Spring break: These two words conjure up images of hedonism, hot weather, and very little clothing. But rest assured, there are plenty of opportunities for those whose interests run outside the norm, or for those of you who are tired of the same old, same old. Why not try something new? Travel can be like ice cream. You know you like a certain flavor -- say, Daytona Beach -- but every once in a while you have to try a new flavor. We've provided some suggestions here for breaking out of spring break habits and trying something different and less obvious.
The Beach Trip
The most obvious and perennially popular spring break destination is the beach. For good reason -- usually it's cold in March and the break offers an opportunity for warmth. And when you think beach, usually it's somewhere in Florida, Jamaica or Cancún. Why not consider somewhere else, such as Riviera Maya? It has beaches, it has a more international flair to it, and there are still things to do beyond the beach once you get tired of the Caribbean (although I can't imagine that), such as ancient Mayan ruins, shopping (bring your best bartering friend), snorkeling and scuba diving. If you're not sure where you want to go, peruse Orbitz (tel. 888/656-4546; www.orbitz.com) which has a special running on trips to the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mexico, with a savings of up to $300 for a 7-night air and hotel package, or $150 on a four-night stay with airfare. You must travel by July 31; make sure you enter the code 150Sunny or 300Sunny when you book. Additionally, Orbitz has a spate of specials for hotels in the Caribbean in its Orbitz Insider Index, from $85 per night at Village Inn and Spa in St. Lucia to a three-star Surf Side Beach club from $148 per night to Bermuda to other special rates in Antigua, St. Martin and St. Thomas. Rates may vary for spring break, but the ones posted reflect early April travel.
Book It (tel. 888/782-9722; www.bookit.com) has a special offer for the Park Royal, which just reopened after $34 million renovation process. Located on the island of Cozumel, across from Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, the resort is offering all-inclusive rates from $99 per person per night with no blackout dates. All meals, free upgrade to an ocean view room, ten per cent off spa treatments and free gym access. You must book by January 31, and it is good for travel through April 30. Consider destinations such as Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Belize, which are off the radar of most students. These places offer many similar offerings -- great climate, beaches and water sport activities.
The other cliché about college student travel involves backpacking through Europe in the summertime and buying a summer-long Eurail pass. But why fight the crowds (and elevated prices) of June and July when you can spend time in places in Europe in March. Ireland, for example, is an easy country to navigate in an ad-hoc fashion; the landscape is dotted with bed and breakfasts and other affordable lodging, and the scenic, still mostly pastoral country is really best explored by foot. Shamrocker Ireland (tel. 353/0-1-672-7651; www.shamrockertours.com) runs budget-minded backpacking trips for those 17-35, and you can choose from three-, six- or eight-day trips, all of which start and end in Dublin. The three-day Western Rocker, which starts from $174.65, runs weekly and last three days. You'll stay in hostels, spend time in Dublin, Killarney and Doolin, and explore the Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher and the Barney Castle (don't kiss the stone). It departs on Friday March 2, 9, 23 or 30. If this does not sound like enough time, pair it with the Northern Rocker tour and have a six-day trip for an additional $169. For Shamrocker trips, the price reflects transportation and a tour guide, but it does not include accommodations, which the company books for you and which typically range 13-16€. Additionally, you can save five per cent if you purchase two or more qualifying trips, such as three-day Northern Rocker, 6-day Southern Rocker or 8-day all Ireland rocker. FYI: Shamrocker is part of the Radical Travel family, which also includes Haggis Adventures and Busabout.
Rail travel through Europe is arguably easier than it is in this country. Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) is offering a "7-day Spring Break in Vienna and Prague by Rail" priced from $799 for departures March 18, 22 or 25. The trip is independent and includes flights from New York to Vienna and then Prague to New York, airline fuel surcharges, two nights in Vienna and three in Prague, daily breakfast, and transportation between cities with standard reserved rail seats. You can upgrade to first-class rail by choosing plan C or change your lodging options to something more elaborate for an increased fee.
STA Travel (tel. 800/781-4040; www.statravel.com) has backpacking package trips for spring break starting as low as $298 backpacking in London, staying four nights at the Generator Hostel in Russell Square. You must book by January 31, however. The deal is only available to fulltime students carrying the International Student ID Card (ISIC), which you can purchase right there online for $22. You'll depart March 10 and return March 14 if you depart from New York or Newark; the trip runs March 11-16 if you depart from Boston.
If you love cities and thrive on walking, activity, culture, restaurants, museums and architecture, then check out deals to places such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas. You may have some luck with the likes of the usual suspects -- Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and other travel packagers -- but companies that cater to student travelers might be more economical starting points, especially if you are on a tight budget. STA Travel offers plenty of getaways to these places at student prices that are worth investigating and consistently offers airfare deals, such as New York to San Francisco from $246 round-trip or Austin to Washington, D.C. for $198 round-trip.
In terms of accommodations, STA also has offers for Las Vegas starting from $18 per person per night at USA Hostels, based on a two-night minimum and double occupancy. You can upgrade to what the company calls VIP all the way, and stay at the Excalibur on the heart of the strip, from $64 per night. If New York City is more your speed, there are rooms available from $26 per night at Jazz on Lenox, a new hostel in Harlem, or single rooms at Dexter House form $79
Contiki (tel. 866/CONTIKI; www.contiki.com), which designs trips for 18-to-35 year-olds, has a 10-day trip called "L.A. to the Bay" priced from $1,065. The only availability for this trip is March 21-30 -- so hopefully your spring break coincides with this time frame -- the March 7-16 trip is not available. The trip departs from Los Angeles and goes to San Diego and you'll have time in San Diego, Las Vegas, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco. The price includes nine-night, twin-share hotel accommodations, about a meal a day (either breakfast or dinner, depending), an experienced tour manager and driver, air-conditioned coach and sightseeing per itinerary.
Austin-Lehman (tel. 800/575-1540; www.austinlehman.com) runs adventure travel trips for families, adults and teenagers. If you want to get away with your family on spring break, there's a trip to Ecuador for seven nights/eight days, with a luxury 20-passenger yacht as your base for exploring. Activities include boating, hiking, snorkeling and kayaking, and almost all of your meals are included (but international round-trip airfare is not) from $2,450 per person. The trip is offered weekly throughout the year.
This year Austin Lehman has added a trip to Arizona that departs March 14-18 and April 1-5 called the Grand Canyon/Havasu Base Camp Adventure for five days, four nights, priced at $1,540 per person double occupancy. The trip departs from Phoenix, so you'll have to get yourself there, and your primary activity is guided hiking surrounded by the turquoise water pools in Havasu Canyon.
Outward Bound (tel. 866/467-7651; www.outwardboundwilderness.org) runs all kinds of adventure trips -- some as long as a semester -- designed to challenge you physically. Costa Rica Sea Kayaking and Snorkeling is priced at $1,695 for March 23-30, for seven days, but the trip is offered throughout the spring. You'll learn the skills to kayak -- no previous experience is necessary -- and you travel with all the supplies you need, such as food, tents, food and water, and stay at a new camp every night. There's also a Colorado Backcountry Snowboarding trip, an eight-day excursion with departures March 17, March 25, and throughout the spring, through early April, depending on the age group. The trip takes place in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and is priced at $1,395, but you must have what the company calls "solid, intermediate boarding skills" because the terrain is challenging. The trip teaches you winter navigation, avalanche awareness, first aid, cold winter physiology and how to do things like build a snow shelter and adapt to changing cold weather conditions.
Talk with fellow Frommer's readers on our Student Travel Message Boards today.