My girlfriend is a teacher who never takes days for vacation, so we schedule our time away from our regular lives over the summer or during one of several of the breaks in her academic calendar. I do my best to design my schedule around hers; when I worked for a corporation, I requested vacation days to coincide with her breaks, and now that my schedule is more flexible, I don’t have to worry about being granted the days I ask for.
Today’s snow, a continuation of a winter that has seen snow on the ground continuously since December, has me thinking about spring vacation. Typically, we spend a week during the spring with my family in California. Since they moved to the west coast, I’ve generally been able to visit only twice a year, and this week is a good opportunity.
If you’re looking for spring break ideas, and whether you are a student, a family, a couple, or an individual, here are eight that might spark your interest and perhaps save a little money.
1. Rent a vacation house. If you’re going away for more than a few days and need more space than one room, it can be more economical to rent a house rather than to stay in a hotel. Browse HomeAway for a thorough selection of vacation homes throughout the world for rent. In some cases, staying for a week — a luxury you might have over spring break — can help you save even more money.
2. Go camping. If you stick to government-owned camping sites, there’s a good chance you’ll be able find deals you wouldn’t necessarily find at private-owned sites. You can visit Recreation.gov to start planning a low-cost camping trip. The website isn’t perfect, but you can browse for campsites with certain amenities and use this as a starting point for researching your vacation.
3. Travel as a student. If you’re a full-time student, part-time student, or part of the faculty or staff at a learning institution, you may qualify for better fares. Student Universe is a fare search engine like Kayak that offers student rates. A quick check shows the site offers the same fare I paid for a non-student fare for my flight to California, so it’s a good idea to double check any rates that you find. I also realized that I still have my .edu email address from my graduate school, so I could theoretically still qualify for student rates. Youth rates for non-students aged 18 to 25 are available as well.
4. Take a road trip. One of these days, I’d like to take the Route 66 drive from Chicago to Los Angeles. It may be a cliche and tourist-oriented, but I believe this is a good representative of what traveling might have been like before the advent of the interstate highway system. The Mother Road is a website dedicated to this route, and it has turn-by-turn directions for travelers who want to avoid newer road improvements like bypasses, opting for as authentic a drive as possible.
Of course, not all road trips need to be as focused as this; if you have the time, as might be the case for spring vacation, replacing a flight with an interesting drive could lead to new adventures. When I was younger, the free TripTiks offered by AAA to its members was helpful, but today you can have some of those same features using Google Maps.
5. Take a cruise. Spending your vacation on a cruise ship stopping in several ports can be a good way to experience a wide range of activities and a variety of locales in a short period of time. One of my former co-workers is a cruise aficionada, and every year she’d have new stories to share. I’m looking forward to traveling on a Mediterranean cruise at some point in the future, making quick excursions in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey.
6. Day trips in your local city. Although the travel bug often leads people outside of the United States, there’s often a lot to do and see close by. I leave not far from New York City, but if I look in the right places, I can find activities as varied as I could find anywhere in the world. This is the benefit of having such a culturally diverse, large city nearby. In major cities, it’s easy to spend a week-long vacation with something new every day.
7. Go on a photography safari. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to have a great experience with your camera. If you take an organized photography tour, your vacation could be fairly expensive, but access to superb outdoor photographers can change the way you think about the art and craft. To save money, organize your own photography safari by taking any vacation with the sole purpose of coming back with amazing images.
8. Tour vineyards and wineries. Most wine tours are a few hours long, so this isn’t an activity can take over your entire vacation. This isn’t an activity geared towards students or families, obviously. It’s better suited towards couples who are interested in what could be a romantic opportunity. Many wine tours are educational, as well.
9. Participate in a volunteering group. More for students who are looking for a different type of vacation, whether to enhance their résumé or to enhance their set of life experiences, joining an organized group volunteering event can affect life-long values and help introduce you to like-minded individuals. The United Way markets this opportunity as an “alternative spring break,” with projects such as helping underachieving children in Newark, New Jersey and learning how to plan fundraising events in Boston, Massachusetts.
What are your suggestions for spring break?
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published February 21, 2011.