College Compass: Planning for a lower-budget spring break


By Ana Altchek, Staff Writer

In weeks where the temperature keeps dipping below freezing, school can feel particularly taxing — both mentally and physically. When February begins, I start to count down the days until spring break, when I can finally hit the reset button.

Unfortunately for me and many students, spring break is an additional expense that can often increase stress levels. Last year, I felt torn about spring break. I wanted to join all my friends in Florida, but I had plans to go abroad for the summer and I knew I couldn’t afford the kind of trip they had in mind. I didn’t want to spend the entire week watching my friends’ social media while I sat on my couch in the suburbs of New Jersey. But I didn’t want to put myself at a financial disadvantage when I knew I would have more opportunities to go on vacation in the future.

Luckily, I didn’t have to choose between the two — and neither do you. While I decided to join my friends in Fort Lauderdale, I did so in the most frugal way possible. At the end of my five-day trip to the sunny beaches of Florida, I spent under $300 including my flight ticket. Here are four of the strategies I ended up using to keep my trip as cheap as possible.

Fly smart 

My most important piece of travel advice will always be to search flights on a private browser like Google Incognito. This is a simple step, but it’s absolutely imperative for anyone on a budget. Instead of opening a new window on any browser, there should be a tab that says, “new private window” right under it. Aside from cheaper prices overall, this will prevent flight prices from increasing from frequent flight browsing. I personally like flight searching on Google Flights because it gives the most consistent variety of options, but Student Universe is another travel website for students that has cheaper prices and often has deals and promotions on travel.

Pack light

Don’t pay for a checked bag, and definitely don’t pay for a carry on. I did not pay for a carry on over spring break, and I haven’t paid for one once since I arrived abroad. This means that passengers are technically only allowed to have one personal item — but that personal item can be fairly large and stuffed to the brim. I’m sure this makes many people nervous, but there’s no reason to pay for a small suitcase when everything can fit in a massive handbag or backpack. Rolling clothing horizontally will maximize space, and as a girl, when I travel in groups, my friends and I end up swapping all our clothes anyways. This can save $25 to $75 depending on the airline, and it’s nice to not have to lug around a suitcase everywhere too. 

Share a bed

Last spring break, my friends and I stayed in the nicest resort out of anyone we knew — and we spent the least amount of money. We were able to get this lucky for two reasons. First of all, we avoided big-name hotels because regardless of their quality, they will always end up more expensive. Secondly, I shared a bed with four other girls. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it reduced our housing cost by about $150, and surprisingly was fairly comfortable. The five of us slept horizontally at night, and usually took nap shifts during the day.

Limit spending on food and beverages

This may sound obvious, but for a lot of my friends, this was where the bulk of their money went. Instead of buying meals out everyday, I brought food from home which sufficed for most of my meals. When I ran out of food or wasn’t near home, I bought cheap salads or sandwiches from the supermarket for under $5. I also brought a water bottle from home and avoided the daily Starbucks runs that most of my friends took. Since I was busy pretty much all day and night anyways, the small purchases were easily avoided and unnecessary.