7 Cheap, Fun Spring Break Alternatives

Looking for Spring Break alternatives? Want some cheap travel ideas that don't involve wet t-shirt contests? Click through for seven fun affordable trip ideas!

If I’ve ever fooled you into believing that I’m a cool human being, allow me to tell you about the two Spring Break trips I took as a college student.

Trip 1: Winnipeg, Manitoba
My college boyfriend and I decided that Spring Break would be best celebrated somewhere colder than Minnesota in March. Did we head north to Winnipeg because of the lower drinking age? Nope.

We went there because of the favorable exchange rate BECA– USE WE’RE SUPER FUN. I vividly remember checking into our hotel room, discovering a tv special about creepy deep sea fish and then staying the eff in to watch educational television.

Trip 2: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Three of my girlfriends joined me in a teeny, tiny jeep so we could drive 15 hours to hike and look at art galleries. Because apparently we were 21-going-on-55.
Most of what I remember from this trip is having Chipotle for the first time (verrrrrry exciting circa 2000) and shrieking with nervous laughter as we navigated mountain passes during a snow storm.

All this is to say: I’m not one for wet t-shirt contests, keg stands, or drunk strangers. But! I am one for taking vacations with friends or any taking time off from our jobs and day-to-day to recharge.

If you’re keen for a getaway this spring and you don’t want to drop three grand on bro-covered beaches, I’ve got seven good ideas for you!

7 Intriguing Spring Break Alternatives

Looking for Spring Break alternatives? Want some cheap travel ideas that don't involve wet t-shirt contests? Click through for seven fun affordable trip ideas!

1. Camper Cabins

Did you know that most state parks have rental cabins? Like, with heat and electricity and beds with mattresses? They’re the perfect in between for when you want to ‘rough it’ but also not really.
They don’t have indoor plumbing, kitchens, or bedding; you’ll have to bring your camping stove, a sleeping bag, and walk a few hundred meters to the bathroom, but they’re so, so fun. Many of them are near lakes or hiking trails and they usually sleep 4-6 people so they’re great for a long weekend with friends. And some of them are even designed by architects!

2. House swap with a buddy (or strangers)

A few years ago I house swapped with my friend Rachel in L.A. and it was one of my absolute favorite trips (and one of the cheapest!) Even if you’re just swapping to a city a few hours away, exploring any new place is rejuvenating.
Put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone wants to swap or email friends who love to travel. Before you swap, make sure you lay down a few ground rules. Are they using your car? Are they taking care of your pet? Did you tell your landlord they’d be there? If possible, have a day or two of overlap so you can show them around town or just teach them how to work your complicated shower.
If you’re up for it, you can use Craiglist to find house swapper buddies or register your space on Homeexchange.com.

3. Go rural

I looooove visiting small towns. Food, lodging, and entertainment are cheap. The nights are dark and quiet. Your tourism dollars mean more to the community and help support businesses that are frequently small and family-owned. Small town thrift stores are bastions of $8 vintage dresses and the diners usually have amazing hash browns and those old-school brown coffee mugs.
If you’re interested in staying in a small town, check out the vacation rentals or see if there are any independently-owned motels. I’ve been planning a trip to this number since last fall!

4. Road trip

We have a Prius so I’m using that as an excuse to plan a 6-week American road trip. That’s a bit much for most people, but you can have tons of fun in just four or five days. The roadside attractions! That change in accents and geography as you go! So many awesome gas station cappuccinos!
I’ve road tripped a lot, so if you’re interested, you can read all my best tips here and Roadtrippers has changed my travel life.

5. House sit for someone

I sort of love trips where my destination is decided by fate. Tagging along to my dude’s Geography conference in Tampa? Sure! My friend has an extra ticket to a podcast convention in California? Dontmindifido! House sitting has that same “I’ll go wherever” appeal.

Again, you can make your house sitting ambitions known via social media and email or signup for Care.com, Trusted housesitters, or Mind my house. I interviewed experienced housesitter Nora here.

Looking for Spring Break alternatives? Want some cheap travel ideas that don't involve wet t-shirt contests? Click through for seven fun affordable trip ideas!

6. Groupon getaways

Normally I’m not interested in package travel, but if it’s a package to somewhere warm and incredibly cheap? I can probably find it in my heart to get past that. Groupon’s always got tons of package travel deals to destinations like Iceland and Cancun. I even have a friend who did a destination wedding via Groupon travel packages!

7. Check our Airbnb’s Best-ofs

At the risk of hyperbole, I love Airbnb so much I want to marry it. It has simultaneously made travel more fun and more affordable. I regularly drool over their curated roundups (private islands, yurts, castles) and I’ve contemplated planning an entire trip around one particularly cool rental.
Places I’ve stayed that have been particularly awesome: this historical cottage in Wisconsin, this awesome waterside condo in St. Petersburg, this house in Playa Del Carmen. And if you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!
Are you looking for recommendations for actual travel destinations? Rather than cheap, hippie ideas? Here’s a great round-up under appreciated beach destinations.
What did I leave out? Do you have any favorite spring travel tricks? Tell me in the comments!
photo credits: will langenberg // anneliese phillips // cc

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

The Cheapskate Guide To: Portland

Is it possible to travel cheaply in Portland - what with all those world-class restaurants, great live music, and some of the best hiking in the country? It sure is! I brought in a Portland native to give us the low-down on the best food carts, $3 cocktails, and how...

read more


  1. Grace

    I would love to stay in a camper cabin! But I need more international friends before a house swap isn't just me visiting the next city over. Do you mean Winnipeg, Manitoba?

  2. Audrey Lin

    My spring break is long gone, but I'm totally open to using some of these ideas for my summer plans! Who doesn't want to have a summer road trip?? -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

  3. lolz

    Winnipeg, Ontario? Do you mean "Winnipeg, Manitoba"?

    • Winnipegger

      Yep, There's only one Winnipeg…..and, it's in Manitoba. Also, there's much more to do and see than what Sarah did : amazing locavore and ethnic food, art galleries, artisans, UNESCO heritage district (The Exchange), vibrant and varied live music, internationally recognized ballet company, and more. As we say Up North, "Y'all come.eh?"

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ha! Clearly it was a super memorable trip 😉

  4. Erika

    Thanks for these tips! I've been looking into house sitting for a while now, and it seems like a pretty cool option that I think most people don't think about.

  5. Anonymous

    I gotta agree with Winnipegger – you should all consider coming here!
    Check out Winnipeg's beloved French Quarter, the waterfront, Osborne village, the Forks market and our new Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
    I have moved back after many years away and have loved rediscovering my hometown.
    Sorry for highjacking – all of Sarah's suggestions are really good too!

  6. aestheticsnafu.com

    I am in the process of planning the epic road trip of my life and we'll be going through Santa Fe – any recommendations of what we can't possibly miss?

Pin It on Pinterest