Every penny is precious for the average college student, but spring break has a way of making you throw your good spending habits out the window. But you don’t have to sacrifice all of your savings for a stellar spring break vacay, just FYI.
Try these tips to have a blast this year, but still have money left when you return.
1. Stay with people you know
Know a friend who lives in New York? Maybe your Aunt has a vacation home in Florida. Call those friends or family members and ask if you can spend a night or two with them. You could save yourself $100 or more per night by not staying in a hotel or Airbnb.
Sophie Dodd, a junior at Middlebury College, says that when she vacations with friends, she tries to crash with buddies along the way as often as possible. “Chances are you’ll have a friend at school in Florida, New York, etc.,” she says. So if you know someone who lives at your spring break destination, give him or her a call and see if you can crash there for a night or two.
2. Take the bus instead of flying
Let’s face it: Plane tickets are expensive. If you can, take a bus instead of a plane to your spring break destination. The tickets will cost you a fraction of the price of a plane ticket!
Gabrielle Sorto, a sophomore at Georgia State University, says that she once took a Megabus to New Orleans for vacation and paid only $90 for a round trip, a fourth of what the plane ticket would have cost. “It obviously did take longer,” she says. “But it was worth it with how much I saved.” If you’re traveling with friends, you can always play games and have a great time along the way!
3. Make it a camping road trip
Make the journey to your vacation destination into a road trip adventure! If everyone pitches in for gas, your traveling costs will be astronomically lower. Instead of paying for hotels every night, camp out under the stars. You can rent camping equipment from REI for a pretty decent price. You can also check out Recreation.gov to find government-owned campsites along your route, which are much less expensive to rent than private campsites. You can even save money by finding the least expensive gas stations along the way: check out GasBuddy. Pump up your favorite jams, pack your camping gear and remember that getting there is half the fun!
4. Do some creative touring
When it comes to vacation, it’s easy to spend your bucks on swimming with the stingrays, but there are so many fun and exciting attractions all over the country that you can try for free! Using the free app RoadTrippers, you can search for tourist attractions and offbeat destinations in your area and even compare their costs. You just enter your starting location and your destination, and RoadTrippers will show you tons of interesting tourist spots along your route. Instead of spending nearly $100 on a theme park ticket or breaking the bank over dinner at an expensive restaurant, you can use this app to find fun activities that are totally inexpensive.
5. Bring your own food
Dining out can drain your wallet fast. Did you know that in 2011, the average US restaurant meal cost $35.65? Think of how much money you could save if you packed lunch or cooked your own dinners!
When going on a trip, pack snacks! And, if you’re 21, bring your own booze (those fancy umbrella drinks aren’t always worth the $12). Stock up on granola bars, microwavable treats, other healthy snacks and supplies for preparing meals at a grocery store near your hotel.
Meghan Gibbons, a senior at Boston College, says that to save money on drinks, she brings a reusable water bottle. “I’ll bring it with me by the pool, on the beach or on an adventurous activity to save me money,” she says.
6. Use your student ID
You’d be surprised by how many places offer student discounts, and not just on clothes and food: many attractions and transportation companies will offer student discounts. If you’re not sure if a retailer offers a discount for students, just ask!
7. Rent a bike
So many big cities now let you rent bikes for cheap. Instead of paying for expensive cabs or renting a car when you get to your destination, rent a bike at your location and use that to get around. You can log onto Spinlister to find locations near you where you can rent a bike. All you do is enter your location and the site will show you places near you to rent a bike. Or, to save even more money, just walk!
8. Only bring the amount of money you want to spend
Credit cards can be a dangerous thing. It’s easy to lose track of how much money you’re spending when you’re just swiping a card. To make sure you stay on budget, only bring the cash with you that you want to spend when you go out at night. Or, if you’re uncomfortable carrying cash, you can always purchase a prepaid debit card.
Kailee Baylor, president and editor-in-chief of the University of Tampa Her Campus chapter, says that only bringing the cash with her that she wants to spend always keeps her on track. “By only taking out an amount I’m comfortable spending, it stops the temptation of impulse (and often drunk) buys,” she says.
Figure out what you want to spend each night and only carry that with you. It’s always a smart idea to be prepared for the unexpected, though. For emergencies, Kailee recommends keeping an extra $20 in a secret part of your purse. “That extra $20 can pay for a taxi back to your hotel—a lifesaver when you’re in unfamiliar territory,” she says.
9. Spend the night outside of touristy areas
When traveling to areas that draw a lot of tourists, the hotels and hostels right in the middle of everything are usually the most expensive. Chastity Deforme, a senior at Brandeis University, recommends checking websites like Hostels.com to find inexpensive options just a little further away from the center of everything.
“Sometimes you will find bed-and-breakfast houses that give great discounts to large groups, and the places are really quaint,” she says.
10. Use your phone to keep you on track
Have trouble sticking to a budget? You’re not the only one! Budget apps like Mint (free) or Travel Budget Tracker ($1.99) allow you to input the amount of money you have to spend and then track your daily expenses. All you have to do is input your overall budget and then enter in how much you spend every time you make a purchase. You can keep track of exactly how much you’re spending and make sure you’re staying on track.
Having a great spring break doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money. With a little extra planning, you can save a ton of money on your vacation, but still have a whole lot of fun!