Six Cheap Spring Break Destinations and How to Save

Playa del Carmen beach

Cancun, Mexico, offers a cheap, student-centric spring break experience — but nearby Playa del Carmen (pictured) might be an even a better deal. Photo: Sean and Lauren

What college student doesn’t welcome spring break with open arms? Every year, thousands of students flee their campuses for a wild week away from it all. But if you’re one of them, resist the urge to max out a charge card — opt for someplace more affordable.

Affordable Spring Break Destinations

Myrtle Beach, S.C.: This beach destination is super-budget-friendly with moderately priced hotels. For example, on Hotels.com for April, Myrtle Beach Resort is $52 per night and Long Bay Resort is $87. Plus, if you’re planning to primarily hang on the beach and around the beachfront hotels, you can skip renting a car.

Panama City Beach, Fla.: Packed college-themed beach events, warm weather, hotel deals, and cheap eats are just a few of the reasons this beach spot is a popular spring break destination. For example, a room at the Comfort Suites will only set you back $90 a night the first week of March, and of course it’s even cheaper if you split the room with a few friends.

You can also search for specific spring-break deals on restaurants, water-sport rentals, and nightlife options. Plus, many hotels offer their guests specific deals on activities. Days Inn offers discounts on dining and water sports along with free wine tastings just for their guests.

South Padre Island, Texas: Just like Panama City, South Padre offers a plethora of deals specifically for spring break, like lunch and dinner deals under $8 and 20% off your Starbucks coffee. Plus, with tons of live music, DJs, and other events constantly happening on the beach, you won’t need to spend much on entertainment.

Brazil: If you’re looking to leave the U.S. and maybe not looking for that typical spring break experience, consider heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is their summer season, and February means Carnival there — but once that’s over, you can expect fewer crowds and cheaper rates.

According to Rio.com, the most expensive and busiest times to travel there are from December to the beginning of March. After that, prices drop to encourage travelers. But even in early March, Hotels.com offers deals at well-reviewed hotels, including $113/night at the Novotel Rio De Janeiro Dumont or $126 at the Windsor Florida.

Canada: Maybe it’s not the standard beach spring break locale, but for something unique, consider Canada. From spring skiing in British Columbia to cosmopolitan culture in Toronto and Montreal, our neighbor to the north has a lot to offer, even in the budget-friendly offseason. Plus, the dollar is as strong as it’s been in years, which puts everything you do at a discount. At current exchange rates, $1 U.S. is worth about $1.26 Canadian.

Mexico: Cancun and spring break go hand in hand, and for good reason. The ultra-budget-friendly destination offers inexpensive food, drink, and accommodations. But if you’re looking for a little less of a crowd, you can also consider Playa del Carmen, only an hour away and home to all-inclusive resorts that are affordable as well. The Illusion Boutique Hotel, a block away from the beach, has an average price starting at $78 per night.

How to Save on Any Spring Break Trip

If you have your heart set on a destination that might not be considered the cheapest of places, you can still find ways to save.

Don’t pay for a thing without looking for a deal first. Find a reduced price on accommodations at Hotels.com, TravelZoo, Priceline.com, or other budget travel sites, dining deals on Restaurant.com, and deals on everything else — from event tickets to entertainment to entire vacation packages — on Groupon and Living Social.

  • Take advantage of student discounts. As we covered with “60 Awesome Student Discounts,” there are plenty of travel deals specifically for students. You can save 20% on Greyhound bus tickets and 10% on Amtrak tickets, and student airfares are often discounted. Choice-brand hotels, including Comfort Inn and Quality Inn, are 15% off with the Student Advantage Card.
  • Sign up for rewards. Most hotels offer a reward program. Sign up for discounts and to accrue points for future free nights.
  • Consider going for less time. If the place you’re going is costly, consider spending less time there. Sure, it’s not as long as you would have wanted. But if you’d rather spend three nights at your spot than a week somewhere else, go for it.
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