Published in: Credit Cards | Feb. 14, 2020

How to Plan for Spring Break on a Budget

By:  Kailey Hagen

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Spring break doesn't have to break the bank.

The typical idea of spring break is a week on a beach, staying in a fancy hotel, or maybe taking the kids to a theme park. It'd be nice if it was relaxing too, but it's hard to relax when you're worried about the repeated blows to your wallet. Skipping your trip altogether can spare your budget, but what if there was a way to both get away and stress less about money?

Obviously, you're never going to be able to avoid spending money completely on spring break, unless you win a free trip in a contest. But with careful planning, you can keep your vacation costs down without sacrificing any of the fun parts. Here are six tips to make that happen.

Two parents and a young child walking along a rustic beach.

Image source: Getty Images

1. Rethink your destination

Some places are known spring break destinations, like Orlando, Florida, or Cancún, Mexico. If you're going to one of these places, you can expect to pay a lot more because competition is high. Resorts and hotels know that even if you don't want to pay what they're charging to stay there, someone else will. 

Rather than picking a particular destination because it's popular, think about the essence of what you're looking for in your spring break trip and find a more affordable option that checks these boxes. If you want time on a beach, rent a place in a smaller, lesser-known town on the coast. If you want to go to a theme park, consider trying one out that's a little more affordable than Disney. Simple changes like this can knock hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, off of your trip.

Getting away from it all doesn't always have to mean going far away either. You could plan a trip to somewhere in your state rather than going far away. You might try camping in a national park or spending a few days in a city you've never been to before. 

2. Be flexible with your travel dates and times

This part can be tricky, especially if you have to work around your work schedule or your children's school's spring break. But being flexible with your travel, like leaving on a weekday rather than a weekend or taking a red eye instead of leaving in the afternoon, can make a big difference. It may not be the most convenient for you, but the inconvenience is short-lived and it'll probably save you a lot of money.

Start looking at flights and hotel costs well in advance and book them when they drop. Don't forget to look at what's included. An airline might seem like a good deal until you realize you have to pay for your bags separately, and it might be worth paying a little extra for a hotel that gives you free breakfast because it'll save you a lot of money on food while you're there.

3. Consider driving instead of flying

It'll take more time to get to your destination if you're driving, but it'll probably end up being cheaper than flying. Plus, then you won't have to rent a car at your destination or pay for taxis or ridesharing drivers to take you where you want to go.

You'll have to weigh the pros and the cons of this because you'll also be putting more wear and tear on your car and you might prefer to pay a little extra to have a little more time at your destination. But if keeping costs down is your top priority, bring along a book or something to do in the car and hit the road.

4. Don't go overboard with your accommodations

Staying in a luxurious hotel might sound like fun, but it's probably not worth it for most people. Unless you're staying at an all-inclusive resort, you're probably going to be out exploring most of the time, so where you're sleeping isn't really that important. As long as your hotel is comfortable and clean and has enough room for everyone, that's really all you need.

5. Consider renting a place with a kitchen

Dining out gets expensive fast, especially if you're eating all of your meals out for a week or more. It's fine to go to a restaurant here and there, but if you're trying to keep your costs down, making your own food is the way to go. Consider renting a house or staying somewhere that has a kitchen so that you can cook your own food.

You could bring small, non-perishable items like spices with you so you can just buy the essentials when you reach your destination. Try to plan your recipes in advance so you know what you'll be making. You can also meal prep a lot of your food the day you get there so you don't have to do as much cooking in the days that follow.

6. Use your credit card rewards

Tap into your travel credit card rewards to help you save on flights, hotel stays, and other travel costs. Check with your issuer to see how many rewards points you have and what you can redeem them for. If you have a credit card that gives you discounts on a certain airline, try to find a flight on that airline, assuming it goes to your destination. If you haven't purchased your tickets yet, work on banking more rewards now by using your travel credit card for your everyday purchases.

Even if you think you can't afford a spring break trip, it doesn't hurt to browse. Try a few of the tips above to see if you can keep your vacation costs to a reasonable level.

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