Planning Spring Break on a Budget
Spring break is one of the most highly anticipated weeks in college. It is an oasis in the middle of the spring semester when students can let loose; go somewhere fun; enjoy spending time with friends, family, or their significant other; and most importantly, get the chance to relax. On the other hand, spring break can also bring about feelings of stress and anxiety when it comes to planning a big trip on a tight, college student budget. But realize IT IS possible to go on a wonderful spring break trip without spending all your hard earned money.
The first thing to do is set a realistic budget. For example you may be able to accumulate $300-$600 or maybe even $1,000 you have been able to gain from working extra hours at your job, are willing to pull from your savings, or managed to save up by not buying non-necessity items or cutting down on your grocery bill. Deciding how much you can afford to spend on a trip from start to finish is by far the most crucial step because you will not be able to determine what your travel options are, how long you will be able to stay at a destination, and what all you can do while there until you know the bottom line price you are willing, or able to pay. If you are living on a tight budget, you don’t have room to splurge or make spontaneous decisions and need to think realistically about what kind of spring break you can afford.
The next make-it-or-break-it step in planning a reasonably priced spring break trip is to do research, lots and lots of research on anything and everything that could be relevant to your trip. Don’t just jump on the first getaway package you see, especially if it doesn’t include airfare. Look around at different websites for different offers and packages and see what kinds of deals and opportunities are available, particularly look for ones geared toward college students. Make sure to read reviews on the different places you and your friends are considering. A two-star hotel may look great in pictures with a very appealing price tag, but when you get there you may discover it’s poorly run and located on the bad side of town. Start early when you are researching opportunities. Asking around, reading reviews, crunching numbers, and making sure the logistics work with everyone’s schedule takes time. You are bound to run into issues, so starting early allows you to plan a solid, well thought out spring break.
It is a good idea to also research nearby restaurants and cafés to gage the general prices of food in the area. By doing this, you can budget how much money you need to set aside for food as well as have the chance to find restaurants you and your group would enjoy. When you are looking to budget for types of attractions, it is important to think about free or inexpensive possibilities such as parks, museums, street tours, festivals, and other events that are open to the public. However, if you are wanting to do something like a theme park, Broadway production, sporting event, etc. you are going to need to plan a tighter budget around that one big expense, such as free (or at least inexpensive) things to do on the other days. Mapping out the details for everything you will be spending money on will not only tell you if the trip is something you can afford financially before you even leave, but it also keeps you from losing track of your expenses during the trip. My suggestions would even be to go to an ATM and take out your budgeted amount for the trip and only pay for things in cash. That way you know when you are starting to run low, and it may help prevent you from throwing your budget to the wind once you are on the road.
Another area you really need to do your research on when planning a spring break trip on a tight budget is modes of travel and lodging. If you go to school on the east coast and want to visit Florida for spring break, a flight could be as much as $500. Chances are it would be much cheaper for you and your friends to drive and split the gas money and driving time. In addition to this, look into other ways of travel such as trains or buses. Maybe you are visiting someone in another state and would not need a car once you arrive at your destination. Taking a bus or train might be a cost friendly option to consider. In addition to transportation options, you need to look at your different lodging choices, such as tent camping, couch surfing,staying in a hostel or hotel, or maybe a mixture of possibilities if you plan on jumping around from place to place. Just because you know people are going on expensive getaways does not mean you and your friends can’t have fun experiences as well. Budget conscious trips can actually be far more adventurous and memorable because they are about spending quality time with people while doing things in a less conventional fashion with less emphasis on the expected experiences of the destination.
One very important element to having a successful spring break on a budget is going forward with a good attitude and the ability to be open to trying new things. Just because your family vacations have always been somewhere tropical and 2,000 miles away does not mean you or your friends can afford those types of trips. Be open-minded to other options. Look at ideas such as renting a cabin and going skiing or snowboarding, hiking, or mountain biking. Think about visiting your friend’s lake house, grandparents’ beach house, or just renting a house or condo somewhere closer to your school and make your own adventures. Being flexible on your location or entertainment expectations when it comes to planning a trip, especially one on a college budget, is an important mindset to have. It is setting you up for having fun no matter where you go.
A last big tip is to use student discounts like they’re going out of style. Far more places offer student discounts than people know about and this opens the door to shopping, food, events, and more at a discounted price if you have a student I.D. So when you are making spring break plans, find opportunities to use your college discount as a means to save even more money you can then use for more fun experiences.
In conclusion, remember, planning a spring break trip on a budget is going to take time and lots and lots of research to figure out the best bang for your buck possibilities. Don’t be closed to new ideas or adventures that you may not have thought about if you weren’t on a budget. Try new things and be flexible about the outcome. Also don’t be afraid to try new ways of traveling and lodging. Who cares if you have to ride next to a few strangers or sleep in a tent? It will be a memory that you will have for a lifetime. Once you’re destination and means of transportation is set, figure out the details. Plan a budget for as much as you can to save money and not accidently splurge all your savings. Also don’t forget to flash that student I.D. any chance you get. You won’t have it forever so make the most out of discounts that are only offered to college students!