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Lessons From My First “Real” College Spring Break

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a pretty good spring break.

In 2020, it was…long, and, well, need I say more? 2021 was my first year of college, and we were unjustly stripped of any substantial break, save for a couple of “wellness days” scattered about the semester, usually on a random Tuesday or Wednesday to avoid any travel. Last year, I went home for spring break, and while I got to spend plenty of time with friends from high school and my family, the Chicago suburbs in March aren’t the first place I’d want to be. This year, though, I knew I wanted a real spring break.

After weeks of planning and brainstorming with a bunch of friends, my roommate and I ultimately decided to pack up for a big road trip and visit her grandparents in San Antonio. Having never been to Texas, eager for some warmth and happy to have a place to stay, I was excited to make my first big road trip without my family. Along the way, I made some pretty big realizations that I’d like to share with you! 

1. Long drives go by much faster with friends

I have never been one to enjoy long road trips. I’ve done plenty of them since I was young: both sitting in the back seat with a bag full of books, sudoku puzzles, downloaded podcasts and more recently, with shifts in the driver’s seat. While I don’t ask, “Are we almost there yet?” every few hours anymore, I still impatiently check the ETA on Google Maps regularly. This trip, instead of passing the time jumping between an assortment of independent activities, I spent nearly the entire first 10-hour leg talking with my roommate, and the time flew by. Even though we live together, our contrasting schedules mean we barely see each other during the week, so it was a lovely time to catch up. By the time we made it to the hotel, I was shocked we were there already and had enough adrenaline that I (almost) wanted to finish the rest of the trip that night.

2. Taylor Swift’s full discography makes DJing much easier

Making a road-trip playlist might be some people’s favorite part of the trip, but when challenged with 28 hours to fill, suddenly, your top 10 car jams won’t be enough. As any good Swifties would, we played through Taylor’s full discography from start to finish, and it lasted nearly the whole way to San Antonio. And, as if she just knew we had a return trip to make, Taylor dropped another four songs for us to gush over before we headed home. After Taylor, we played some of our favorite albums and artists for each other and even found some stand-up comedy soundtracks to keep us entertained. 

3. Don’t underestimate the power of a home base

Since we finalized our travel plans much later, and didn’t travel with a huge group, my roommate and I stayed with her grandparents. Not only did this save us a chunk of money by not renting out an Airbnb or staying at a resort, but it also gave us a very comfortable and reliable home base. Vacationing in a new city can be exhausting, especially between morning runs, strolling the River Walk, visiting historic sites and plenty of shopping. Knowing that we had a comfortable bed, a stocked fridge and some personal space to which we could return to after a long day was a crucial part of having an enjoyable and relaxing break. Of course, it was also amazing for me to get to know my roommate’s extended family, and for her to catch up with them.

4. You don’t have to go out if you don’t want to

If your Instagram feed is anything like mine, it seems like every college student vacationed in Florida or Mexico, in some spring-break tourist town full of 18 to 20-something-year-olds living life at the beaches and bars. Going out can be a great way to enjoy a commitment-free week with friends, but it’s not the only option. There were multiple nights when my friend and I thought about going out or walking around to see what was going on, but in the end, it wasn’t what we were in the mood for. Most nights, a fun dinner, a movie night or an ice cream sundae made us much happier than standing in a sweaty bar. 

5. Enjoy wasting time

As someone who tries to maximize her time to have the most productive, efficient and jam-packed days, wasting time is not a feeling I am very comfortable with. During this break, I forced myself to do a few purely unproductive things. For example, my roommate and I spent an afternoon shopping in fun boutiques and random tchotchke shops with absolutely no intention of buying anything. We hopped from shop to shop, ranking candle scents, quoting self-help books, reading greeting cards and touching every article of clothing with a funky pattern or a fuzzy texture. We were purely wasting time, and I loved it.

6. Splurge on the things that will make your trip special…

Spring break is a time we can spoil ourselves. After spending over two months keeping busy with classes, work and extracurriculars, it’s important to make the most of your spring break. I tend to be a more frugal spender for the most part, but the last thing I wanted was to feel like I missed out on a special experience. Spending more on eating out at a couple of nice restaurants and buying myself a small souvenir were expenses I usually don’t have during the school year, but were little additions that made the trip feel like a vacation.

7. …and save on the boring things when you can

That being said, most of us have some sort of budget that we’d like to stick to, and it’s good to recognize the things that don’t mean much to you so that you can choose your splurges wisely. For us, one bigger expense was hotel rooms for the nights that split up our drives. We didn’t spend much more than 12 hours in these places, most of which was sleeping and grabbing dinner. We certainly got what we paid for, but for us, it made more sense to spend $60 on a Super 8 than $150 at the Marriott when all we needed were a couple of mattresses, a clean bathroom and a door that locks.

8. Take advantage of the time to recharge

Being a college student is no easy feat! We’ve been plowing full speed ahead for several weeks, and even with a quick breath of air after midterms, we all know that the term projects, final lab reports and condensed lessons are coming as professors rush to wrap up the semester. Even when it felt like we weren’t making the most of our vacation time, just getting an extra hour or two of sleep a night and eating lunch at a restaurant or dining table instead of at a desk between classes can be the little things we need to recharge. The last thing we want is to return to campus more drained than when we left it!

This spring break might not have been a stereotypical college vacation, or even what I expected myself, but it did allow me to get some rest, have fun and explore a new city. Whether your next trip takes you to the beach, the mountains, a distant relative’s place or back home, take these little lessons learned and apply them however you choose.

A thrifting enthusiast studying Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at Saint Louis University. You can find her running, reading, cooking, and probably running again when the sun comes out.