Spring is coming, so is the spring break. But if your budget is tight, you might be thinking that you have to skip the sun and fun and stay closer to home.
Not so fast. With a little creative thinking, tech savvy and a few insider secrets, you just might be able to have the spring break of your dreams, without the nightmare bills.
Here are a few tips to make your spring break more awesome for less money.
1. Uber it. Ground transportation can be one of your biggest expenses on vacation, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars a day. Plus, if you’re driving in an unfamiliar location, even Siri can’t always prevent you from losing your way. That’s why car-share services, such as Uber and Lyft, can be such a boon for travelers. Not only are they less expensive than renting a car, but you get to rely on local knowledge to ensure you get where you’re trying to go.
Pro tip: Download the app and make arrangements before you leave home. Check driver ratings to get the best deals and most knowledgeable drivers.
2. Ride a bike. One of the best ways to really see the locations you’re visiting on spring break is to ditch your car and travel by bicycle. Many hotels offer bike rental services – either as a guest accommodation or to members of the public – that can provide an inexpensive alternative to renting a car to see the area you’re visiting. Cities like San Diego also have bike-sharing services where you can check out a bike and ride it for a day or a week. If bike sharing isn’t available, you can still likely find a bike rental program through a local bike shop. For instance, if your travel plans will take you to Palm Springs or the Coachella Valley, you can rent a bike from Bike Palm Springs for as little as $30 a day.
3. Be a frequent traveler. If you’re a frequent traveler, or even if you’re not, those airline loyalty programs can offer some impressive perks, including free fares to your spring break destination. Some airlines, such as Southwest, offer companion fares every year, so a friend or a family member can fly free. Others, such as United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, offer fares when you accumulate a certain number of mileage points, which you can earn by flying or by making purchases on the airline’s credit card. Just remember that if you want to save money, you must pay off your card balance every month. Otherwise the money you save on fares will go to pay interest.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that your frequent flier fares will likely be affected by blackout dates at popular travel times, but don’t be discouraged. You can sometimes get around this on spring break by accepting a red-eye flight or multiple layovers.
4. Join the club. Frequent flier programs are not new (although many people do not take advantage of them), but hotel loyalty programs are much less well known. This is unfortunate because they also offer impressive perks, ranging from access to a better class of rooms, free stays in fun destinations and other freebies. Hyatt, for example, just launched its “World of Hyatt” program which gives you five loyalty points for each dollar you spend. Those points can add up to multiple perks, such as 10 percent discounts, free stays at any Hyatt brand and even a free water bottle daily. Many hotel loyalty programs also deliver access to “members only” rooms where you can enjoy a free continental breakfast or hors d’oeuvres. The Hyatt Grand Club, available at Hyatt Grand properties, offers breakfast, appetizers and even late-evening desserts and aperitifs. These are a great way to start or end your day – and they cost nothing if you’re a member.
5. Take a road trip. Not every budget can accommodate flying or staying in a hotel for a week, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stay home. In many parts of the country, spring is the best time for road tripping and camping in the wilderness. The weather is not too hot or cold, and the crowds are light. One great destination to consider: California’s Joshua Tree National Park is at its best in the spring, when the desert flowers bloom. Drive along California’s Highway 101 and you’ll be able to see the Pacific Ocean from the cliffs of Big Sur or visit the majestic redwoods. Spring is also a great time to visit Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains or the District of Columbia. The possibilities are really endless – just avoid major beach destinations, select someplace where the weather is pleasant and start driving.
Pro tip: Many state and national parks allow you to make campsite reservations online. Do this as far in advance as possible to reserve the best sites.
Spring break doesn’t have to be an expensive boondoggle. You can have a great time and see many exciting destinations without spending a fortune, simply by following these few tips. So get out there and make it a great spring break.