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10 Tips for Planning a Budget-Friendly Spring Break

Jan 5, 2022

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When the winter weather starts to give way to the spring flowers and sunshine, it can only mean one thing: it’s time for spring break. While the thought of an epic getaway is enticing, it can be stressful to plan something extravagant on a tight budget.

Just because you’re trying to save money, however, doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the age-old tradition of a much-needed spring getaway. With careful planning and budget-friendly travel hacks, you can plan an exciting, memorable trip.

Pack your bags and grab your sunscreen, these 10 tips will help minimize your spending and maximize your fun.

Determine a Realistic Budget

Grab a pen and paper, open an Excel doc or log into or your favorite budgeting app and get ready to crunch some numbers. This is important for budget-friendly travel because if you don’t know what you’re working with, you risk getting yourself into a financial situation that’s hard to get out of.

Don’t just make guesses either—do the math based on your paychecks and other incoming money so you’re left with an accurate picture of what your budget looks like.

Choose your Destination Wisely

After doing your budget, the fist question should be: Where can I afford to go? Ask yourself:

Will I need to drive or fly?

Where will you stay? (With friends, in a hostel, in a hotel, etc.)

How much does it cost to eat?

Should I find a place with a kitchen so I can cook meals myself?

Do I need to rent a car?

Some of the most popular spring break hotspots like Miami Beach and Cancun are extremely pricey. Instead, consider lesser-traveled locales where you can get more bang for your buck thanks to less expensive flights and local attractions. The best part about choosing a less-traveled location is that you’ll not only will you save money on travel costs, but you’ll also enjoy a much more relaxing spring break without the chaos you would experience at the more popular destinations.

Look for Bundled Deals and All-Inclusive Options

Travel sites like Travelzoo and Cheap Caribbean have vacation packages that are all inclusive. This means the rate advertised includes food and drinks, lodging and airfare—you pay the fee and enjoy yourself for the rest of the time.

Groupon also often has getaway travel deals and if you’re a Costco member, you can take advantage of their budget-friendly travel packages as well.

Find Cost-Effective Travel Options

If it’s possible to drive to your spring break spot, enlist some friends to road trip with you and split the travel costs. If you need to stay overnight along the way, find family or friends who will let you crash for a night. If you want to turn it into an adventure, pack up your camping gear and stay outside.

If driving isn’t an option, consider taking a bus, which is inexpensive and let’s you relax while someone else does the driving. If you’re traveling with friends, you can play games and spend more quality time together on the drive.

If flying is your only option, keep these money-saving tips in mind:

Compare prices for one-way tickets on different airlines (sometimes cheaper than a round-trip).

Fly on a weekday

Take a red-eye

Fly into a less-popular airport

Ditch the Overpriced Accommodations

It’s fun to stay in a luxurious hotel with an ocean view but how much time do you really spend in your room? If you’re willing to forgo some unnecessary amenities, you can save money and still find a decent place to stay.

Take it a step further and forget the three- and four-star resorts as well. According to a The Ultimate Spring Break Budget guide, you can save $87 per night in Cancun and $34 per night in San Diego if you stay at a two-star hotel instead of a three-star resort. You may be missing out on an epic balcony view, but you’ll be able to do a lot more with the money left over.

Only Bring the Money You Need

Financial preparation isn’t done after you set your budget. If you want to enjoy a guilt-free spring break, you have to stay within your means the entire time. To avoid impulse spending, bring only what you need when you go out. If you’re uncomfortable traveling with cash, get a prepaid debit card to take on your trip instead.

Don’t forget to keep emergency money stashed away for any unforeseen circumstances. Keep this locked in your room safe—if you don’t have one, request it.

Buy Groceries

Going out on the town is fun but it adds up, quick. When you arrive at your destination, stop at the nearest grocery store and stock up on snacks, sandwich ingredients and low-fuss dinner options like canned soup or microwaveable meals to munch on during your trip. The best part: you don’t have to leave the beach to eat lunch!

Considering that you easily spend around $10 per meal, if not more, cutting that out just once a day will save nearly $100. Plan to go out for dinner, but eat breakfast available at your hotel (if that is the case) and make your own lunches.

Uncover Membership Rewards

Credit cards, national clubs/organizations and even some large retailers offer membership perks to customers via partnerships they have. You may be able to save on every aspect of your trip, from the flight to your meals. Don’t forget to mention if you’re military, a student or a senior, which almost always gets you a discount.

Bring Coupons

Check for deals online before you leave for your trip. Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have deals on activities and restaurants, and you can filter your search by location. Find a few awesome restaurant deals ahead of time and make your reservation. This will not only save you money, but it also eliminates the stress of finding a place to eat at the last minute when you’re supposed to be relaxing.

Don’t forget to ask the locals for recommendations. People that know the area can steer you away from tourist traps and help you find more cost-effective dining and entertainment options that are just as good, if not better, than the popular spots.

Plan a Road Trip, Camping Trip or Staycation

You don’t have to travel far to have an epic vacation. Instead of going somewhere tropical or exotic, explore somewhere new that’s just outside of town. This still allows you to get away while saving on travel costs.

If there are hiking or camping destinations near you, consider an outdoor adventure for your Spring break. Ultimately, if you have enough fun people traveling with you, the destination becomes less important. With some planning and creativity, you can have a great time and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Don’t miss out on an unforgettable spring break experience because of a limited budget. Use these money-saving options to plan an unforgettable, cost-effective trip! 

About the Author

Kimberly Collins

Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She focuses on health and fitness, lifestyle and family. She’s written about money-saving travel tips for a variety of websites including Tripping.com, Active.com, Travefy and more. She earned her Bachelor's in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University and when she's not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, California. Follow her on Twitter @Maile_Proctor.

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