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How to plan a great spring break on a budget (and 8 destination ideas)

    Spring break can be a great time to travel during college, but figuring out how to do it on a budget can sometimes be challenging. You want to have fun, see the world, decompress from classes, and have an adventure, but you don’t want to stretch your finances to do it.

    Knowing that traveling on a budget for spring break can be challenging to navigate, we reached out to travel expert Nneya Richards, behind the lifestyle blog 'N A Perfect World, for some of her top tips.

    Richards stresses the importance of remembering that, above all else, spring break is meant to be a chance to unwind and have fun.

    “Spring break destinations are fun! They're an age-old college tradition, but you do have four years of it,” says Richards. In other words, don’t feel like you have to break the bank to enjoy yourself or even like you must go somewhere if you can’t afford it; there’s always next year!

    One other thing to keep in mind as you consider if and where you want to go on spring break is to prioritize safety and being aware of your surroundings. Consider traveling and staying with a group, particularly if you’re considering leaving the country or traveling somewhere you might not be familiar with.

    Money-saving tips for college students traveling for spring break

    Consider booking your travel as early as possible

    Since spring break is a popular time for many people to travel, consider booking your flights as early as possible to pay as little as possible.

    According to Richards, “the earlier you book, it's usually the better. That's one to two months [ahead] for domestic flights and at least four for international [flights].”

    Just as it can be advantageous to book air travel early, the same can also be true for booking buses, trains, and rental cars, so keep that in mind as well.

    Consider packing light to avoid baggage fees

    If you plan to fly to your spring break destination, remember that airlines may not include baggage in your fare and only allow you to bring a “personal item” free of charge. If this is the case with your fare, if you can get away with packing light and are on a budget, this may be the time to do it.

    Consider atypical spring break destinations to help save possibly

    Per Richards, “Cancun will always be Cancun, but have you tried exploring the rest of the Yucatan peninsula?”

    Richards suggests looking at destinations outside of typical spring break destinations for your travel dates as one option to try to unearth deals.

    “Book in cultural hot spots during spring break versus party hot spots,” she advises. You can “save money on hotel rates and even activities” by doing this, she shares.

    Planning as a group can potentially help you save on travel costs

    Many people travel as a group for spring break, which could potentially help with savings.

    Traveling as a group can open options to possibly save on accommodations, food, and activities if they offer group rates.

    Hotels are one area where there’s the potential to access preferential group rates. If an all-inclusive resort is an option per Richards, don’t frown on it. “It's a great way with group travel to save money, and you're not chained to the hotel,” she says. “In the last few years, many all-inclusive resorts have shaken off the reputation for cheesy or unsophisticated travelers and have upped their food programs and amenities.”

    Before traveling with a group, ensure you’re all on the same page regarding how much you want to spend on the trip to minimize potential conflicts.

    Budget and plan for food ahead of traveling

    Depending on the location you’re visiting, food prices will vary, but it’s one area that can really eat into your budget. Be aware of how much food might cost on your trip so you can budget accordingly. Here are a few tips for how to keep your spring break food budget in check:

    • Pack food and snacks to bring along
    • If your accommodation has a kitchen, consider making some of your own meals
    • Budget for meals beforehand so you don’t overspend

    Don’t forget to utilize student discounts whenever possible

    Before planning your spring break trip, see if student discounts are available on travel, hotels, activities, and restaurants. Make sure to bring your student ID with you, which is generally how companies offering student discounts will verify that you’re a student.

    Spring break destinations to consider if you’re on a budget

    This isn’t a comprehensive list – this list is only made up of U.S. destinations — but rather a jumping-off point of destinations you may want to consider when researching potential spring break destinations.

    1. Destin, Florida

    Destin is a popular spring break destination because of its white sandy beaches. It’s possible to visit this Northwest Florida city on a budget, as many hotels and resorts in Destin offer students spring break deals and discounts. Check with specific hotels or search online for deals geared towards students.

    2. South Padre Island, Texas

    South Padre Island is another popular spring break destination for college students. Many hotels offer affordable rates, and the island offers a free public shuttle system, so budget-conscious travelers don’t have to worry about spending money on a rental car or taxis.

    3. Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada

    If you want to vacation in a cooler climate, consider Lake Tahoe. North Lake Tahoe offers many options to participate in snow sports, and South Lake Tahoe can be ideal if you want to be close to entertainment and nightlife. It’s also an area to explore if you’re looking for more reasonably priced accommodation options.

    4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

    Myrtle Beach is a popular destination on the East Coast for spring breakers. You can head to the beach and boardwalk (for free) and potentially find affordable accommodations (if booked in advance). You can also explore renting a house with a group to keep costs down.

    5. Outer Banks, North Carolina

    The Outer Banks offers ample accommodation options, and, if it's warm enough, there are also miles of sprawling beaches to take advantage of. It’s an area known for its many vacation rental home options, some of which can accommodate large groups.

    6. New Orleans, Louisiana

    With the city’s neighborhoods being compact and walkable, sightseeing can be relatively easy on foot. And if you don’t feel like walking, you can jump onto New Orleans’ famous streetcars. New Orleans may also offer delicious street food options, which can help keep your costs down.

    7. New York City

    You can find many activities in New York City that are of little or no cost, like museums, where you can pay for what you wish to visit, or discounted theater tickets. Getting around is accessible because of multiple modes of public transportation and the ability to walk to many destinations. Although food and accommodations may be more expensive than other destinations, there are ways to make both things more budget-friendly with a bit of research.

    8. Miami, Florida

    If you want to be near the water, consider Miami. Although this can be a very popular destination for spring breakers, the multitude of airports you can fly into and the availability of attractions (many of which offer discounts), not to mention that you can visit the beach for free, means that it can be possible to see Miami on a budget. Similar to New York City, you may find accommodations and food more expensive than other destinations, but budget-friendly options for both are still available.

    Final thoughts

    Consider the above tips before planning your spring break. Do research before committing to anything, and book early when possible. These tips can help you stick to a budget that works for your financial situation so you’ll make enjoyable memories and do it while being smart with your money.