Spring Break is a rite of passage for college students, a chance to blow off steam after months of studious behavior, and a week that gives mom and dad a little trepidation.
The good news is that the more you learn about popular Spring Break and summer student travel destinations, and the better you plan, the less you have to sweat about when that special week arrives. And by keeping the itinerary within the United States, there are a few details you don’t need to sweat at all: passports, State Department travel warnings and inoculations, to name a few.
So whether you’re a student or a parent helping to book the perfect Spring Break trip, here are a few destinations that combine sun, fun, and tens of thousands fellow students:
Among the throngs of student revelers, crowded pools and packed clubs, it’s easy to forget that Panama City Beach is a beach. And not just any beach; the Florida panhandle destination is actually branded as “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” because of its rare white sand.
The city’s other nickname, “The Spring Break Capital of the World,” sells a lot more T-shirts. Overflowing with 100,000-plus teens and 20-somethings each March and April, it’s an itinerary built for extroverts looking to blow off steam, rather than those seeking a quiet little sojourn to nap and read before finals.1Among its most famous landmarks, sprawling Club La Vela is a nightlife spot housing dozens of attractions, from a rock ‘n roll venue to a huge pool. Hotels and rental properties can often be booked directly.
Let’s stay in Florida for our next stop. Miami Beach and South Beach, or SoBe, are known for bright blazers, beautiful beaches and a thriving arts scene. And don’t forget the clubs; it was Will Smith who once rapped: Party in the city where the heat is on. All night on the beach til the break of dawn. Also don’t forget that it’s a foodie paradises, too, boasting celebrity chef-run restaurants such as Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (Michael Schwartz), as well as Crumb on Parchment (Michelle Bernstein).2
According to Forbe’s, Miami (including Miami Beach) is the third most expensive city to live in the United States.3 And when you’re a tourist, those expenses usually rise, not fall, with potential Spring Break costs ranging from club cover chargers to lodging and high-end boutique shopping adventures. So make sure Spring Breakers follow a few simple rules: try lunch at the expensive restaurants (it usually costs less than dinner), rent a space with a kitchenette, and don’t forget to take advantage of the free and less expensive attractions. We recommend South Pointe Park, a picturesque beach, pier and park that’s perfect for fishing and relaxing.
Boasting one million annual visitors and 50,000 Spring Break students, the world’s largest barrier island is another spot staking a claim to being the No.1 Spring Break destination. With monikers including the Sand Castle Capital of the World, the uniquely shaped island is only a half mile across as its widest point, meaning that the beach and Gulf of Mexico are always just a shell’s throw away.4
South Padre Island has developed a reputation as place that works hard to stretch your dollar, which is especially important for cash-strapped students booking Spring Break getaways. The island has plenty of options for beach and watersports, including jet skiing, kite boarding and wind surfing – the last two aided in large part by the area’s strong winds. If you’re looking to soak in more than sun, the local wildlife scene is thriving. The Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center, Sea Turtle, Inc., and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center are a triple treat for vacationing animal lovers.
Wait, Spring Break above the Mason-Dixon Line? File Seaside Heights under spring and summer student travel. Branded as “Your Home for Family Fun Since 1913,” this popular Garden State borough known for its iconic boardwalk and crowded beaches began drawing both families and students from the first part of last century and onward. Then came MTV’s “Jersey Shore” reality show in 2009, which positioned the beach town as an East Coast Party Capital to a global audience. Superstorm Sandy followed in 2012, devastating parts of the beach community’s infrastructure. Seaside Heights has worked hard to rebuild, and it’s once again open for business any time students or families want to mix nostalgia with pleasure: winter, spring, summer or fall. Who cares if the mercury only hits the 60s in April?
Keeping Spring Break stateside limits some of the challenges and jams you may face at a time when you just want to relax and unwind. That said, just because you’re looking to keep a Spring Break without leaving the country doesn’t mean your Spring Break plans are immune to travel interruptions, inclement weather, and even sickness that can prevent students from travelling. Consider travel insurance to hedge your plans and protect your Spring Break airfare investment.