Illustration of a sunset in spring break
You don't have to go Cancun to have a good time. (Illustration by Elizabeth Wong, University of Rhode Island)
Thoughts x
Illustration of a sunset in spring break

No need to stress out about your time off. Take a deep breath and plan the perfect vacation to suit your needs.

It started out as clambakes and clean, easy fun. Now, spring break alludes to thoughts of topless women, stumbly dudes, beach parties and all other sorts of debauchery. Families avoid beaches in Florida, such as Panama City Beach, Miami, because they know it’ll be flocked with students ready to let loose for spring break.

For those that have a bit more dough, Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and the Bahamas are thrown around. What if you don’t want to be claustrophobic with the swarms of other college students clamoring to soak up the sun and unwind? Or see Sally from down the hall throw up?

You want to get away, maybe enjoy the sun, but even more importantly do more than just party at the beach. Here are some amazing options for you.

Visit a city that you’ve never been to before.

Chicago offers an array of activities that would take more than a week to complete. Are you a traveler that enjoys eating? Stop in at Superdawg Drive-In to have a quick bite and snap a few memorable pictures for the gram. If you want a classy steakhouse, then hit up Gibsons. Most importantly, don’t skip out on the deep-dish pizza. Think about doing a tour: Hit up Pequod’s Pizza, Burt’s Place, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s to decide for yourself who does it best.

Chicago isn’t just a place to eat. A walking tour, bus tour or even boat tour might not sound like a great way to spend a couple hours, but the people of Chicago know how to do it right. Rated among the top attractions is the architectural boat tour, where you’ll learn more about the city with the most movable bridges in the world.

Walk out onto a glass deck 1,353 feet above the ground at Willis Tower. Stroll around the Art Institute of Chicago, sipping a cappuccino while wondering if you should have been an art major. The nightlife is nothing to shy away from either. Tap your toes at the Green Mill jazz club or visit the amazing plays and productions hosted at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Other cities to consider: San Antonio, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; Denver, Colorado and Washington D.C.

Consider the scenic mountains

Gatlinburg offers a picturesque place to sip a glass of wine and unwind while midterms slip from your memory. Nested into the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg can be a place of reflection, whether that be soaking it up in your hot tub or hiking. Become an outdoorsman and learn to kayak or canoe with a partner. Take a day to be one with nature and hike a trail to a scenic waterfall. Build a fire, shut off your phone and get to know your friends or partner even better.

Gatlinburg is an ideal spring break destination. Why? Well, there is more than one way to warm up. Breweries, distilleries and wineries are scattered about Gatlinburg. Take a day to explore a few. The tours offer more than just booze: The tour guides offer up the history behind the moonshine and, in turn, the history of the land and people. Gatlinburg.com offers a list of all the wineries, distilleries and breweries. Find one that fits your tastes and post up all day with friends and a board game or two.

Other mountain towns to consider: Telluride, Colorado; Asheville, North Carolina; Eureka Springs, Arizona and Leavenworth, Washington.

Enjoy a smaller, more manageable beach

Is the sun still calling your name? If it is, then consider visiting Tybee Island, Georgia. Tybee Island is far enough from Miami that you shouldn’t hear the thumping of club music. This island offers stretches of beach to lie out upon and enjoy the day. What more could you want?

There is more than just a beach. The island is just five miles long, so ditch the car and travel by foot. Do all this with a drink in your hand, because Tybee Island allows to-go alcoholic drinks. Charter a private sailboat and spend an afternoon on the waves. Snap pictures and crab legs at The Low Country, known for their generous seafood boil. If you ever tire of the island, which is doubtful, travel just 20 minutes to downtown Savannah, Georgia.

Other small-town beaches to consider: Beaufort, South Carolina; Capitola, California and Sanibel Island, Florida.

Figure out how to travel.

Now that you’ve decided on the alternative spring break destination, what is the best way to save money? Drive. Take advantage of the week off from school and drive to your destination instead of flying. GasBuddy is an app that can help you save money while on the road. Simply connect your bank account to your GasBuddy card and earn cash back on all your purchases that go toward gas. It also will show you a map and the prices of gas at all of the surrounding gas stations.

Make this a bonding trip. The more people you go with, the cheaper it can be. Think about splitting the gas between the six people riding in the car instead of just two. It will also cut down on the cost of groceries, alcohol and lodging. Most places are cheaper per person rented with four to six people rather than just two or three.

Look into using Airbnb or Vrbo. These applications allow you to search for exactly what you want while comparing prices. Almost all of the houses and condos listed will have fully functioning kitchens in which you can prepare your own food instead of eating out for every meal, cutting down on costs once more.

If you are going to eat out, then try going out for lunch. Most restaurants offer lunch specials for a fraction of the dinner price.

Plan ahead and research where you’re going. TripAdvisor offers a long list of “Things to do” in almost every city. From this list, decide which free activities you would enjoy, and compare prices between the others to get the best deal.

If it is a friends’ trip, consider having one night where you stay. Hook up your Xbox and catch up on all your gaming or have a spa night and watch movies. After all, spring break is meant to be a fun, relaxing time. What better way than to spend quality time with your friends?

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