Do you know the best-kept secret about school? The teachers look forward to breaks more than the kids!!!
With only a couple of weeks until Spring Break, I’m facing the next couple of weeks like Jon Snow facing the army of the dead!
Spring break is a BIG deal.
A significant portion of the country is affected by Spring Break (teachers, students, families), so it’s no wonder that around 65 million travelers were screened by TSA over the 2016 Spring Break period. And while Covid put a damper on Spring Break, and travel in general, over the past few years, with Omicron ebbing the travel industry is looking for a rebound.
Did I mention Spring Break is a big deal?
This is why traveling during Spring Break is generally more expensive. You’re not imagining it. Airlines, hotels, and other travel services tend to raise their prices during peak travel times when they know people will be looking to travel despite the cost. With that being said, your Spring Break trip doesn’t have to break the bank.
Here are 5 strategies for taking a Spring Break trip on the cheap.
We know, this isn’t the sexiest option out there, but it is the cheapest!
The staycation became popular several years ago during the financial crisis because people simply couldn’t afford to travel. The idea is to take day trips to local activities within easy driving distance and return home at night, or to simply participate in activities at home.
While travel is something that we advocate actually spending money on (experiences over material possessions), Spring Break may not be the best time to do it because of the high prices. We definitely don’t suggest going into debt to take a big vacation.
With these ideas in mind, a staycation is the perfect happy medium and can fit into almost any budget.
Participating in local activities lets you save major money by cutting out airfare and hotels, along with most meals. As a result, you’ll still be able to enjoy some leisure activities at a fraction of the cost.
And the best part is a staycation can still feel like an actual vacation!
Make your staycation feel like a trip away from home by setting start and end dates, planning your days around various activities, and letting go of your normal routine.
While a staycation may not be your dream vacation, it serves the purpose of gaining experiences without the hefty price tag of a typical Spring Break trip.
2. Drive to your Destination
If you really, REALLY need to get out of town but don’t have a big budget, then driving to your destination is one way to take a Spring Break trip on the cheap.
While driving to your destination takes time away from the vacation and limits your destination options, it significantly reduces cost by cutting out airfare. Many people can lay out a couple hundred for either a hotel or flight, but it’s much more difficult to shell out the money for both.
Of course, with the recent increase in gas prices driving a long distance may not be in your budget, but driving will likely still be cheaper than flying. Plus, there are several great ways to save money on gas that you can utilize to keep costs down.
And just because you’re driving doesn’t mean the destination has to be boring. A favorite quick trip for Portlanders is to head to the coast or to central Oregon. Both of these locations are gorgeous and offer tons of fun activities, and are within a few hours’ drive.
Research possible locations within a few hours’ drive of where you live, and make that your Spring Break destination. You’ll still get away for a few days to experience a new (or old) place, but without the major cost of a flight.
3. Book in Advance
If your vacation thirst cannot be quenched with a staycation or a couple of hours drive, and you absolutely must get on a plane, make sure you book WAY in advance.
About a month.
According to Hopper, you should book your flight at least 25 days in advance, but no further out than 150 days.
Furthermore, a study done by CheapAir found that flights are at their lowest price about 54 days beforehand and that tickets cost around $150 more when booked within two weeks of the trip.
We know it can be a pain to flight-watch, but luckily there are a lot of tools out there that can keep an eye on prices for you. Google Flights, KAYAK, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and AirFare Watchdog are a few, but there are others.
Of course, booking your flight in advance means you need to have your trip planned out in advance, so this strategy won’t work for you impulse-vacationers.
These cheap fight rules apply year-round, but may be especially important when planning a vacation during Spring Break where prices tend to be higher and seats tend to be more limited.
4. Stay off the Beaten Path
We’ve already mentioned that flights and hotels are more expensive during peak travel times, but this is especially true for major Spring Break destinations.
Not only is Spring Break a high-volume travel time, but the most popular vacation spots (think Orlando, Hawaii, or Mexico) tend to sell out quickly, further driving up the cost. This is a classic case of supply and demand. If the demand is high and the supply is low, the cost is also high.
However, you can combat the Spring Break supply and demand problem by choosing a destination off the beaten path.
Yep, destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida all top the list of popular Spring Break spots, and will cost you the most. Resort destinations such as Disneyland and Universal Studios are also more expensive since they are targeted toward kids and families (the majority of Spring Breakers).
Unfortunately, warm, tropical, and resort-style destinations just don’t offer a good bang for your buck during peak travel times, including Spring Break.
Another destination that will typically be more expensive during Spring Break is the mountains. Spring skiing is a popular activity, and so these destinations in Colorado, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, and British Colombia may be especially popular during Spring Break.
If you want to stay off the beaten path to get your Spring Break trip on the cheap, you need to avoid the most popular mountains and (warm) beaches.
But don’t despair! There are plenty of other destinations you can choose during Spring Break that will be much cheaper and still allow you to get out of town and gain experiences. In fact, there are plenty of cheap destinations in the U.S. to check out, including outdoor destinations like National Parks. California, in particular, has a plethora of great National Parks to visit.
One idea is to visit relatives or friends. Visiting relatives or friends will allow you to avoid the most popular destinations, save on hotel and food costs, and spend time with people that you typically don’t see.
It’s a win-win for everyone, and it saves you money.
5. Use Miles and Points
The topic of miles and points is way outside the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that collecting miles and points can be a great way to significantly reduce the cost of a trip.
Every major airline, hotel, and car rental brand has a loyalty program, and they are free to sign up for. You can collect miles and points for each loyalty program through flights/stays/rentals, using credit cards and sign-up bonuses, shopping portals, and various other methods.
These points can then be redeemed for free or reduced-cost flights, hotels, and car rentals, which greatly lowers the out-of-pocket cost of trips.
I always utilize points and miles for travel, and would highly recommend it for saving money on your trips.
Important: if you choose to utilize credit cards for collecting points make sure you are only buying things you would normally buy and that you can pay your balance off every month. If you carry a balance and pay interest you are wiping out any benefits you might gain from points.
One of the best deals in travel hacking is the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to fly a friend for free for up to two years.
Moral of the Story
Spring Break is one of the busiest travel times of the year, and also one of the more expensive.
While planning a Spring Break trip is a common occurrence for teachers, families, and students, it is possible to gain these much-desired experiences without breaking the bank.
Taking a staycation is the cheapest option, but you can also save money by driving to your destination, booking your flights in advance, staying off the beaten path, and using miles and points.
Vacations are a great way to gain valuable experiences that will last a lifetime, but as with anything, those experiences should not come at the cost of your financial well-being.
Spring Break experiences don’t have to come at the Spring Break price.
Take your next Spring Break trip on the cheap.
Talk about Money Saved.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.