Paying for College

Tending Your Spring Break Budget

Spring breaks are breaking all over the place. Some began earlier this month while others won't begin until April. The beaches of America (and their residents) are braced for the onslaught of super-serious partying. As I heard one college junior say, "Leave no bar unvisited!" Sounds like fun, if you're into that scene. However, more objectively speaking, the cost of spring break can be sobering.

If you're still wondering where to go to spend all that money on spring break, you may care to check out Top Spring Break Destinations for 2012. But, if you've already zeroed in on the beach upon which you will be soaking up sun, then turn your attention to how to get the most mileage out of your spring break finances.


Brandon Farestad-Rittel is a college-savings expert for Kinoli Inc. He has come up with 10 great ways to enjoy spring break on a budget. Maybe you've been trying to decide whether or not you can truly afford to go on a spring break trip this year. Well, maybe Brandon's ideas might convince you that it is possible and affordable. Check out his ideas.  As he says:

Dust off your comically over-sized sombrero and load up on your favorite color of Zinka sunscreen; spring break is just around the corner. While the ideal destination of this vacation usually involves soaking up sun on the beach, coming up with the money to make such a trip possible is a serious challenge for your average college student.

Begging mom and dad and scraping couch cushions for change are always options for assembling the necessary funding, but they'll only get you so far. If you're dead-set on doing something special this spring break without spending a small fortune, try a few of these cost-cutting tips.

1. Use Your ID

See how far you can get on your student ID. There's no harm in asking a hotel or rental car company if they offer an additional student discount. Also, don't be shy with your ID when you're out of town. A student discount should apply to any student, no matter what state you come from. Check out this list of 81 student discounts for a few ideas.

2. Shorten Your Stay

Traveling mid-week is almost always less expensive than traveling over the weekend. Instead of booking from Saturday to Saturday, schedule your spring fling between Tuesday and Thursday. This means less spending on airfare and accommodations and still allows a few days of free time to tackle homework assigned by unsympathetic educators.

3. House Sit

Nearly everyone knows at least one family that comes back from their annual spring break adventure way too tan with inappropriate braids in their hair. Instead of resenting their exotic travels, help yourself by offering to house sit. This provides you with free accommodations and even extra income for simply walking the dog and checking the mail. For just $30, you can register with the well-rated HouseSittersAmerica to find suitable accommodations.

4. The New Plastic

While your parents may have used coupons to cut their costs, the new generation is all about gift cards. Discount travel gift cards can be purchased at sites like GiftCardGranny.com to save on such expenses as airfare, hotels and gas. They feature cards from popular companies including American Airlines and Shell, so you can save money wherever your travels take you.

5. Stay in Hostels

Hostels bring to mind the image of a socks-with-sandals European backpacker, but believe it or not, there are plenty of locations in the United States. When the weather's too cold to camp, they make an affordable alternative for a night or two. However, hostels vary greatly in quality, so reading reviews at sites like HostelWorld.com is essential.

6. Find Friendly Faces

If Quentin Tarantino scared you away from hostels forever with his 2005 movie by the same name, seek spring break refuge with family and friends instead. As long as you're still on speaking terms, relatives will usually provide a place to stay for free. When that's not an option, you can always find a friendly couch to crash on at CouchSurfing.org. Before your trip is through, reciprocate your host's hospitality with something like a nice dinner or a trip to the movies.

7. Economical Eating

Hard Rock Cafe makes a fine T-shirt, but one of their burgers can cost a whole day's travel budget. Stocking up on sandwich-making materials and a few breakfast foods at a local grocery store will drastically reduce your overall eating expenses. This doesn't mean you can't sample a few local restaurants; you just have to be more selective.

8. Live Large

"Go big or go home" is an expression you'd expect to hear when dropping into a half-pipe, but it makes an awfully good slogan for the travel industry. Usually, resorts and even some airlines are willing to offer a group discount if you book in advance. Ten people seems to be the magic number where the savings start.

9. A Stranger at Home

Sometimes, getting out of town isn't an option. When you wind up stuck at home for spring break, take the opportunity to explore some aspects of your city you've never seen before. If a tank of gas is in the budget, see if there are any unusual roadside attractions within a day's driving distance.

10. Nine-to-Five Vacation

With a whole week open, you always have the option to work 40 hours without a problem. Knowing you're saving the money you earn for next year's spring break might lessen the blow of a buzzing alarm early in the morning. Of course, using that money for a shopping spree at the end of the week is a not-so-economical, but always enjoyable activity as well.

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If these ideas have pushed you over the edge of indecision and fired you up to take the spring break plunge, then maybe you would like to connect with some of your scattered high school buddies who went to other colleges and who are also spring breaking. To find out when their breaks are, check out this handy list of Spring Break 2012 College Break Dates. Remember: The spring break you can afford may be your own!

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.