by Jill Watkins
Spring break… an American institution that promises easygoing, relaxed ‘fun in the sun’ for anyone who feels the spring in the air and wants to ‘get out and go’, leaving your everyday life far behind. While travel deals are everywhere, how do you even start to plan the perfect getaway for one special week? The answer will depend on your interests and how far you’d like to journey, as well as your budget and other variables. To help you start to gather your thoughts and get your plans in place, we are sharing some of our favorite ideas for a memorable spring break experience. Whether you are a student, a couple, or a family, the right spring break is out there for you!
As new adults, the world is yours for the taking, and spring break fun beckons from many corners. To make it even better, classes are all off, so what’s your excuse to not go out and enjoy the free week? Some vacation locations have a regular spring break ‘scene’ where you can meet and mingle with students from other schools, while other destinations are perfect for creating your own adventure.
- Mazatlan- Mexico’s ‘Gold Coast’ offers an easy mix of sun, watersports, dining, shopping, and nightlife. The ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ has reliably mild weather and a lively spring break ‘scene’.
- New Orleans- Southern history, jazz music, and the mighty Mississippi River all come together in the non-stop melting pot that is the ‘Crescent City’ of New Orleans. Grab your beads and come on in, for a non-stop spring break party on the Gulf Coast.
- Las Vegas- While Las Vegas is a year round destination, it’s also home to a lively student-friendly spring break scene. During the day many popular hotels have pool parties, and when the sun drops, the Las Vegas nightlife is second to none. The weather is generally mild and hotel deals abound this time of year too, so you should be able to experience all that Las Vegas has to offer.
Pros: These vacation locations are popular for a reason- they have a lot to offer for activities and are an easy place to enjoy oneself. There is a spring break ‘scene’ in place so you’ll have the company of other students to share in the fun.
Cons: As with anywhere that’s well-visited, crowds can mean, well, crowdedness. You won’t find a secluded beach and there may be waits for restaurants and shows. It’s also good to remember basic travel safety tips in the spring break ‘hotspots’.
Tips: Popular places are easy and may be be a good choice for your first trip planned ‘on your own’. Be aware of possible crowd issues, and plan as best you can to find alternatives- maybe eat early, or buy your own food. Know your travel safety- don’t walk alone at night, etc.
- Puerto Rico- Offering a tantalizing mix of beaches, history, and culture, Puerto Rico offers easy fun in the Caribbean sun yet remains a lesser-known getaway destination with much to discover.
- Amsterdam- Journey across the pond and enjoy canals, museums, and the vibrant streetscene and welcoming nightlife of Amsterdam. This small and charismatic city is easily walkable and youth friendly and is a favorite of return visitors.
- New York City- You can’t go wrong with New York City! The city never sleeps and there’s something here for everybody- sightseeing, dining, shopping, and so much more. Weather in spring can be a mixed bag, but there’s so much to do that you might want to skip on sleeping to take it all in!
Pros: For some students, the party scene is 100% not their style. If that is you, you might enjoy using a free week to explore some place that you’ve always wanted to go. This is the time of life when you can just ‘pick up and go’ and immerse yourself in something entirely different for a week!
Cons: An active or off the beaten path location may be involve more research to plan out. You may also need to find a ‘travel buddy’ if you are not going to be part of the mainstream break scene.
Tips: Start planning early and if your first dream trip doesn’t seem that it’s going to pan out, keep exploring ideas until you find a trip that’s going to work for you.
Fast forward a few years… you’ve graduated from school, you’re employed now, you’re part of a couple. You’ve both been working hard all winter, and spring beckons you to take some time to get away together. You want to relax but also enjoy some active fun doing things together. You probably no longer want the student scene, but there’s still a great spring break for you.
- Cruise- Taking a cruise as a couple is a perfect way to enjoy some time together and wake up a new port daily. To ensure your quiet time, book with a line that doesn’t provide so much for families, such as Oceania.
- Skiing- Fun in the sun may be found on the slopes as well and many ski resorts all other fine features as well, such as spa treatments, fine dining, and shopping.
Pros: The well-traveled is always easy. If you have less time to plan and no full week off anymore, a quick getaway is easy to schedule. Since you aren’t going to the same places as students, this becomes more like taking a vacation than a ‘spring break’- but, as it’s still ‘off’ season in many locations, there are many times discounts to be had for travel in March.
Cons: With any good idea, other people have it too. Even non-students like to get away in spring to enjoy the year’s first warm sun and lower prices.
Tips: If you can find out when most students have break in your area, you have the flexibility to go a different week to avoid the rush.
- Santa Barbara- A mild climate and a bustling wine (and microbrew) scene are amongst Santa Barbara’s draws. Enjoy some time simply walking the beach or poking around town.
- Roatan- A diver’s haven and a low-key ‘truly tropical’ beach scene await you in Roatan, Hondurus. Easily reached by flight from Houston and providing a perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, Roatan is the ‘undiscovered paradise’ you’ve been looking for.
- Grand Canyon- American’s greatest wonder is easily visited in spring and nearby attractions are many. Design your own Southwest road trip and spend a bit of time too checking out nearby sections of old Route 66.
Pros: Spring (as well as fall) is the best time to visit places that are normally busy in summer and cold in winter. The weather is just right and crowds and prices are still relatively low.
Cons: Weather is unpredictable, you could find yourselves still wintered in! Some destinations are so seasonal that not everything is open in off months.
Tips: If you are willing to accept that the trip is an adventure regardless of weather or what activities are available, you can enjoy your trip regardless of what surprises you may encounter.
Fast forward again… you’re no longer just a couple, you’re a couple with kids! And as you find yourselves retied to a school calendar, you once again have a whole week to get out and about. This is your chance to get away from daily life and enjoy some quality family time. The one trick? You’ll need find a destination that all family members can enjoy.
- Atlantis in Bahamas- A whole world in one mega-resort, Atlantis Paradise Island Resort Bahamas has everything you’ll ever need, including kids Camp’ programs. Or, hop across the bridge into Nassau to visit the Straw Market one day- then back to your ‘home away from home’.Hawaii- You can’t go wrong with Hawaii! The weather’s almost always perfect, it’s easy to get around, the food is great, and everyone is sure to find fun things to do. A popular family option is to rent a ‘condo’ rather than a traditional hotel room- this gives everyone more space and allows you to save money on food by preparing some of your own meals.
Orlando- Another easy one, Orlando has year-round fun but is an excellent spring choice. The weather is warm, everything is extremely family friendly, and there are so many possible activities that you may have to pick and choose!
Pros: Some destinations are ‘no-brainers’- you know you will love them. Keep it easy and stick with a pre-set package that includes everything your family would need so you can focus on enjoying yourselves and your time together.
Cons: Some destinations that cater to families are thus overrun by families. You aren’t the only one who thinks DisneyWorld at this time of year! Lines can get long and that’s no fun for kids.
Tips: Consider your kids (as well as adults) and how much crowdedness you can endure and still enjoy the destination. If you have family members who won’t do well with a busy scene, plan someplace less well-known to avoid the frustrations.
- Steamboat Springs, CO- An amazingly kid friendly Colorado ski town with so much more, Steamboat has sleigh rides, a bungee jump trampoline in the Coca Cola Adventure Zone, tubing, ice castles, and specially designed kids programs.London- For older kids with an interest in history, culture, and adventure, London, England is an easy trip to a foreign country. Spend a week exploring a bit of Britain and come home with an appreciation for having spent a week ‘abroad’.
Your Own Backyard- Sometimes, it’s great to take a ‘big trip’ as a family. And sometimes, it’s nice to stay closer to home. For most people, within only 100 miles of their house, there will exist several ‘getaways’ that they’ve never been to. Rent a cabin, go on a road trip, discover a small town that you’ve only passed by. Save the long journey, costs, and jet lag by enjoying somewhere near home… close enough to be easy, but far enough out of your daily life to still be a ‘getaway’.
Pros: Doing your own thing can relieve the pressure that you ought to be spending every moment of your week doing activities or participating in a larger vacation scene. It becomes more about you and your family and your free time and less about ‘spring break’.
Cons: You’ll have to research options, make plans, and prepare the whole family. Weather can be mercurial this time of year, so you have to plan and pack for all eventualities.
Tips: Know your own family’s limits and what collectively decide what you’d like from your free week. You may want to use the chance to create a unique adventure, or you may wish to keep it simple.
FatWallet Asks the Travel Experts
Mark Chesnut from LatinFlyer.com is the expert when it comes to travel in Latin America. He was kind enough to provide a few of his top picks for spring break destinations:
- With its good weather and beautiful beaches, Mexico is a perennial favorite for spring break. But there are many destinations within Mexico — some are very popular choices, while others are lesser known. Cancun is a great choice, thanks to its array of hotels that fit nearly every budget, as well as its energetic nightlife, shopping, dining and beautiful Caribbean waters. There are more all-inclusive properties there than ever before, so it’s easy to find one that fits a variety of style preferences (the adults-only properties are probably a better choice for spring breakers). Nearby cultural attractions like the magnificent Chichen Itza and scenic Tulum provide additional reasons to visit.
- Cool lesser-known destinations for spring break include Huatulco, a Pacific-coast resort town with multiple bays, a scenic landscape and a more tranquil vibe. You can wander the cute downtown area, dine on local cuisine and enjoy lots of water sports. Don’t miss a trip to Copalita Eco-Archeological Park, the site of the city of Copatitlan, which dates back more than 2,000 years. Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa is the destination’s newest hotel; it’s an adults-only paradise with great views and a huge spa.
Sheila Beal our Hawaii expert from Go Visit Hawaii shared her top picks for spring break destinations:
- Travaasa Hana on Maui is a tropical paradise that’s an ideal getaway for couples. The spa and resort are almost always top rated by major travel publishers. The resort is divided into two different sections — the private sea cottages are designated just for adults. There’s an adult only pool, too.
- Waimea Plantation cottages on Kauai offer private, romantic cottages that let’s you relax and feel like you’re away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
- Aulani, the Disney resort, on Oahu is so family-friendly. It’s like staying in at a water park with all the great pools, lazy rivers and water playground. The onsite kids program that caters individually to children, tweens and teens offer wonderful programs that the kids will love and mom and dad can enjoy some free time.