The student guide to a budget-friendly spring break

Spring break—the week when students are free to travel to white, sandy beaches for excessive partying, extremely loud music and an overpowering smell of sunscreen and booze—is only a few days away. According to the Huffington Post, the top out-of-country destinations for students this year include Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and the Bahamas. Students who choose to remain in the U.S. tend to gravitate toward Florida, mainly Panama City Beach and Miami.

While some students have the privilege of traveling to various far-off locations, others are not so fortunate. Santa Monica College student Samara Acosta has always dreamed of vacationing during spring break, but cannot afford to travel.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona,” says Acosta. “It would be nice to watch one of their soccer games in person.”

A flight to Europe can range anywhere from $800 to $1500. Expenses aside, the length of spring break also affects students’ travel plans. For Acosta, staying in Spain for only five days would not be worth the money she would have to spend on a flight.

“One week just isn’t long enough to travel, and do everything,” says Acosta.

With only a week to travel and budgeted spending, some students lean toward a more affordable approach to spring break vacationing. There are plenty of reasonably priced destinations within driving range.

Splitting the cost of gas and hotel rooms among a car full of friends can make road trips more budget-friendly, and modern GPS technology can serve as a useful tool for spontaneous excursions with no set destinations.

“For this spring break, I’m going on a road trip to San Diego with some friends,” says Acosta, who is not the only student taking this approach.

“I’m going to visit a friend in Baja, Calif.,” says student Christian Chinchilla. “It’s not too far, so I would be able to drive there.”

Road trips were also popular among college students 20 years ago. SMC communications professor Alan Adelman often spent his spring breaks taking road trips when he was in college.

“My best spring break memories were when I was a student in college, and in a fraternity,” says Adelman. “As soon as spring break would hit, my fraternity brothers and I would pack several cars and make the 24-hour drive from cold, cloudy Michigan to warm, sunny Florida.”

Adelman says that during this time, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. was a popular destination (and that gas prices were $1.21 per gallon).

“We would then pile into several hotel rooms with as many people as possible to help defray the cost,” says Adelman. “We were college students, after all, on a limited budget.”

If beaches are a must, there are plenty of places to stop on a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, such as Monterey Bay, Santa Barbara and Big Sur.

For students with more adventurous sides, several affordable camping destinations are within driving range.

Redwood National Park has various campsites, which charge $5 to $8 per visitor, and $35 per vehicle admitted.

Lake Tahoe is a popular destination for camping, hiking, fishing, and site-seeing. Some campsites can be used for $28 a night, such as the Fallen Leaf Campground. Packing snacks and meals can save money, as the provisions sold at these sites are often costly.

Entrance fees at closer campsites such as Big Bear and Yosemite National Park are slightly more expensive.

Whether camping getaways, beach vacations or road trips are in store for this spring break, saving a day or two to catch up on sleep would be wise, students say.

“I was so exhausted upon my return after spring break that I needed another vacation just to rest,” says Adelman.