Wallet-friendly spring break tips for students

As a student, it can be difficult to afford a tropical spring break trip while at the same time paying bills on a part-time job budget.

Nicki Reinemeyer, senior, went on vacation with her boyfriend and two friends to Las Vegas last spring break. When deciding where to go, price played a major factor in their decision.

Reinemeyer paid about $500 total through an online travel service for a five-day vacation, which included her flight, hotel, food and drinks.

This also included a little gambling, which included free drinks of any kind as long as money was being spent on gambling. But tipping the server is what will keep the drinks coming.

Reinemeyer spent a minimal amount on gambling by sticking with the nickel slots just to get the free drinks but says “if you have a gambling problem, then I think you need more.”

Flying on Fridays and Saturdays is typically more expensive than any other day during the week, so Reinemeyer and her friends planned their flight with savings in mind.

“We ended up going Sunday to Thursday, but you didn’t need it to be Friday night for things to be going on. It was still crazy,” she said about the atmosphere during the week in Las Vegas.

Planning a low budget vacation like Reinemeyer did is still possible, although somewhat difficult this soon before spring break.

Deborah McEwen, travel consultant at Travel Resources International, Inc., suggests looking at destinations that aren’t very well known as spring break vacations for good rates.

Neal Hammersmith, senior, estimated that he spent about $30 for a three-day getaway over spring break last year. He traveled about 77 miles west of Bowling Green to Vermilion, Ohio, and stayed with a friend he went to high school with.

Some of his friends went on spring break vacations to warmer places, but the expenses of education had left him with little money for a tropical vacation. Anytime you have a long time off is a good opportunity to see friends, Hammersmith said.

McEwen says price-wise it’s a gamble anytime you’re buying a ticket, and suggests planning six to eight months in advance for cheaper rates. Purchasing tickets that far ahead in advance can also prevent some of the hassles that may come along, such as losing reservations.

But planning a cruise before spring break is still possible, both through a travel agency or online databases by yourself. A three-day cruise that takes off out of Miami [travel cost to Miami excluded], will cost about $20 more through a travel agency, when comparing McEwen’s estimate to Expedia.com.

She said that Panama City, Fla., was one of the cheaper spring break vacations available this year. Through a travel agency, the cost of the non-beachfront hotel suite at Comfort Suites Panama City Beach from March 6-10 – including taxes – comes to about $711 total. McEwen says this room allows for up to six people.

The Expedia.com price for the same room and same specific days at the same hotel comes to about $720 before taxes, but can only accommodate up to four people.

McEwen warns that there are sometimes large security deposits required at check-in that some online sites may not mention ahead of time.

She also said that a benefit to using a travel consultant is the amount of information on airlines, hotels and special prices they have access to. She points out that students may not know what hotel refuses spring-breakers and a travel consultant can inform students about which hotels restrict certain age groups or spring-breakers all together.

McEwen knows that the price of a spring break trip can vary greatly depending on what students do once they get there. Whether or not spring breakers eat out every night or purchase groceries and eat in is one example she gave of this price difference.

Reinemeyer and her friends saved money by getting cheap food during the day like sandwiches, and hitting the all-you-can-eat buffets at night, which ranged from $8-9. They were so big that she could get lost in the countless rows of food stations.

Carrying along emergency money is also a good idea, according to McEwen, stressing that surprise expenses such as car troubles or even trips to the hospital may happen and it’s best to be prepared.