How to enjoy your spring break on a budget

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Strategic travel planning will allow you to make the most of your money while still having a good time. (Laurie McAdam/The Modesto Bee/MCT)

By Gayane Jerome

After the last paper has been turned in and the midterms are over, most students are ready for spring break, a time when they can relax and have some fun. But for many students the fear of going broke is the reality, which prevents them from having a good time during the break. Is it possible to have fun and mind your budget at the same time?

Here are some tips for saving money before and during your spring break.

Transportation

Air travel will get you to your destination the quickest, but it is the most expensive option. By booking early you can take advantage of bargain prices. Try to travel with discount airlines such as Southwest and JetBlue that have some great deals and don’t charge as much or at all for baggage. Check out student discount deals on  www.studentuniverse.org and www.travelzoo.com Another less expensive way to travel is by train. Amtrak offers excellent deals for college students. If your destination is reachable by car and time is not an issue, consider one of the least expensive ways to travel – driving. But remember, traveling by car is not free. Be sure to take into consideration the cost of fuel, tolls, snacks and meals. Also, is your car capable of making the trip you want without additional maintenance expenses?

Accommodations

Instead of expensive hotel rooms, look for budget savvy options such as hostels. Most hostels offer their guests dormitory style accommodations and kitchen facilities. They don’t offer many amenities but you should not be ordering room service on a student budget anyway. To find hostels around the world visit www.hostelworld.com. Ever heard of couch surfing? For those with a sense of adventure this is a cool way to travel. You will be sleeping at someone’s house at whatever free space they might have, usually a couch. To join couch surfing network visit www.couchsurfing.org/. As with everything on the Internet, try to get to know who you are dealing with before you decide to spend time in their house. Want to go to Hawaii or Florida? Check out the option offered through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). This program connects farmers with travelers who are willing to work a half-day for accommodations and food. You can find listings for the participating farms at www.wwoof.org.

Food and other expenses

If you are traveling by plane, bring nonperishable nutritious snacks such as nuts, dried fruit or granola bars with you. Check to see if your hotel offers complimentary breakfast. If you are staying in a place that has a kitchen, buy groceries at the beginning of your stay and commit to eating your breakfast and lunch in. Research local eateries ahead of time. Ask locals where they go to eat. There are many reasons not to binge drink during spring break, but here is one you might not think of: expense! Limit the amount of drinks you buy in clubs or on the beach, as they tend to be particularly expensive. Make a list to help you remember necessities when you pack. You will eliminate unnecessary spending and you won’t come home with a duplicate phone charger. Look for discount entertainment and make sure to ask for student rates even if they are not advertised. Avoid costly ATM fees: check you bank’s website for the free ATM locations. Skip the souvenirs: your friends are already jealous of your vacation. There is no need to rub it in by bringing them a “Someone who loves me went to [insert vacation spot] and all I got is this T-shirt”. If you want to show them you are thinking about them, send them a postcard.

Spring break trips sound nice, but remember there are many alternatives if you determine you can’t afford to travel. And you won’t be the only one. According to research conducted at Columbia University, (http://www.CampusDibs.com) “only 6 percent of polled students indicated that they are flying to a destination location to party,” while 94 percent of students opted for budget savvy alternatives. Some of the alternative ideas for frugal students might include taking a road trip, learning something you always wanted to know how to do, and spending time with friends and family. You can use this time to start working out and with our great weather you don’t even need a gym membership.

If you find yourself unable to have the spring break trip you desire this year, you can increase your work hours. Start saving now using these tips, and plan ahead for spring break 2012!

For additional money saving tips and information on how to make more informed decisions about your money, visit the online personal finance resource CashCourse at www.cashcourse.org.csun.