Dealing with the frigid winter months usually means fantasizing about heading somewhere else for a few days. For college kids particularly, it means dreaming of putting down our books, gathering up our friends and leaving for spring break. Unfortunately, the typical spring break getaway involves paying for expensive airfare and lodging in popular spots like Cancun or Daytona Beach. Not every student has the means to pay for a trip like that every year, especially with all of the other infamous expenses associated with higher education.
So what do the broke kids do? Sit home and sulk about seeing all of their friends’ sunny beach photos on Facebook? No! There are plenty of opportunities to go on a just as good (dare I say better?) trip for a very small fraction of the cost. Here’s a guide to doing spring break on the bare minimum budget.
Raising the Funds
You and your pals can certainly take a vacation for only a few hundred dollars per person. Is that still too much of a stretch for your current finances? Fear not! There are quite a few ways for a college kid to make a quick buck before springtime.
Odds are that people will be sympathetic to your cause, remembering the days they tried to scrounge up enough money for a trip. You can host a bottle drive in your neighborhood, passing out flyers ahead of time to give your neighbors time to save their disposables. Or, if you have an ideal location in mind, you can host a bake sale!
Most states pay money in exchange for plasma donation. It’s a lot like blood donation, but they separate the plasma from the red and white blood cells, which are then returned to the donor. Because of that, you can donate up to twice a week, earning up to $50 per visit!
Cleaning out your closet
Do you have clothes, media or electronics you aren’t using anymore? Get organized! Pack up everything you haven’t used recently and sell it to a pawn or consignment shop. While you’re at it, if you have any old textbooks lying around, sell those back to your school as well. You’ll reduce your clutter and put money toward spring break all at once. Thumbs up for multi-tasking!
Last but not least, do some odd jobs for neighbors, family and friends. Offer your services for baby/pet/housesitting. If “sitting” isn’t your thing, offer to shovel snow or clean gutters. Profit from odd jobs can add up quickly, making them a perfect source of last-minute cash.
Picking a Destination
All right, so you have your money saved up; the next step is picking a destination. The best way to do this is to pick an uncommon location for spring breakers and travelers alike. The lower demand the area has, the better deals you’ll get. I also suggest picking somewhere you and your friends have never been before to make the whole trip that much more adventurous. In terms of actual distance, the closer, the better. You’ll pay way less for travel that way.
If that doesn’t narrow your search enough, consider your interests. Do you love to ski or snowboard? Head to the closest resort! If you’re a big music fan, Nashville, Austin or Seattle might be your best bet. And if you’re just looking for a big city with a lot of history and culture to explore, you can find one in virtually any one of the fifty states. The main thing I’m trying to convey is to think broad and really explore your options.
When it comes to saving money, taking a road trip is almost always better than splurging on airfare. If you can pack a car full of people, you’ll be splitting the total cost of gas five or six ways. Personally, I think driving adds to the trip. You can make an awesome playlist, play cheesy car games and pull over to check out the wackiest roadside attractions. Just make sure to check out your car before you leave and bring a reliable map or GPS with you.
If you only have a couple of people in your group or your car isn’t reliable, consider taking a bus or train to your destination. You can sit back and enjoy the scenery as you’re taken to your destination for a very reasonable price. Bonus: Using your student ID and booking your ticket ahead of time will save you even more money.
Where to Stay
Far from being “hostile,” hostels are ideal for easy, convenient and cheap boarding. While you’re not likely to enjoy hotel amenities like private bathrooms, king-size beds or indoor pools, you will have a safe, clean spot to sleep. Check out hostels online before your trip to read reviews and compare rates.
If you have a big group, splitting the cost of a hotel room can end up being pretty affordable too. Make sure you look online at different travel sites to get the best deal, as prices often vary from site to site. Prices do go up as the dates get closer, so get the ball rolling now!
If the weather allows, consider camping! Packing up tents and paying for a spot in a nice campground creates a whole new kind of trip, full of s’mores and campfire songs. You can also check with your group to see if any of your relatives or friends have a place they’re willing to let you guys stay in, which would be a huge relief to your overall budget.
Eating out three meals a day will add up fast, and could end up becoming the biggest expense of your trip. Buy and pack food in bulk so you don’t have to rely on restaurants for every meal. In this case, hotel rooms with microwaves and refrigerators will serve you well.
Don’t let your tight budget keep you from having the time of your life this spring break! Use these resources and tips to get an ideal getaway for the least amount of money.