You’re going to want to send this one in the group chat.
Listen, listen I know. I get it. Fall semester just ended. The winter weather isn’t even in full swing yet. You’re not thinking about springtime yet, let alone spring break. But I’ve got some insider information for you. Unless you want to spend big on your spring group getaway, NOW’S the time to be planning (and maybe booking). Before you panic, there’s still time. Start with this planning guide, send it around in the group chat, and then get your booking on.
Who’s joining the group chat?
Well, I can’t really tell you which of your friends should or should not be in the chat. I don’t know you guys after all. Instead, think about what you know about your friend group. Do you really want to hang out 24/7 with all of them while on a vacay? It’s not an insult if the answer is no – you can totally love spending time with someone, but not want to sleep in the same room as them for days on end. Also, consider which friends might have another group they want to travel with. Or who might not want to travel at all. Who might rather a mountain trip when you want a beach trip. Lastly, think about how many people you want on your trip in general. Big numbers can be great for splitting costs and minimizing each person’s financial contribution. But big groups will also have limited options for where you can stay if you all want to be sleeping in the same space together.
Leaving the country? Passport NOW
If you’ve already got your (up to date, not expiring) passport in hand, skip on to the next section. If not, you need to know that passports take a while to process (like up to 9 weeks if you don’t pay to expedite it which is an extra $60 to make the processing time 3-5 weeks). That processing time is the same whether it’s a new passport or a renewal. A passport issued to someone under 16 is only valid for 5 years, vs one issued to someone 16 or over is valid for 10 years. You also generally can’t travel on a passport that expires in 6 months or less. You’ll find all the paperwork, FAQs, and forms for getting or renewing passports here.
But before you get to booking…
We’ve already discussed needing to know who’s on the invite list, and it goes without saying that you should make sure your invitees are all rsvp’ing yes before any payments get made. If your group isn’t set on a specific destination and you’re in the inspo phase, get a sense of two main things from them:
- activity goals (hiking, urban exploration, beach longing, etc) and
- the budget range everyone feels comfortable with.
To offer some budgeting perspective, studies suggest that 1 in 5 college students over spend on their spring break, requiring them to take out more student loans. Don’t do that. Like literally – bad plan. These price points ($620/$760 for seniors) are way higher than you have to spend to go somewhere and have fun. Personally, I spring breaked my senior year in DC. It was warm weather, there were loads of free activities to do, and public transportation was a breeze. I went with my girlfriend for 4 days and my total spend after flights, accommodations, food, and activities was max $450. It’s just a matter of cutting the corners that matter least to you. For us that meant only bringing backpacks (free personal item on the flight), filling our days with all the free Smithsonian museums, using restaurant gift cards we already had from the holidays for one of our dinners, and visiting a Trader Joes for some breakfast/dessert essentials.
Splitting the costs so one person isn’t stuck with the entire credit card bill
This really depends on your group, but it’s a good idea to figure out what vibe your group wants ahead of time. You guys might opt to buy your flights individually so each person is fronting their own bill and split costs on your trip with individual ticket purchases for events, activities and restaurants. Another option might be having one person make all the group purchases so that they can easily sum it up and Venmo request everyone later. (This could also be a convenient option if one person’s credit card has some really good rewards or cash back!) A different choice might be one person buying the flights, another the hotel, etc. While splitting everything might seem simplest, you probably can’t individually pay for something like the hotel room so your best cost splitting could be some combination of all these.
Now you’re ready to find the good prices
But how do you find good hotel prices? Cheap flights? We’ll go over it all, but let’s start with destinations because not all vacation destinations are equal in cost. There are plenty of places both in the US and internationally that you can feasibly visit for your mid semester reset without ruining yourself financially. And destination picking isn’t as simple as saying you’ll just spend all day on the beach and won’t spend money. Not all beach towns should be treated equally on costs either for flights or for hotels. While browsing through some spring break beach goals lists will help you narrow your search, what’s cheapest for you will depend on where you’re coming from. For the most part, the farther you’re going to travel, the costlier your flight. But also from a destination standpoint, some cities just have more expensive hotels than others. The average nightly cost of hotels in Boston is $262, vs in Las Vegas is $110.
But how about finding cheap hotels?
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of destinations, take a look at the hotel prices. Just running a few searches should give you a good sense of costs. Try keeping all your criteria (days, people) the same and looking in a few different destinations. Or you can change up the days and looking in one destination. On more trick might be to search for hotels in the surrounding towns. For example, I recently booked a hotel in Kissimmee for a little long weekend fun in January and scored a great deal compared to what my options were in Orlando itself!
Finally, that cheap flight!
Of course, if your vacation dream is within driving distance, or maybe a road trip, you can skip this part. While we all know the common knowledge that booking flights on Tuesdays is cheaper, there’s actually not much truth to that. Instead, the days your flights are on matters a lot more. Flights on Tuesdays or Wednesdays are a lot more likely to be cheaper than a flight on Friday or Saturday (when a lot more people want to be flying for the weekend). Since spring break is a week long, your best bet is leaving early in the week, as opposed to the moment that break starts Friday/Saturday.
Other ways to minimize flight costs are using flexible search tools to see other date options, exploring other airports either near you or your destination, or opting to backpack it for the trip with just your personal item. I promise, I’ve done it and you can fit a lot in a backpack. I used an older version of this The North Face backpack and had enough space for a 4 day trip and some extra room for goodies. And more importantly, I saved close to $130 not needing to pay for a bag or upgrade to a seat that allowed bags.
So that’s it. We’re all budgeted for the trip right?
Not so fast. Your budget should also keep in mind all the things that happen in between arrival and departure. What food are you going to be eating, what drinks are you drinking, what are you doing for fun? Do you need transportation to and from the airport or around anywhere else? If you plan smart, these costs shouldn’t be too bad, but they can add up, especially if you didn’t plan for them ahead of time.
TIP: Save some extra on your transportation by scheduling your Uber or Lyft ahead of time that way you can lock in their lower pricing.
If it’s free, it’s for me.
One of the easiest ways to have a fun filled trip, but also keep costs low is prioritizing activities that are free. While big events can get costly (like concerts or parties) there are plenty of free things you can capitalize on. Many museums are either free or by donation, as are a lot of parks. Also, spending your day lounging by the pool and swimming in the ocean is totally free! If you want to spend less, do your research on free options during the planning stage so you know what your choices will be. Washington DC will give you loads of free museums whereas Florida will be filled with warm beaches to hang on. Looking for other cities with free activities? We’ve got you covered with activity guides for NYC, London, San Francisco, and Rome.
Final health and safety tips
Now to be the responsible one: Wear your sunscreen. Wash your hands. At least think about masking up (at minimum in that dirty plane air). Please drink responsibly. Having fun is good, getting alcohol poisoning is bad.