Traveling for spring break on a college budget

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Traveling for spring break on a college budget

Himerria Wortham

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Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 7.58.47 PMSpring break is a great time to decompress from the stress of the semester by leaving the books at home and enjoying a mini vacation getaway. However, planning the trip starts with the fun of figuring out where to relax or party, and then finding the most convenient way to get there.

For some, convenience means saving money, while for others it’s about getting to the destination promptly without hassle. Whichever definition you prefer, it can get confusing with all of the options available. So where does the search begin?

Psychology student Ridwan Hakim is planning to leave Los Angeles for spring break with his friends. Usually when he visits family, he travels by car, but this time around the 19-year-old sophomore wants to try something new by making his way to Santa Barbara.

With little experience in finding travel options Hakim’s first idea was to ask his mother for advice. “She told me six weeks before your flight on a Tuesday is when the tickets are at their cheapest,” he said.

Hakim’s mother is on the right track. FareCompare, a website that compares airfares by airlines, has done the research and concluded the cheapest day to buy a domestic flight is on a Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern time, while the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Airlines start posting their sales on Monday night. By Tuesday afternoon, other airlines price-match and by Tuesday at 3 p.m., newly discounted airfares are added to the system. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are the least popular days to travel which is why airlines discount their prices to fill the vacant seats.

Price-comparison websites are great places to start the search, especially when looking for last minute flights. “I got a super cheap trip to San Francisco on Priceline,” 22-year-old film student Richard Rhodes said. “Somehow last minute, I bought a ticket on Wednesday for a Friday flight for $119 round-trip.”

This service allows travelers to choose the date and destination of their trip and then make a bid on the price they want to pay for the flight. Priceline uses that information to match it with regularly scheduled flights from major airlines that have unsold tickets needing to be sold. In an hour the company emails the person inquiring with a positive or negative match.

Considering that the radio is the only legal entertainment option to drivers may be convincing enough to encourage trying a relaxing trip by train or bus. Reading a book or watching a movie are great ways to pass the longer travel times when you’re in the passenger’s seat.

“Amtrak is the way to travel to avoid the headache caused by traffic,” said Robert Jong, information systems student. With weekend traffic on the southbound freeways packed, Jong suggests traveling by Amtrak train for close destinations such as San Diego.

The convenience of taking the train extends beyond avoiding traffic for Jong’s friend Davit Poghosyn, 23, who said that he enjoys taking the train to Santa Barbara for the comfort of the ride and the food cart on board.

While train fares are not always cheaper than flight deals, bus fares are usually definite money savers. When traveling north to San Jose and San Francisco, both Megabus and California Shuttle Bus offer fares sometimes lower than $30 one-way.

The site Gotobus is similar to FareCompare for flights in that it searches for the cheapest bus fares by comparing companies. A round trip ticket Las Vegas can be found for $50.

However, Jung is not totally convinced of cheaper being always better. “If you want to go on vacation and enjoy your self, don’t try to do (it) super cheap,” he said. “Work a few extra hours at your job and save up to spend a little extra money for something nice.”