Originally Posted: Mar 9, 2015
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2019
You get four spring breaks in your college career. Four glorious chances to hang out with your friends, travel to exotic places, and do incredible things.
Maybe you want to spend all four spring breaks in the same kind of place, whether it’s a beach, a volunteer excursion, an international adventure, or just hanging out at home. That’s okay. Or maybe you want to do a little bit of everything. That’s okay too.
About half of all college students actually go somewhere for spring break, and the most popular spring break plans run the gamut from balmy beaches to bustling foreign cities to right around the corner. These are our top tips for making the most of them all.
Relax on the beach
It’s hard to beat warm weather, coconutty drinks, and, let’s face it, some very attractive people running around in swimwear. You can plan an unbeatable spring break by gathering a group of friends to rent or AirBnB a house close to the action, so you don’t have to spend as much on lodging and additional travel. Compare your options to find the best deals, and get crackin’ as early as possible, before the good rentals are gone! (Book activities, like scuba diving or island hikes, in advance as well.) Check discount sites like Groupon and Living Social for bargain trips. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path either; the Cancun crowd will always be there.
Once you’ve chosen a destination and rented the perfect beach house, coordinate with your friends to make things even easier. You can figure out who’s bringing what, from potluck meals to sunscreen to toilet paper, using a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive or Dropbox. As for prepping on your own, learn to walk that line between over-packing and being prepared: towels, flip-flops, and replacement swimwear will cost way more if you buy them while you’re at your destination, so it's good to bring extra. Five extra skirts and shoes to match? Probably not necessary.
If you’re planning on drinking, remember all you’ve been taught about playing it safe: don’t accept drinks from strangers, know your limit, and don’t do anything reckless. Remember that booze on the beach can be especially dangerous too: you have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated and passing out, and the heat amplifies the effects of alcohol, so you’ll feel it even if you haven’t had much (heads up: this also happens in hot tubs). With slowed reaction times and impaired judgment, beach-goers under the influence are more susceptible to drowning and boating accidents. You don't want to remember this year's spring break as the time Bobby fell off his Sea-Doo, got a concussion, and spent two days in the Puerto Plata ER.
Remember that spring break hot spots are also hot spots for theft and assault, from pickpocketing to sexual violence. Don’t share your location publically on social media, and don’t bring valuables with you, even if you intend to leave them in your hotel room. You and your buddies should travel in groups, keeping tabs on each other as the days (and nights) go on.
It’s easy to plan an amazing spring break beachfront adventure; it’s also easy to blow a ton of money or, worse, become a tragic statistic. But just be smart, and you’ll be fine.
See the world
Touring the museums of London or Paris. Hiking through Thailand’s countryside and villages. Backpacking across Denmark. Spring break is your chance to see new parts of the world, up close and personal.
Think about places you’ve always wanted to see, but also open yourself up to unique locales that might be lesser known but cheaper to visit. Again, Groupon deals can come in handy, as will early planning. (There are a lot of companies aimed at coordinating spring break travel adventures for students too, not all of which are worth the money, so make sure they’re reputable before committing to one.)
When it comes to planning your spring break travel, book your flight one to two months in advance (they say seven weeks is ideal) to get the best price. Take advantage of off-peak days and times, as well as flights with layovers, as they tend to be less expensive. And use your student discounts whenever possible.
Once you’ve found the right place, research it like crazy so you know what sights to see and what tourist pitfalls to avoid. You should also know the travel requirements and recommendations for the area. Will you need certain vaccinations? Can you drink the water? Is the food known to wreck havoc on foreign travelers’ tummies? What constitutes appropriate clothing and footwear? How should you keep yourself safe, whether you’re walking through a busy city or sleeping in a hostel? Invest some time in learning the ins and outs of your destination—as well as how to pack like a pro, starting with a detailed packing list, right down to your perfectly rolled clothes.
And travel doesn’t just mean travel abroad. You can also go on a road trip with friends, rambling down scenic highways, with or without a destination in mind. Pack snacks. Play car games. Split a teeny motel room. Visit the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.
There’s a reason why alternative spring break isn't so “alternative” anymore: it's a hugely popular practice that can be a life-changing experience both for you and the people you’re helping. You can go on a domestic trip, from the still-Katrina-ravaged southern United States to impoverished local areas, or you could find yourself abroad, administering free medical care in Uruguay or building wells in Ghana.
Your school may have its own Alternative Spring Break program(s), which generally makes it easier to get involved. They will help with planning the trip, and it will give you an opportunity to stay with your college friends.
If you want to go on your own, check out orgs like United Way and Habitat for Humanity, or look into charities that interest you and see how you can be of service. There are plenty of alternative spring break companies out there too, but you should carefully investigate the reputation of any organization you’re considering. Finally, keep in mind that even though you’ll be volunteering, you’ll still have to pay for the experience (for food, clothing, logistics, etc.), but don’t be afraid to ask where your fees go.
As you’re out there saving the world, remember that you can relate your alternative spring break work to your major and career goals too, from teaching to administering legal help to engaging in engineering projects. You might also gain skills and experiences you can put on your résumé, as well as networking connections.
Even though it’s “spring” break, skiing is still in full swing in many parts of the country, and you can use many the tips mentioned above, like renting a house with your friends, to have an awesome week on the slopes instead of the beach. Other athletic options include planning trips to areas where you can hike, sail, and/or kayak. Camping is optional. Hanging out around a bonfire with your friends while you unwind from a busy day gallivanting outside is not.
Spend some QT at home
Spring break is a great opportunity to catch up with family and high school friends you haven’t seen in weeks or months—and it’s certainly cheaper than a flight to Europe. Have dinner with your parents, go to a local concert with your friends, take your little brother out for ice cream.
Besides, if you’ve been busting your butt in class all semester and you just want/need to do absolutely nothing for a little while, go for it. Prop your feet up, order a pizza, and binge-watch Netflix until you can’t binge-watch anymore. Spring break is a time to recharge and recover. Do that in whatever way makes you happy.
Jumpstart your career
You can also spend spring break getting a leg up in your future career. Beat the competition by looking for and applying to top summer and fall internships, polishing your résumé, and brushing up on your interviewing skills. Take advantage of a blissfully quiet career services office on campus for a chat with a career counselor. And if you apply early enough, you might be able to snag a weeklong internship during your spring break.
You can also use this downtime time to compile and research a list of companies you’d love to work for, and investigate their job boards and hiring options. Review your online presence. Schedule informational interviews. And last but never least, look for networking opportunities. Spring break is a great time to check out a local Meetup in your field or talk to family members who might have career connections. If you’re a senior, devote the week to your post-grad job search or perhaps even knock out a few interviews if you’ve already been applying. What would you rather have at the end of the week: a job offer or a tan?
You have plenty of spring break options; make the most of them. And no matter what you do, we hope you have a great time doing it.