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Spring break on a budget

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Midterm season is on the horizon for college students, but along with midterms comes spring break – a time to relax, recuperate and have fun. Students are starting to taste the freedom they have been longing for since the beginning of the semester and at only a week away, there are an abundance of decisions to make in terms of travel destinations and activities.

There are a variety of student travel companies, including STA Travel, that offer to arrange and customize spring break holidays. Taking advantage of this opportunity may help to relieve the stress behind organizing a trip, however, one still has to decide on where their journey will take them. “I would like to go to Costa Rica – if I had money – but not to study or anything, just to relax and learn about their culture, ” second-year Rachael Murphy said.

Artwork courtesy of Chloe Baron

For those who have a low budget, using a student travel company, or any travel company for that matter, may not always be the ideal route. Knowing how much spending money is available can arguably be one of the most important components to planning spring break.

Going home obviously offers a free place to stay and free food. I am fortunate that I can go home to [Atlanta, which is] a cool place,” third-year Catherine Wooster said. “It’s a big city, where I have lots of friends and there’s always something to do. I usually can’t even get any work done. But if you go back to a small town in the middle of nowhere you’re probably going to look for somewhere else to go during spring break.”

Fortunately, there are free resources available for students that are designed to help maximize a budget. Included in this category are smartphone applications, examples being Mint and Goodbudget Budget Planner, that allow users to input their financial information to create a budget and to track spending. Alternatively, there are an assortment of online blogs and websites designed to provide practical tips for financial management and holiday planning, for instance Budget Travel Magazine and, more famously, Groupon.

To truly keep spending as low as possible students may settle on a staycation. “[New College] Students have paid for housing during this week already, so staying in their room that they have already paid for would be a better option than staying somewhere else that they have to pay for in addition. Same goes for meal plans,” Campus Life Coordinator (CLC) Meghan Walde said.

For students who wish to escape from campus in order to experience another atmosphere, this can still be achieved in Florida for a low travel fare. According to USA Today, Tampa, Miami and Panama City Beach are included in the top 10 most popular spring break destinations predicted for 2016.

Panama City is very tourist centered,” thesis student Sydnie Petteway said. “There’s a lot of shopping and restaurants that can be really expensive, but I [usually] save money by cooking meals and spending a lot of time at the beach.”

At only a short car ride or flight away, these destinations may be ideal for students who do not want to spend an excessive sum of money on gas or plane tickets. However, one should keep in mind that this kind of trip may require a larger budget for food, accommodations and activities than staying on campus does.

Costs can be intimidating, but students often let one key ingredient slip from their minds when trying to reduce the amount they spend: their student identification card. Prominent attractions oftentimes allow students access for reduced fares or, occasionally, even free of charge. “There’s an iMax movie theater close to where I stay [in Panama City] that has a student discount. I usually see a movie if it’s raining,” Petteway said.

Washington D.C. is another favorite sojourn for students, as the city offers a range of low-budget attractions that bear historical significance. “You can go to museums, see the monuments and maybe even see the President. All for zero dollars!” first-year Kayla Kisseadoo said.

Another free option, typically financed through the participant’s fundraising efforts, includes the “alternative spring break”. This year, NCF will be joining the company of many other academic institutions for the first time, with an alternative spring break that is being offered through the Center for Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) and Americorps VISTA.

“Some of the VISTA events we’ve done in the past have been centered locally, offering different volunteer opportunities every week, whether it be with Habitat [for Humanity] or tutoring. This year we finally get to go somewhere and that’s a result of having the resources and expertise of the CEO,” AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator Lacy Mroz said.

“Alternative spring break is going to be a three day immersion trip in Apopka, Florida,” Mroz explained. “It’s a [module one] tutorial where students are learning to fundraise and about migrant worker histories, so the students taking the tutorial will be going – but it’s my goal and the students’ goal to expand it. There’s talk of trying to open it up to people who are involved with STOP [Students Against Oppressive Powers] and some other student clubs, as well as just trying to find more people who would want to be involved in future [alternative spring break] opportunities.”

Although it is too late to participate in this spring’s alternative spring break, the CEO and Americorps VISTA are hopeful that it will be offered again in the future.

The CEO also recommends that students take advantage of trip funding resources. “If you’re trying to save money for a trip or something similar then a part-time job is the route to go. We [the CEO] can help with that, but if you’re thinking early enough in advance there are a lot of funding resources out there that can be tapped into without necessarily having to take it out of your own account,” Assistant Director of Internships Andrea Knies said.

To further minimize spending, students should consider whether or not they can acquire free or cheap room and board. “Last year I went to North Carolina, around Asheville, because one of our friends had a cabin up there. That’s usually how spring break goes, someone has a connection and a big group [of students] ends up going,” Wooster said.

Online companies, such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing, as well as local hostels can help minimize the overhead costs of traveling for jet setters.

A lot of people go to New Orleans because of cheap hostels there. New Orleans is pretty fun, but when I went we didn’t know anyone there and it’s really hard to go to a town that you’re not familiar with,” Wooster said. “I would love to go to Cumberland Island, one of the small Georgia Sea Islands it’s a national park. [The Island] is really known for its old architecture and wild horses, and you can camp there but you have to reserve it a year in advance, or something. It’s really expensive, but there’s also a hostel in Brunswick that’s built in tree houses and only costs around $10 a night, so I highly recommend it.”

 

Information and photos for this article were gathered from Pixabay.com, STATravel.com, USAToday.com, Mint, Goodbudget Budget Planner, BudgetTravel.com, Groupon.com, AirBnB.com, and Couchsurfing.com.

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