You thought your ideal spring break trip would be totally spontaneous, free of all deliberation. Then you ended up watching the happy travelers returning from happy activities to the comfort of their happy rooms, while you try to fall asleep in a cramped car seat with only a few (unhappy) friends and an individual-size bottle of whiskey for comfort. No, not Gentleman Jack's - think bottom-shelf.
Sound familiar? Many travelers have had similar experiences on what were supposed to be dream vacations. Spring break trips require planning to guarantee that you'll spend your money wisely, have as much fun as possible and stay safe.
- Brainstorm possible destinations for your spring break trip. The "when" is pre-determined, so figure out the "where." Where do you (and your friends) want to visit? Consider outdoor activities, relaxation, social scene and weather. The best spring break trips are ones in which you really feel a sense of escape to something totally different; you feel exhilarated while traveling and refreshed upon your return to the daily grind. Did anyone say, "Change in latitude?" Maybe, but not necessarily. Maybe a change in altitude is more to your liking. Pleasant change is the fundamental element of a good spring break trip. So how do you define "fun?"
- Research. You only have a short window of travel time; the most interesting place on earth might make for a poor destination if you feel totally shortchanged by a visit that didn't last long enough. On the other hand, spending a week in a totally slumbering corner of the world can lead to the regrettable feeling that you've missed out on all the fun. There are no set rules as to what makes a good destination; that distinction depends entirely on your taste and mood. But research to make sure you end up somewhere tailored to your preferences - whether you aim to snorkel off an abandoned beach or drink cocktails out of coconut shells after a volleyball tournament.
- Choose your fellow travelers wisely. On that note, make sure you and your travel partners are on the same wavelength in terms of what you desire in a vacation. Otherwise, there's bound to be strife and disappointment. A spring break vacation with great friends can be the most enjoyable experience in the world. Conversely, there's nothing more awkward than a vacation plagued by antagonistic behavior from your travel-mates. Ponder that as you plan your spring break trip. Also, keep in mind that you want to travel with people whom you can trust.
- Find the best airfare and accommodation deals. Plan as early as possible in order to ensure the lowest fares and nightly fees. Your cheapest airfare can be found online by visiting competing sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline and Expedia. Often you can also find package deals that provide discounts on airfare and accommodations. Size, location and amenities of your accommodations depend not only on your budget, but also on how early you reserve room. If you seek accommodations too late, you may find your options narrowed for you (often in less than desirable ways).
- Pack appropriately. Swimsuit, sandals and boogie board? Or snow-goggles, ski boots and sled? What you bring on your spring break trip depends largely upon where you're going. Set aside a few hours to brainstorm all the possible clothing and other items you might need. If you run out of packing space, you can consider which of these items are most important. Remember your passport if you plan on leaving the country!
- Money. No matter where you're going, you'll need some of the green stuff (I'm talking about currency, you dirty peacenik hippies!). Typically, vacations cost more in actuality than you predicted on paper. Always give yourself access to more funds than you expect to need. Don't bring all of your money in the form of cash! And don't carry your cash and plastic/traveler's checks in the same place. There's always a chance that you may lose your wallet or be mugged. Under those circumstances, the biggest nightmare is to have absolutely no money. I suggest you bring two wallets - one for your cash and I.D., and the other for any plastic or traveler's checks. Keep your first wallet on your person, and dip into the reserves in the second wallet as you need them.
Spend your cash wisely and plan ahead to make sure you have cash in those times when no other payment method is an option. And if you're traveling internationally, think about your money situation early. You can exchange currency online or at your home bank, prior to your trip, usually for a much cheaper rate.
- Safety first. Earlier, I asked you to define "fun." Now define "safe." If the two definitions could never share any common ground, then please reexamine your idea of fun, or abandon it in the interest of self-preservation. Every spring, adults of all ages flock to exciting, festive destinations for spring break, forgetting that some very important safety rules still apply (indeed, they apply more so than ever). "Don't accept candy from strangers" - remember that old childhood warning? Substitute alcohol for candy, and you've got one of the many safety rules you should observe during spring break. The topic of spring break safety really deserves its own comprehensive article; thankfully, you can visit our HowToDoThings spring break safety article to learn more. Don't be one of the unfortunate travelers who return with regrets, or perhaps never return at all.
I didn't mean to end this article in minor key. Spring break trips can provide a lifetime of treasured memories. When we feel bogged down by work, school or any of the oft-oppressive elements of daily life, we can feast on those memories to sustain our positive outlook. Enjoy your spring break vacation! The best way to ensure your enjoyment is to invest the proper time and thought in planning.