Spring Break WHOOOOO!

Pollen’s out, snow has melted, I spy a tulip…must be spring break season!

Everyone loves spring break. Warm weather (finally!), fruity mixed drinks, beaches, bikinis….offers from your friends to go in on an “everything’s included resort for just $1000 per person plus airfare”…which, if you are like I was in college and grad school, you could never afford. How all those undergrads could pay for their jaunts to Europe and Thailand still puzzles me (they must have been trust fund babies and their peers who didn’t understand that credit card debt is not worth a week in Cabo).

Despite (still) never having been to Cabo, I managed to have a wonderful time on all of my post-legal-drinking-age spring breaks, and I never broke the bank. Here are some of the things that I did instead- much more affordable and still loads of fun.

-One year I volunteered with a group to do post-Katrina construction work. The Gulf Coast is beautiful in the spring, I got to meet some great people at my university outside of my normal crowd, and we helped out people who really needed it. I have always enjoyed building/construction work, and putting on shingles in the sunshine with new friends was a welcome break from studying. Also, we were staying next to Brett Favre’s bar right on the beach, so we still had some traditional spring break fun!

-Nothing like a friend from Miami. One year my girlfriends and I drove down to Florida together, stayed at her mom’s house, and took a side trip to the Keys. Her dad got us amazing tickets to a music festival and we had a great time. Lovely weather, live bands, home cooked food and only paying for two days of hotels= excellent vacation.

-I went to grad school in California, but during school I didn’t have much time to explore parts of the West Coast that were father than a few hours away. One year my sister flew out to visit me and we explored southern California together on a road trip- Disneyland was our biggest splurge, but we also got a student deal on the San Diego zoo. We stayed in hostels (which I am now officially too old to enjoy), used coupons for road trip fast food (I love McDonald’s oatmeal, I don’t care what anyone says), ate out of roadside stands and loaded up the car with snacks. We got to see a part of the country we otherwise wouldn’t have had time to explore and we had a great time.

-My last spring break (sniff) I was still in California, and two of my girlfriends who were working across the country came out to visit me. We mainly stayed in my (charming) California city, where there was plenty to do- I got to play tour guide and we did the things that I never had time to do when I was busy with school. We got groupons for whale watching and went wine tasting in the middle of the day. We took a side trip out to the desert for a few days and stayed at a kitschy, dated spa….aka, a really cheap, fun place. We paid for two nights at the spa hotel and the rest of the time we were able to cook and stay in my comfortable apartment. Even though I was still at home it felt like a vacation because I had friends visiting who I never get to see.

Some more general tips about vacationing on the cheap:

-Driving (your own car) instead of flying is usually cheaper. Especially with more than two people. Road trips are great!

Airbnb is a relatively new thing, but I have had amazing luck with them. Staying in an apartment means that you can cook your own food, not stay in hostel dorms, and spend your money supporting an individual rather than a chain hotel.

-Any time where you can avoid eating three meals out will save you a ton of money. Eating out for a whole week sounds nice, but I find that it is expensive, I don’t feel great after, I feel badly about wasting the leftovers and I get tired of trying to find new places that are the right price and have interesting food. Try to get a hotel with a kitchenette (or free breakfast), if possible. Even if you just pack granola bars and fruit instead of paying for breakfast, you will save a lot of cash.

-I have a friend whose roommates saved all of their cans and bottles for the whole year then cashed them in. They made about $400, which made their road trip extra affordable. Other people save all of their change as their vacation fund- whatever works for you.

-Often times simple activities with friends (hiking, a day trip to a nearby town, bike rides, a picnic in the park, local camping) is more fun than an expensive trip. You can relax and enjoy their company without that nagging guilt about how much you are spending. Spring break is timed so that being outside is appealing again- take advantage!

The point is- there are lots of ways to have a wonderful time on spring break without breaking the bank. If all your friends are going somewhere that you just can’t afford- be honest with them. It might be that a few of them are in your same boat, and a lower cost vacation might be a better choice for them and you. Spring break is also a wonderful time to see friends who live in other parts of the country- think outside the box a little, and you will have a great time!

Whooooooooo spring break! Have fun!

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