



Lafayette, La.



Jefferson County, Louisville, Ky.



Muscogee County, Columbus, Ga.



 



April 7



DeKalb County, Ga.



Fulton County, Ga.



 



April 14



Cincinnati Public Schools



Chattanooga



Chicago, Ill.



Mobile



Biloxi



Louisiana State University



Montgomery



 



April 18



Tulane University



Southeastern Louisiana University



East Baton Rouge Parish School System