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Life

How to Spring Break When You’re Broke

April 24, 2019

3 min read

Maybe you’re not in school anymore, but you deserve a spring break, right? You work hard, and it’s time to play hard—or hell, maybe relax hard on a chaise lounge by a pool somewhere. The only problem is, you’re low on funds. What to do?

Well, remember that vacations ain’t just for rich folks. You deserve to treat yourself. And while your budget may not include a week in Cabo, you can still visit some great destinations on the cheap—or cheapish.

Read on for a few lower-cost ideas.*

Las Vegas, Nevada

Roundtrip airfare per person from NYC: $140+
Lodging per night: $120+
Food per day: $40+
Entertainment for 4 days: $100

Total estimated cost for 4 days, 3 nights: $760

Alright, so this won’t be the high-rolling gambling vacation of your dreams (or nightmares), but you can have a great time in Vegas without dropping a ton of dough. Even the biggest hotels (yes, including the ones with fancy pools) often run cheap midweek specials, when relatively few out-of-towners can make it to Sin City. You may also find lower-cost tickets to comedy shows, Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas, and other exciting events. If you enjoy people-watching and window-shopping, Vegas has plenty of both—just a stroll through the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Resort is perhaps the most bizarre and magical mall experience you’ll ever have. You’ll see insanely luxurious wares for sale, wacky street performers and artists, and possibly some celebrities, or just people who want to be regarded as such.

And there’s plenty to do beyond the Vegas Strip. Vegas has a Burlesque Hall of Fame with $15 regular admission. Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is only 45 minutes from downtown, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is a relatively new addition to the national parks system, and it’s a must for paleontology aficionados. Check out sites such as Hotel Tonight for last-minute deals, especially on the less-pricey hotels off the Strip.

Charleston, South Carolina

Roundtrip airfare per person from NYC: $120+
Lodging per night: $90+
Food per day: $40+
Entertainment for 4 days: $100
Total estimated cost for 4 days, 3 nights: $650

Spring is one of the prettiest times of the year in Charleston, before the humidity really kicks in and the summer crowds show up. For five days in late May, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival brings avant-garde and alternative music, comedy, art, and other programming to the Holy City. Think of it is as a kind of mini-Edinburgh Fringe Festival that won’t require a passport or currency conversion. Be sure to hit up Folly Beach, a lovely public site beloved by many a local visitor. Parasail, surf, sunbathe, go fishing, explore a maritime forest, hang out on the pier, and more. Charleston is well-acquainted with tourism, as it attracts millions of international travelers each year. Check out this variety of potential itineraries for the first-time visitor. You’ll likely find something to suit your tastes and budget.

Chicago, Illinois

Roundtrip airfare per person from NYC: $120+
Lodging per night: $90+
Food per day: $40+
Entertainment for 4 days: $100
Total estimated cost for 4 days, 3 nights: $650

As soon as the temperature gets above fifty degrees, the good people of Chicago lose their minds with joy. If you’re from a warmer area, don’t be surprised to see tank tops and booty shorts in weather that may strike you as a little too cool for summer gear. There’s so much to see and do in Chicago, but here’s an important piece for the budget traveler: the elevated railway system or “L” serves 140 stops in the city and suburbs. The Chicago Transit Authority has a guide on how to use it.  And check out this helpful list of 40 free things to do in the Windy City. If you’re looking for cheap but clean accommodations, the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Hostel gets very good reviews.

Wherever you choose to go and whatever you choose to do, make sure to research reviews of low-cost motels, hostels or bed and breakfast accommodations in advance. Remember that your safety should always come first. And when you’re done having the cost-effective time of your life, consider leaving a Yelp, AirBnB or TripAdvisor review in order to pay it forward to a future budget traveler. Happy spring break!

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*Prices determined using Kayak, AirBnB, local city guides, and the author’s personal reporting in each city. Stash is not affiliated with any of these companies.

By Sara Benincasa
Sara Benincasa is a screenwriter, recovering stand-up comedian and the author of "Real Artists Have Day Jobs"

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