Spring break. Envision warmth, sunshine, a breeze on your face, perhaps the sound of the ocean.
Unfortunately, that peaceful feeling may vanish as you think about the bill. But careful research and planning can help reduce stress about the whole thing.
With more than 57% of Americans expected to travel this spring break, it certainly pays to plan. In fact, CBS News reports spring break 2023 may be the busiest travel season ever for the airline industry, possibly exceeding pre-COVID levels. It’s getting more expensive too, with 60% expecting to spend $500 or more on spring break and the average cost of a one-week vacation in the U.S. for one person now at $1,578.
Popular spring break destinations this year range from San Juan, Puerto Rico to New Orleans to Punta Cana and Fort Myers.
Let’s take a look at our five tips to save money on your spring break plans, wherever you decide to go.
If you’re planning what to do on spring break on a budget, you’ll want to look for cheap and free things to do as well as other ways to cut costs.
As you think about spring break ideas, remember: lots of outdoor activities are free or inexpensive. There’s no charge to hang out on most beaches. Hiking, for example, a portion of the Appalachian Trail, does not entail a fee. Most local parks are free, and most state parks are also an inexpensive option. Kayaking or paddle-boarding on a lake is usually inexpensive, especially with your own equipment. Canoe locally and borrow a friend’s equipment. Campgrounds are usually inexpensive compared to a hotel, depending on whether you take a tent or an RV.
You can save on meals in lots of ways. Look for coupons or local coupon websites for the area you’ll be staying in. You can also shop for groceries at your destination. Grocery stores on Hilton Head Island, for example, will cook a pound of fresh-caught shrimp for you for an easy meal. You can also pack your travel food, snacks and drinks ahead in a cooler. Choosing a hotel with a fridge can give you options, like buying sandwich fixings and making the most of restaurant leftovers.
Check out our tips for the cheapest ways to travel on a budget.
What’s the best way to find the best hotel deals? Sites like Kayak.com bring together deals from many different airlines, hotels, and providers in one place, making it easier to do your research. Just remember that everything is not included on these sites. Southwest Airlines is a good example, so it’s worth checking out their company site (especially since they allow up to two checked bags at no charge). Travel agencies are also worth a look, as they often run package deals for spring break.
The best way to save on travel this year is to shop early and watch for deals. While last-minute hotel deals were popular during COVID, travel sites are predicting they’re on the way out. From 2018 to 2022, Google found the best flight prices 38 days before departure for spring break travel in March or April.
Traveling with a group may be a good option to save some money on hotels, especially if you’re willing to share rooms. If you don’t mind sleeping next to a friend, you could split the cost of a hotel room with two queen beds four ways. Add a futon or pull-out couch and make it five or six ways. As a group, options like Airbnb and VRBO can be an amazing – and cost-effective – way to travel, especially with a full kitchen to save on eating out.
Unexpected fees can throw your travel budget off fast. Be sure you’re aware of any fees by reading the full disclaimers as you book travel. Include those fees in your budget.
Today, these fees seem to be hidden everywhere when you’re booking a trip. Be sure to look out for booking fees, baggage fees, and taxes, particularly as you calculate and compare flight costs. Sometimes booking a flight may look cheaper, but some sites don’t include the baggage and other fees. Watch closely. Resorts can have their own fees, including cleaning fees. And remember, you’ll pay the local tax rate on everything you buy during your vacation. Traveling to a destination with lower taxes could save you hundreds of dollars.
If unexpected fees catch you in an emergency, an installment loan might be a quick fix option to help your cash flow. These are available in most locations when traveling, and even with bad credit most can get you cash within 24 hours. Learn more about financing a vacation.
Getting a side hustle is a great option for funding spring break. These days it’s easy to do gigs for just a few weeks as you need money for a specific expense. Between picking up work-from-home gigs might be a fit for you. Sites like Upwork offer a variety of quick virtual tasks you can complete for cash, from data entry to editing a paper to customer service. Grubhub, DoorDash and Instacart allow you to pick up jobs whenever you like. Learn more about side gigs available if you have a car.
If you own property, it may pay to think about renting space on Airbnb. Been thinking of renovating that old garage or barn out back? Maybe add a little studio rental for extra cash flow. If you’ve got unused land, you could add a few glamping sites, cabins or even yurts. Just be sure you check into the laws for your area – some places are legislating against these rentals.
As an alternative to expensive spring break trips, consider a staycation. You can remain at home and visit areas you never get a chance to see. Go for a horseback ride at the state park. Fish at a local lake. Let everyone in your family choose a favorite meal for the week, or give each kid a chance to choose the day’s activity. Try something totally new by taking a class or learning on YouTube. Take on a home improvement, decorating or other challenge at home. Invite a friend to stay. There are lots of ways to make a staycation both inexpensive and great – and you get to sleep in your own bed.
USA Today identifies another evolving option, which they call a “closecation.” With rising costs and an uncertain economy, some families are choosing to travel to a region near home within a three- to four-hour drive. This option lets people “experience the joy of a vacation while staying within their budget.” Again, Airbnb, VRBO and similar sites may help with a great away-from-home experience near home. We’ve seen fun options from tree house rentals, to cabins on a working farm with hands-on experience and animal care, to an old distillery with a one bedroom on the Kentucky bourbon trail. Searching online for “weekend getaways” or “vacations near me” will offer a wealth of ideas for almost any area.
We hope these tips help you have a great vacation this spring break – even on a budget.
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