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Budget-friendly Spring-break Getaways

What’s your idea of a great spring vacation? From ski slopes to beach escapes, find ideas for 4 different types of fun.

SKIING
For many, warmer weather means end-of-season skiing. If that’s you, you’re in luck. Some of the best skiing of the year coincides with spring break. And you can find a great bargain, whether you’re on the East Coast or the West Coast.

Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
Spring comes to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (NEK) later than most places in the Lower 48. That means the St. Johnsbury region boasts excellent ski conditions well into March and even April. Less well known than other areas in this tourist-happy state, NEK’s accommodations also tend to be less crowded—and less expensive. For a change of pace, try winter biking on the renowned Kingdom trails.

Be sure to stop at a maple sugar shack. This is a great time of year to enjoy that New England favorite treat—sugar on snow.

Ogden, Utah
Want to stay west of the Rockies? Try Ogden, a mere half-hour drive from Salt Lake City. Just like its Colorado cousins, Ogden’s two huge resorts, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin, have so many trails you could happily ski for weeks—if only spring break lasted that long! Hotels and restaurants here will run you far less than in Aspen and Telluride. And Salt Lake City’s many attractions and shops will keep you busy when you’re off the slopes.

If you’re traveling with children (or want classroom inspiration), visit Clark Planetarium and Discovery Gateway with its 60,000 square feet of kid-friendly activities.

Lesson-plan destinations/resources:

 

RAILS AND PARKS
Give your car—and the airlines!—a vacation. Train travel is still a great option. And in many cases, it can take you exactly where you want to go.

Amtrak to National Parks
Do you love the retro experience of traveling by rail—and spending time in unspoiled landscapes? Amtrak’s national park pass was made for you. You’ll be able to choose from hundreds of parks, including heavy hitters such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the Everglades.

Visiting in spring helps you avoid summer crowds, but make sure the attractions you want to see are open and accessible. For example, Grand Canyon’s South Rim is available year-round, but the North Rim, like Glacier’s magnificent Going to the Sun Road, closes seasonally.

If your spring break falls in mid-April, you’re in luck. That’s when the parks waive their entrance fees for the opening weekend of National Park Week.

Leave your car keys at home and hop on the train. You’ll have an adventure like none other that also happens to be relatively inexpensive and environmentally sustainable.


BEACHES
For many, spring break is practically synonymous with the beach. Thankfully there are low-priced surf-happy getaways—think Cancun, Jamaica and Santo Domingo. But you won’t need a passport for Biloxi and Myrtle Beach, where the sand stretches for mile after toe-pleasing mile.

Biloxi, Mississippi
Hot and humid in the summer but wonderfully comfortable in spring, Biloxi boasts miles of sandy beaches, swimming that rivals Florida’s, New Orleans-style cuisine and topnotch casinos—but at discounted prices. Because gambling is legal here, many beachgoers indulge in some gaming when the sun goes down.

Biloxi is also known for its historical Civil War-era attractions and its world-famous Crawfish Music Festival in April, so you’ll find plenty of other activities as well.

One note of caution: College students like Biloxi for spring break too, so be ready for crowds.

Lesson-plan destination:
Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Enjoy hitting the links? Myrtle Beach is your town. With more than 100 golf courses to choose from, you’ll have countless opportunities to play at just about every price point. For a different kind of fun, try one of the 50 creatively themed miniature golf courses.

Of course, as the name suggests, Myrtle Beach also is a beach lover’s mecca. The Golden Strand stretches for 60 clean, uncrowded miles—all the way into North Carolina. Plus, amusement parks keep kids whirling happily, and an aquarium lets you flirt with the sharks.

Summer prices here soar, but late winter is still off-season, so you’ll get all the beach for a fraction of the cost.


CITY THRILLS
Want to center your spring break around the bustle of a major metropolis? Check out these options:

Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital has more high-impact, low-priced, accessible attractions than just about anywhere else in the country. Accommodations tend to be a little less pricey outside the beltway in Maryland and Virginia, where you can hop on the clean, easy-to-navigate Metro into the heart of downtown.

You easily could fill your vacation days touring national treasures such as the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and any of the Smithsonian’s 19 galleries and museums, plus its National Zoo. Most are free and many are open every day except Dec. 25. How to choose among such riches? For many, the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo top their Smithsonian lists.

Whatever you do, be sure to swing by the National Mall (not the shopping kind!) and experience the fleeting springtime miracle of the cherry blossoms.

Lesson-plan destination/resources:
The Smithsonian provides an amazing amount of material for educators.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis? In March? Why not! No one knows how to have fun in less-than-warm weather like a Minnesotan. The Mall of America will keep families occupied for days—as will its splash-tastic neighbor, the Water Park of America. Spas, restaurants and museums abound in the downtown Twin Cities.

Just don’t forget your long johns: Up here, spring is sometimes more a state of mind than a reality.


Budget Travel Tips
These 4 ideas can help save you on trips throughout the year.

1. Book your flight ahead of time, but not too far ahead. If you reserve your seats 8 months in advance, you may not get the best price. Experts say between 6 and 12 weeks out is when airlines tend to post their best domestic fares.

2. Choose a hotel room with a kitchenette. Even if you eat meals out, you can bring home the doggy bags and have an inexpensive lunch or dinner the next day.

3. Skip the car rental. When available, use public transportation. It’ll cost less, you may see a more interesting side of your destination, and you can chat with residents for recommendations on dining and activities.

4. Go where others aren’t. That means visiting in the off-season—or in the aftermath of an economically or politically challenging time. You’ll have your pick of hotel rooms, and you could help a struggling economy. You might even have more interesting stories to tell too.

Save on the road and at home with member discounts through NEA Click & Save.

EAT OUT FOR LESS

 

Enjoy local cuisine when you travel with budget-loving tips from the experts.

 

Find out how to Dine on a Dime


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