The Internet way to do your Spring Break vacation on the cheap

budget vacationWhether you’re a student or you’re just taking a conveniently timed vacation, it’s Spring Break season. That might mean jello shots off of strangers’ bodies or relaxing by a placid lake with a Jodi Picoult book, your trip will be all the more enjoyable if you find solid deals.

Here are a few different apps and online services you should check out to secure the best bargains for your Spring Break.

Places to crash

You can find a comfy place to lay your head no matter what your budget looks like. Hotels are nice, but sometimes you want something a little less formal – and a little less expensive. 

If you’d rather immerse yourself in the life of a local, check out Airbnb. People list their apartments or extra properties, so you can get a whole pad to yourself or stay with someone from the area. Places range from elaborate (a refurbished airplane in Costa Rica) to modest (spare rooms for $30 in NYC). But no matter how much you spend or where you go, Airbnb will give you an experience decidedly more unique than a run-of-the-mill hotel.

airbnb caboIf you really want to travel on the cheap and connect with locals, try Couchsurfing. It’s a digital community that connects travelers with places to stay and people to meet when they go new places. You don’t have to pay to stay with people using this service, though it’s understood that you will maintain a friendly relationship during your stay. If you don’t mind throwing your pillow on a total stranger’s couch, this is the most affordable way to go. And it might sound creepy, but most people have very positive experiences with the service – you have to be verified to use it, and you’re more likely to deal with a stray pet ferret or an overwhelming patchouli odor than anything really hazardous.

Planes, trains, and or automobiles

Unless you’ve wisely chosen a tropical locale as your year-round home, you will probably have to travel to get to your Spring Break destination of choice.

If you’re going to fly, Hipmunk is a great resource for finding the best deal. There are a lot of sites that are supposed to show you all of the cheapest deals from a variety of airlines, but Hipmunk has a much cleaner design and doesn’t inundate you with pop-ups. You can even sync your flight schedule with Google Calender or set a fare alert.

Even with Hipmunk,  shelling out for a flight gets pricy. If you’re within a drive of your destination, you can find a cheaper, slightly funkier alternate route someplace else:

Craigslist is a little shady if you want to find dates or roommates, but for a ride share, it’s a fairly reliable source of people with seats in their cars. Just make sure to tell lots of people where you’re going and keep aware of your surroundings.

Megabus sometimes offers outstanding deals if you’re traveling in certain parts of the U.S., with “dollar seats” occasionally going up for sale. If you are traveling during the peak time of spring break, though, prices may be jacked up.

If you go to San Francisco or LA, check out ride sharing service Lyft instead of taking cabs. It made a splash at SXSW by offering piggyback rides, but it’s a ride sharing app with a lot of potential.

ridejoy appSidecar is a similar service with a few more western cities on the roster, so it’s worth checking out as well – just watch out in Philadelphia, where Sidecar is running into trouble with the law.

If you’re planning to criss-cross the country, give Ridejoy a look. The app hooks you up with potential road trip companions to ease the price of gas, as well as the loneliness of the road. 

Social deals

You might think of Groupon as more of an at-home resource, but it’s very helpful for traveling, too. It partnered with Expedia to create an entire “Getaways” section that you can scour to find a vacation package that will work for you, which means you won’t have to deal with transportation or accommodation. Or you can just use Groupon to slice dollars off your dining and other activities.

groupon getaways

You can get a good deal if you’re traveling as a group by checking out travel package sites like STA Travel. They specialize in youth travel, and they offer discounts for students, health insurance, global cell phones and other amenities. If you’re nervous about going to a new place, signing up with a service like this will give you some hand-holding to make it less scary.

If you want a classic wet-and-wild spring break extravaganza, god have mercy on your soul, but also, find out where you want to go and then look up their college- aged travel companies. For example, Puerto Vallarta has Wild Side Travel, which lays out an entire vodka-and-regrets-fueled travel roster for you and yours.

And if you want something much more upscale and grown-up, check out Jetsetter, which offers higher-end flash travel deals. Instead of bumping clubs, you get boutique spas — and they have a “Spring Fling” section especially for posh spring break getaways.

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