Looking for Affordable Spring Break Sunshine? Try Palm Springs

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The California desert resort is gaining a name as a mecca for travelers -- not just for its sunshine, but for its rich array of food, arts, shopping options and natural beauty.

Palm Springs, California, is missing from most lists of top spring break destinations. Unlike the usual meccas — in Florida, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Texas and elsewhere in California — Palm Springs has no beach. It’s in the middle of the California desert.

But Palm Springs gradually is gaining stature as a spring break destination, thanks to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and to the town’s hipster, party-time atmosphere. If you get pulled into Palm Springs’ orbit this year, you’ll find that it can be a budget-friendly vacation when you plan ahead and know where to look for bargains.

Getting there and getting around

Eighteen airlines fly in and out of Palm Springs International Airport. When comparing deals, also check out the cost of flying into nearby Ontario International Airport (about an hour and a half away) or Los Angeles International Airport (two to three hours) and taking a shuttle, rental car or Amtrak to Palm Springs.

For getting around Palm Springs, to the festival and to other desert towns and destinations, Sunline Transit Agency bus lines is your best bet for saving money.

Invariably, the sun is shining in Palm Springs, and the city boasts many miles of bike routes through downtown and historic neighborhoods. Download this map of bike routes and trails. Call or visit the official visitors center: 800-347-7746, 2901 N. Palm Canyon Drive, to ask about bicycle rentals and tours.

Where to stay on a budget

Your biggest expense, after concert tickets, is accommodations. Don’t waste a minute getting yours lined up because, as you surely know, demand is high during spring break season. Hotels are fun and CBS Los Angeles names three popular with spring break vacationers: Colony Palms Hotel, Ace Hotel (“for those looking to party”) and the Saguaro Palm Springs.

But your money goes further when sharing a vacation rental home with a kitchen and several bedrooms and baths. Even if you don’t cook you’ll save by fixing coffee, refreshments, breakfast, sandwiches and frozen pizza in your unit.

Here are a few sites for bargain-hunting:

The Coachella Festival has links to campgrounds, parks and RV parks.

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