Planning the Utimate Spring Vacation
By: Lisa de Gray The Heights (an independent newspaper serving the Boston College community)
Spring break. Possibly every other movie about college students features scenes of spring vacation, beaches, the parties, and the nights you would never forget if only you could remember them. By the time the average college student actually matriculates, they have been so inundated with these images that spring vacation figures as one of those mandatory college experiences; a requirement for every college student for his or her college career to be considered complete.
Unfortunately, the reality of exams and papers often take precedence over planning the perfect trip. Even when one takes the time, organizing a vacation by oneself can seem to be an overwhelming task in itself. There are flights to book, hotel rooms to reserve, and that is all after getting a group of people to agree on the same place.
Many prospective spring breakers do not know where to start or even when to start when it comes to planning their trips.
"These days you need to plan well in advance. December would be kind of late to start planning a trip," said Virginia Doren of Aston Loyd Travel in Newton Centre. "There are less planes flying now, to ensure that all of the planes are full, which makes it that much harder to get things to warmer places during the months of February, March, and April when most schools and colleges have vacations."
There may be extenuating circumstances, however, that make it difficult for a group of friends to begin the planning process early.
"We started planning as soon as we got back from Christmas break because some of us had been abroad first semester," said Jenna Sakolsky, LSOE '07. Sakolsky and three of her friends decided to go to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for their spring vacation last year.
"I had been to Fort Lauderdale before and I have family in the area who had offered to hang out with us when we were there," said Sakolsky.
According to Doren, Florida is a popular destination for students, but there are other options as well.
"There are always the old standbys: Cancun, Florida. There are so many different places in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is also a popular choice," said Doren. "Jamaica is nice during March when most college students have their breaks. For those looking for a quieter break there is also Turks and Caicos."
nce a destination has been picked, there are other issues to consider, including transportation, hotel reservations, and of course how much money will be spent on these arrangements.
"We had the mindset that there were cheap flights anywhere because most of us were coming back from Europe where it was relatively cheap to travel from one country to another," said Sakolsky. "We had also spent more money than we had planned while we were abroad so we wanted to conserve our resources [on spring break]."
A little research is often necessary to find the best deals. Sakolsky and her friends searched for inexpensive tickets on Cheaptix, Priceline, and STA Travel. Jetblue airlines also offers special travel deals for students looking to go to places such as Cancun, Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas (jetblue.com).
Knowing what type of flight to take can also cut back on expenses. "Flights with stopovers are cheaper," said Sakolsky.
"We had one in Atlanta on the way there and on the way back. Also, be absolutely positive about when you're going and when you're leaving because a lot of airlines will get you with fees for changing dates."
"You can usually get a package deal for hotel and airfare," said Doren who also recommended traveling with a group of people to split the cost.
"We rented a room in a tiny motel that had two beds and a bathroom," said Sakolsky. "We spent most of the time at the beach and not in the room so we really didn't mind. I would say know what you want as far as living space. If you're planning on spending more time in the room you will probably have to spend more money."
While choosing a destination, finding a way to get there, and finding a place to stay upon arrival seem like basic requirements, there are other things to keep in mind that are not always as obvious.
"You definitely need a passport, even if you're going to the Caribbean. You used to only need a photo [identification] if you were going to the Caribbean, but now with all of the new rules, you need a passport. It's best if it is valid for six months beyond the date of your trip," said Doren.
"We didn't have a mode of transportation once we got there so everything needed to be in walking distance. We found markets that we could walk to from our hotel." said Sakolsky. "Also, don't be fooled, you can rent a car when you're younger, you don't have to be 25, you just need to ask the company. Often times they'll make the insurance higher."
Sakolsky and her friends also found a way to save money by bringing food with them. "We were lucky in that we had meal plans last year so we each made one bag of non-perishable foods (peanut butter, bread, etc.) from the dining hall so that we didn't have to spend as much money on food once we got there."
Spring break has been marketed as one of the more memorable college experiences. Whether or not it lives up to the hype depends largely upon what each individual student makes of his or her vacation. With careful and informed planning, the average college student has the power to make spring break live up to its potential.