Spring Break is once again upon us, and with it the usual yearning for sun, surf, and sand. It’s an irresistible call—even more so when you are in college and everyone around you has already made plans.
But perhaps your credit card has taken a drubbing lately, and you’re not sure how you can pull off another vacation without it. We’re here to help – read our tips below. Unless you are in the middle of a lecture, in which case you should probably bookmark this for later.
You can have a great spring break vacation – and create lots of great memories in the process – without having to add to your looming student debt.
Here are some Spring Break ideas for a cheap vacation – regardless of your destination:
1. Show me the money
Leave your credit card at home and bring cash instead. This may seem like an extreme measure, but it will force you to budget before you leave. If this is not practical, then bring your debit card as back-up. If you are enrolled in a checking rewards program, like Kasasa, then you might consider relying on your card first to take advantage of cash rewards. However, you’ll want to be extra diligent about budgeting before the trip if bringing a card.
2. A road trip is more than just a cheap trip
If you can drive to get there, that’s a good thing. Gas is cheap right now—AAA believes that it will stay below $3 a gallon well into 2015. Driving makes for a great opportunity to carpool with a group of friends. After all, the experience of sharing a tight, enclosed area for hours is ripe for some serious bonding.
3. Rental car rip-offs
Beware the rental car counter, where many an unwary consumer is led astray with horror stories of fender benders and wrecks. Yes, you will be offered rental car insurance, and no, you probably don’t need it. Your auto insurance plan most likely covers your rental, but check with them to make sure.
4. Don’t go loco: Shop local
Buy all of the stuff you’ll need beforehand. Most convenience stores and tourist shops mark-up their prices for tourists (hello, $30 flip flops). Go shopping at home for your sunscreen, sunglasses, toiletries, apparel, and the like. To keep you going during the trip, get lots of non-perishable snacks like trail mix and energy bars. Oh, and don’t forget your toothpaste and brush!
5. A house is where it's at
A big part of your budget will go to cover lodgings, so it pays to do a little research before committing. Before researching hotels, consider sharing a house with your group. Reputable services like AirBNB.com and VRBO.com make it easy to find just the right place. If a hotel is your only option, try to book it together with your flight—you might save a bundle on a travel deal.
6. Fast food gets expensive, fast
Eating out more than once a day, even for fast food, can add up. Instead, get to a grocery store and shop for your entire stay as soon as you’ve recovered from the road trip or flight. If you have access to a real kitchen, your options can become much more interesting (especially if you or a friend can cook).
7. Don’t open yourself up with the open tab
An open tab at a bar can very quickly become a recipe for disaster. Tourist bars are known for more than bad food, they are also known for bloated drink prices. An open tab can make it too tempting to buy free rounds. Plus, a busy bartender can easily make a mistake that will leave you hurting. If you do decide to run a tab, always review your bill before leaving.
If you’re budget-savvy, you can have the best Spring Break of your life without the guilt of future debt.