8 Spring Break Trips That Won’t Break the Bank

Spring break doesn't have to break the bank. We've found eight spring break trips that are usually cheaper to travel to and offer many free attractions.
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  • Some of the most affordable spring break trips include camping and road trips.
  • If you're in the mood for a desert escape, consider Las Vegas or Sedona, Arizona.
  • For a beach vacation, check out Gulf Shores, Alabama, or one of Florida's beach cities.
  • Washington, D.C., and New Orleans are great for trips filled with culture and education.

Spring break is one of the most popular times for students to go on vacation. Unfortunately, it's not something your student loans will cover.

If a week in Hawaii or an international foray sounds a bit too extravagant for your college budget, never fear! We've compiled a list of the best spring break destinations that won't break the bank.

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Ready to Start Your Journey?

Keep in mind that a big part of the budget-friendliness of a college spring break spot will depend on where you live. Florida may be a cheap trip for East Coasters, for example, but a far more expensive flight for those attending school in the Pacific Northwest.

1. Local Camping Trip

One exciting, budget-friendly spring break trip option is to go camping. You can explore the beautiful state you live in or near. Even just traveling a couple hours away can often feel like a whole new place.

Many camping spots are located near hiking trails, lakes, or rivers to provide more opportunities for exploration. If under-the-stars tent life intimidates you, consider renting a cabin.

Camping trips are also doggo-friendly, so feel free to bring your furry friends. A relaxing dose of the great outdoors before returning to school can be a great way to reboot.

2. Road Trip

Though gas prices may impact the budget-friendliness of a road trip these days, it can be an affordable way to spend your college spring break. Students can explore neighboring cities and states, visit state and national parks, or cruise along the coast.

Research landmarks and attractions along your route, mark a few places to stay along the way, and prepare lots of snacks and road trip activities.

3. Sedona, Arizona

A desert town near Flagstaff, Arizona, Sedona contains some of the most unique natural wonders and offers many free activities for college students. Here, you can take jeep tours in addition to going bird-watching, hiking, stargazing, and kayaking between canyons.

Other options include visiting Red Rock State Park and trying to spot wildlife like mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, and javelinas. What's more, it only takes about two hours to drive from Sedona to the Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon.

Sedona is home to several vortexes — places believed to center swirling energies that can be conducive to healing and meditation. Another spiritual spot is Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic chapel built directly into the buttes of Sedona.

For many, round-trip flights in the spring can cost less than $275. With Sedona being most popular in the summer, a spring break trip could help you beat the crowds.

4. New Orleans, Louisiana

Spring break is a great time to visit New Orleans. It falls right after Mardi Gras celebrations and just before the summer rush, which usually means lower fares for hotels and flights. According to Cheapflights, average round-trip flight prices to New Orleans in the spring hover around $260.

New Orleans offers many free and affordable attractions. Students can visit the National WWII Museum, walk along Bourbon Street and through the French Quarter, listen to jazz music on Frenchmen Street, take a steamboat cruise, go on a swamp tour, and explore haunted locales.

The city is also home to a rich food scene, offering New Orleans staples like beignets, gumbo, pralines, mint juleps, and jambalaya.

Other free activities include strolling the Garden District to look at elegant Victorian homes and visiting City Park, a 1,300-acre park full of mossy oak trees and native birds.

5. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Famed for its pristine, white-sand beaches, Gulf Shores offers all the oceanside activities of a tropical paradise at an affordable rate. Students can hike backcountry trails, hunt sand crabs at night, and even try to spot dolphins.

Other activities include going to The Wharf at Orange Beach, touring historical homes, visiting the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, and enjoying the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo (which starred in the Animal Planet show "The Little Zoo That Could").

This college spring break spot is just a few hours' drive from New Orleans and Birmingham, Alabama. Alternatively, you could catch a flight to smaller nearby airports like the Mobile Regional Airport or Pensacola International.

6. Washington, D.C.

If you prefer a busy vacation full of sightseeing and educational activities, why not take a trip to the U.S. capital? Washington, D.C., offers a ton of free attractions and activities, making it extremely budget-friendly.

Here, you can explore museums and landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Castle, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Capitol — all for free.

Even the Smithsonian Zoo costs nothing to visit — and it's one of three U.S. zoos that houses giant pandas. Springtime weather is usually mild and on the warmer side, too.

The city boasts expansive public transportation that allows you to stay in cheaper areas farther out, like Arlington, Virginia. Flights to Washington, D.C., average about $280 in the spring.

7. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is truly a build-your-own-budget destination. You can go all out on luxury hotels and experiences or opt for cheaper lodging and free activities. Students can explore hotels, enjoy renowned entertainment, relax by the pool, and go shopping.

Vegas also offers many discount opportunities. Endless partnerships between credit card companies, hotel memberships, rental agencies, and airlines make it possible for students to design cheaper vacation packages. The average price for a flight to Las Vegas in the spring is around $200.

You can also leave the city and go on excursions to nearby sites like the Hoover Dam, the Red Rock Canyon, and the Grand Canyon.

8. Florida Beaches

Florida boasts several of the best spring break destinations. If you live on the East Coast or in the South, these popular locales are often just a short road trip away.

Situated on the Emerald Coast, Panama City Beach is home to beautiful white-sand beaches. You can visit Pier Park for shopping, dining, and a movie. Or you can head to Russell-Fields Pier, which stretches 1,500 feet into the ocean, for a good chance at spotting a dolphin.

Students can also head to the Panama City Beach Conservation Park to experience its lush wetlands, watch wildlife, and venture on one of the many trails.

Another exciting college spring break spot is Daytona Beach, which is best known for hosting cheerleading competitions and the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. Here, you can check out the Daytona International Speedway; enjoy rides, shopping, and food on the boardwalk; and swim in the Atlantic Ocean.

The city is also just an hour or so away from Orlando if you want to visit Walt Disney World or Universal Studios.

Lastly, Key West is an island city on Florida's southernmost point known for coral reefs, lively nightlife, colorful pastel homes, Cuban food and culture, and expansive ocean views. You can explore the historical Mallory Square, visit tropical gardens, go on a bike tour, and even see Ernest Hemingway's home.

Students can also enjoy many ocean excursions such as diving, snorkeling, kayaking, dolphin watching, boating, and fishing.

Feature Image: franckreporter / E+ / Getty Images

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