Reagle: A college student’s guide to summer 2012

Sarah Reagle | April 4, 2012    

We’re in the final few weeks before the semester ends, so there’s really only one thing weighing on people’s minds: how to spend the summer. We’re in the final few weeks before the semester ends, so there’s really only one thing weighing on people’s minds: how to spend the summer. Most of you probably have jobs, classes or internships lined up that will make the season less fun than your inner-tubing and ice-cream-truck-chasing days. But don’t let this get you down. You can still have a pretty decent summer even with your semi-adult responsibilities.

Here are a few suggestions to make your upcoming months inner-tubing, ice-cream-truck-chasing great:

Prepare for bikini season

One of the most dreaded aspects of summer for a lot of women — and men, for that matter — is the thought of spending time in public wearing a bathing suit. The best way to combat this fear is to remain confident. If you like the way you look, it’ll show. Feel good; look good.

Before you run out to buy a new bathing suit, remind yourself that the vast majority of people don’t look amazing wearing swimsuits. Try to take a friend shopping with you who’s honest and whom you won’t get mad at for truth-telling. If he or she can’t tell you that you have a saggy elephant butt in those bottoms, who can? Find a suit that you really like and that fits you well, and rock it.

If you’ve spent the entire winter cooped up inside, now is the time to start exercising again. As a sage quote on notes, “Losing weight makes you look good in clothes; exercise makes you look good naked.” Since bathing suits are a step away from being naked, you should probably head to the gym. There’s no reason not to exercise. You likely have free access to machinery on campus, it’s beautiful outside, and even Netflix has mediocre workout videos. You don’t have to leave the house if you don’t want to. If you start right now, you’ll notice a change in yourself by the time the semester ends.

If you want to lose some weight quickly and in a healthy way, pay attention to what you’re drinking every weekend. Most of your favorite beers are at least 150 calories, and shots are around 100 calories each — without mixers. Consider cutting a couple unnecessary beers or shots from your weekends, and the saved calories quickly add up.

Planning vacations

Vacations are arguably the most fun part of summer. You get to go somewhere out of the norm, pretend that you won’t gain weight from eating ice cream daily and shirk all real-life responsibilities. It’s great. But if you don’t have a wealthy benefactor, a family beach house or friends with a family beach house, it could be difficult to plan a vacation at all.

If you want to rent a beach house for cheap, book it for the offseason. The semester ends by May, so that entire month is fair game and generally included in offseason pricing. Costs are exponentially cheaper for any vacation you book during that time period, and beach houses are no exception. The ocean might be a little colder, but it’ll still be warm and beautiful outside.

If at all possible, try to contact the owner of a vacation house directly rather than going through a rental company. I’ve found that the best — and only slightly sketchy — way to do this is through “vacation rentals” on Craigslist. Just be extra careful that you’re not being scammed. As summer draws nearer, people get desperate and would rather give you a discounted week than rent to no one at all. Be willing to ask property owners if they’ll rent to you for prices cheaper than they’re advertising — the worst that can happen is they say no. If you go this route, it also helps to have more people vacationing with you to split costs, so make some friends.

Take a mini-vacation

Sometimes even discounted rates are too much money, or sometimes you can’t spend an entire week on vacation. If you really can’t afford to go on a big vacation, plan a mini-vacation. There are plenty of places worth visiting that are close enough to Pittsburgh that you can spend a weekend or even take a day trip there. Ohiopyle and the Laurel Highlands are good choices for the adventure-seeker and camping enthusiast. You could even take a drive up to Moraine State Park, rent a kayak for a few hours and enjoy a picnic. It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to escape real life for a little bit. Just be creative, and learn to love the outdoors.

Another option is to visit a theme park. Kennywood is practically within walking distance, and there are other parks close enough to drive to. Cedar Point — literally the Best Amusement Park in the World, according to magazine Amusement Today — is a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Wake up early and go for a day. Book a hotel for a night if you want to go roller-coaster crazy. Just remember to wear shorts that dry quickly for when you pee your pants on the Top Thrill Dragster. Really.

If you want to shell out a little more money for a mini-vacation, go on a weekend trip to Orlando to visit Universal Studios. Sure, Universal got a bad rap when you were a kid; Disney was right next to it and so much cooler. Not only is Universal ridiculously cheap compared to Disney, but here are six words that should make you want to go more than any amount of princesses or dwarves: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s incredible. You can spend your days sipping butterbeer and talking in a British accent. Book a package to save money, and make sure to get a hotel that offers free shuttle service and a complimentary breakfast.

My last essential tip: Once you’re at a theme park, don’t be afraid to whip out that fanny pack. It holds certain crucial items, and you don’t have to take it off to go on most rides. Plus, it’s obviously super cool.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, power through these last few weeks of classes with the thought that you’re in for a good summer. And when you’re procrastinating writing a paper or studying for a test, make sure to book those vacation homes.

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