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Best Spring Break Destinations for College Students on a Budget

Published November 6, 2023
5 min read

Key points about: cheap spring break destinations

  1. You could save money on your spring break trip by booking in advance, carpooling, and looking for all-inclusive deals.

  2. Student rewards credit cards can earn extra rewards on trip-related expenses like gas.

  3. Florida beaches, New Orleans, and the Carolinas could all be affordable spring break destinations.

Spring break trips give college students a much-needed reprieve from classes, tests, and papers. Students on a budget should start planning their trip earlier in the school year to find the best deals, build a vacation fund, and get the most out of their credit card rewards. Plus, the best spring break destinations may cost less than you think.

Use a cash back credit card to earn rewards

With a student credit card from Discover, you can earn rewards while you shop. With the Discover it® Student Cash Back Card, you earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn cash back on all other purchases. You can redeem your rewards for cash in any amount.1

How to find cheap spring break destinations

Book in advance

If you wait until March to book your hotel for spring break, you’ll likely face staggeringly high rates. But if you start making plans a few months in advance, you could find a broad range of cheaper rates to choose from. That’s true for transportation costs, too—train and bus tickets tend to increase over time, and airfare fluctuates. The earlier you begin planning, the more opportunities you’ll have to find affordable transportation and lodging.

Consider all-inclusive vacation packages

Many popular destinations offer special all-inclusive packages for spring break trips that include vacation essentials in the booking fee, like accommodations, food and drinks, and excursions. However, not every “all-inclusive” vacation deal encompasses the same features. Some packages may cover airfare, for example, while others don’t. Researching comparable packages and general costs in the area could help you identify the best deals.

Try national parks instead of beach locations

When you hear “spring break,” you may think of partying on a balmy beach, but what about hiking at sunrise, rock climbing, or star-gazing in a clear, vast sky? If those options appeal to you, you might consider spending spring break in a national park. Some national parks are free, while others charge between $10 and $50 entry fees per person. Instead of splurging on a resort, you could take advantage of temperate spring weather and camp under the stars.

Carpool with friends instead of flying

You could carpool with friends to your spring break destination, which could equal a fraction of the cost of plane tickets. Splitting the prices of gas, food, and any stops along the way across a large group could help each individual save a substantial amount of money. Plus, a road trip with good music and snacks is a great way to build lasting memories with your friends. You could also earn rewards to use on future trips.

Did you know?

You can earn cash back rewards and build your credit history2 with the Discover it® Student Chrome Card, even while you're in college. You can earn 2% Cashback Bonus® at Gas stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically.3 Discover it® Student Chrome has no annual fee and there’s no credit score required to apply.4

Best spring break trips on a budget

Whether you want to visit an iconic spot or an underrated gem, you have plenty of options for a cheap spring break trip. 

Florida beaches

From Panama City Beach to Key West, Florida’s a popular choice for sun, sand, and waves on the East Coast. But popularity doesn’t have to mean a high price. To save money at a popular spring break destination like Miami Beach, you might look for hotels further north instead of pricier resorts in areas like South Beach.

You could also avoid crowds and high costs by checking out one of Florida’s lesser-known beaches. Disney World visitors usually look to nearby Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach for weekend getaways from the park. But they may overlook better deals at other beaches along the Space Coast (the region around Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station). Similarly, Pompano Beach offers miles of coastline and exciting diving excursions that’s generally a lower price than neighboring Fort Lauderdale.

New Orleans

New Orleans is home to a rich history and vibrant culture. You could spend your spring break enjoying Creole food and bars in the famous French Quarter. You could also experience live music and entertainment for free at one of the city’s many festivals or street fairs. While prices tend to go up for the famous Mardi Gras festivities, you may be able to score a great deal if your break falls in the weeks after the celebration.

Cabo San Lucas

Tens of thousands of spring breakers travel each year to Cabo San Lucas, a resort city in Baja California Sur, Mexico. Because it’s such a prominent vacation city, Cabo offers a range of accommodations, from lavish resorts to budget-friendly hotels. You could book at affordable midscale chains to save money. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a lot to enjoy the gorgeous beaches that make Cabo such an iconic destination.

The Carolinas

North and South Carolina have many gorgeous beaches, like the Outer Banks and Myrtle Beach, at a lower price point than more tropical locales. While both states receive their fair share of spring break travelers each year, they’re usually much more crowded during summer. You could snag a deal on a hotel during the off-season in March or April. The weather may be a little cool for swimming, but you could still enjoy spending time by the water and in nightlife or shopping districts, like South Carolina’s Broadway at the Beach.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu, Arizona, is an affordable alternative to coastal spring break destinations. Lake Havasu City features beautiful beaches along the lake, complete with palm trees and Arizona sun, as well as plenty of restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. For a quieter spring break, you could visit Lake Havasu State Park to camp on the beach and spend your days swimming, fishing, or hiking.

New York City

New York offers plenty of excitement for spring breakers who prefer cities to beaches. Students get discounted admission to many museums and theaters across the city. Spring breakers on a budget could take the subway to Brooklyn or Queens for bars and restaurants to avoid Manhattan’s typically pricier establishments. Plus, hotels may have lower rates since spring break falls between the city’s busiest tourism seasons.

If you plan carefully, make strategic choices, and leverage your student credit card rewards, you could enjoy the spring break trip of your dreams without spending a fortune.

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