So, it’s your senior/junior year of college, and you realize you have had enough of sitting on your parent’s couch each spring break…it’s time to plan a real vacation and take advantage of your free time.
If you are like many people, you want a warm spring break where you can escape the drear of papers and exams for days on the beach. Most students in the U.S. flock to warmer states, the Caribbean, or Mexico.
When planning this type of spring break, be sure to keep in mind what you actually want. If you are one of those people with a knack to drink alcohol all day, I would suggest you do your research on the best party cities for spring break. If you are like me, you look for a little more adventure and relaxation during the day, and then switch things up during the evening. So, without further ado, here is my recipe for a balanced spring break…
Margo’s Balanced Spring Break
After surviving the worst winter has to offer, there is no doubt that closer to the equator is better. According to The Travel Channel, the top ten spring break locations for college students are (in no particular order): Las Vegas, Nevada; Cancun, Mexico; the Bahamas; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Daytona Beach, Florida; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; South Padre Island, Texas; Panama City Beach, Florida; and Jamaica.
This year, we chose Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
2. Small group of great friends.
For many people, spring break is the first time to travel out of the country with a group of friends. Shoot for 3-8 people in your group. It is a lot more fun to have a group of friends to share the experience with, but you want to make sure not to invite too much drama. If you have a large group, make sure that everyone in your group is comfortable splitting up when several people want to do different things. In small groups, avoid traveling with two people who hate each other or anyone in a weird love triangle. This is all pretty common sense, but it is good to keep in mind.
3. Plan to not really plan.
Spring break is usually not a time you want to spend being micromanaged by a long list of activities or time constraints. At the same time, no one wants to realize that they do not have a way to get to the airport at 4 a.m. To avoid both of these situations, plan ahead for your trip, making sure you are designing a low-key vacation.
Flights. Despite cheap costs, the spring break vibe can be ruined by long layovers, missing baggage, and missed flights. Try and avoid this by shopping around on sites like Momondo.com and Skyscanner.com for flights with minimal stops.
Ground Transportation. For trips over 3o minutes, decide on whether you want to have car service, to drive yourself, or to have friend/family member help with pick-up and drop-off. Plan this out in advance, as car services and family members become busier as your travel dates approach.
For trips under 30 minutes, you can usually get away with splitting a few taxis between your friends. This is easy to plan on the fly, and ensures that you will arrive where you need to in unfamiliar places. If you are going to a foreign country, familiarize yourself with their taxi system before you go to avoid scams and other hazards.
Accommodations. Know the options in the area and assess what kind of vacation you want. A regular hotel can be great if the area is relatively safe and close to restaurants, clubs and the beach. An all-inclusive is great if you want to pay up front and not worry about payment or having to leave the hotel. Just be prepared for lack-luster food. Airbnb’s are a great way to go for a big group who wants a lot of flexibility. Just be prepared to cook and clean for yourself.
Activities. Make sure that where you are going has plenty of easily-accessible activities that you can do on your own time. Consider also scheduling one local activity or night out (see below).
4. At least one fun, local activity.
In my opinion, if you are going to travel, you should make at least one attempt to understand the place you are visiting. Strips of hotels lining the beach are fun, and definitely conducive to a great party, but they rarely allow you to understand the local culture. Plus, the things you are going to remember years later are often the excursions you went on, not the days spent playing volleyball on the beach.
Check out TripAdvisor, Viator and travel blogs for popular local activities. See if there are any hole-in-the-wall bars or restaurants nearby. Book a boat excursion or a cultural tour. If you are in a different country, find out where the locals go to party and make an effort to meet them (as long as it is safe!). Sometimes, there is nothing more fun than learning to dance Bachata with a complete stranger who barely knows English.
5. Ability to switch easily between partying and relaxing.
Partying all day can be exhausting; even the party-crazed fraternity bro needs to take a nap some time. Assess how much you can really handle, and plan out your ratio of partying to relaxing. Bring a portable speaker and a few good books to hang out on the beach, along with plenty of outfits for a night out.