From Palm Beach to Palm Springs, Panama City to Punta Cana, Myrtle Beach to Montego Bay, winter-weary spring breakers are looking for warm getaways that won’t burn holes in their wallets.
Fortunately, Money Talks News savings expert Stacy Johnson is here with some tips to help — and they’re not just for college students. Officials in spring tourist destinations say hotels are already seeing advanced bookings from family vacationers, too. Watch the video below for Stacy’s tips, and then keep reading for more advice on how to take a spring break without going broke.
Tanks for the memories
Though up from lows earlier this year, gasoline averages about $2.33 a gallon, or $1.23 a gallon less than its $3.56 average around last year’s spring break time, according to AAA. So if your destination is three 15-gallon tankfuls away, you’ll pay about $210 round-trip, or about $110 less than the same getaway last year.
Barring major supply disruptions, AAA says it expects drivers will continue to pay less than $3 per gallon throughout 2015.
Pack those savings
Bring your own sunscreen, toiletries, snacks and drinks to save a ton by avoiding convenience stores and gift shops at your destination. Also, shop sales near home or school for sunglasses, hats, clothes, sneakers and sandals, cameras, batteries, memory cards and whatever else that will keep you from having to buy them on vacation.
Don’t be hostile to hostels
If you can’t afford a beachfront hotel, try a hostel, Stacy says. A bunk in a dormitory room could be only $20 to $30 a night, depending on your destination. Some hostels are close to the beach or nightlife, have views or amenities such as swimming pools. Some offer mixed dorms; others separate men and women. Each has its own set of rules, so check it out.
Locals know best
Talk to people who live where you’re going. Ask where the best happy hour buffets are. Check with them about local deals, local laws, speed limits, last-call times. Have a fine time without paying a fine.
Make the most of your meals
You can rent a room with a kitchen even on a tight budget. That way, you and your fellow travelers can save money by making mealtime a party time. Shop for groceries together and save over restaurant prices. Cook ahead and have more time for the beach or bar later. Also, if you are booking a motel, check to see if a breakfast buffet is included in the room rate.
What’s your app-titude?
Use your smartphone for more than posting pictures of your good times. Discount apps, such as Living Social and Groupon, offer deals on everything from trips to food. Uber can get you a ride back to your room from the bar. Waze can help you get around a strange city. Apps can also provide language translation, emergency numbers, weather forecasts and organization aid on the go.
Sunshine is free
As Stacy says, plan ahead and stay flexible to get a great break without breaking the bank. Look for free entertainment and enjoyment so you’ve got the dollars to spend on what you want most — and to get home. Hanging out at the beach or pool often is free.
Savor the experience, not the souvenir
You could spend a lot of money on T-shirts and trinkets, but it’s your memory of the experience that will make you happy for the rest of your life, psychologists say. Just bring back something special that will help trigger your memory later, not a lot of tourist junk you’ll find online cheaper anyway.
Where are you going?
Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page your top choice for spring break destination.
A perusal of travel sites, including AAA, studentcity.com, travel blogs and a USA Today poll suggest the top destinations for college students this year:
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Cancun, Mexico
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Nassau, Bahamas
- Panama City Beach, Florida
- Freeport Bahamas Cruise
- South Padre Island, Texas
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
- Orlando, Florida
These appear to be among the 10 most popular choices for families planning a spring vacation.
- Orlando, Florida (Disney World, Universal Studios)
- Anaheim, California (Disneyland)
- Ocean cruise
- Spring training in Arizona’s Cactus League and Florida’s Grapefruit League
- Daytona Beach, Florida
- San Diego, California
- Washington, D.C., especially for the National Cherry Blossom Festival
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Cape May, New Jersey
What’s your plan?