No one ever said spending a week on the beach was cheap. As Spring Break approaches, students find themselves scrambling for money to pay for their expensive vacations.
Students said that although travel agencies publicize cheap, all-inclusive Spring Break packages as early as November every year, there is often a catch. The packages that offer all-inclusive trips to tropical destinations like the Bahamas or Cancun with free meals, drinks and access to popular night clubs may be deceiving.
Freshman Sabrina Bells planned a trip for her and 16 friends to Cancun through Student Express Travel Agency. The trip was originally supposed to cost each student $843, which included airfare, lodging, drinks, food and entrance to certain spots. But Bells said the travel agency has not kept this set rate.
“It is a week before the trip, and we owe all of this money all of a sudden, because Student Express said that we have to pay a $35 fuel surcharge that they just recently added on before the trip,” Bells said. “You cannot depend on these people at all; they are so unhelpful and such a rip-off.”
Bells said these companies tend to target college students because they are easier to ripoff and don’t know as much about travel expenses.
“They really take advantage of us,” Bells said. “Who knows? We could get down there and have nothing.”
Sophomore Emily Gabriel experienced a similar situation when dealing with Leisure Tours for her trip to the Bahamas with six of her friends.
“This has been the most horrible experience; the company had so many last minute issues. I would never go through them again,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel’s trip cost her $680, which includes a ticket, a hotel room, drinks and entrance to certain spots but no meals.
Gabriel said the agency informed the group of a lack of flights at the last minute and they now have to pay their own way to Newark in order to get a flight to the Bahamas.
GW offers several alternatives to the typical Spring Break trip.
This year the Office of Community Service will host two trips for students. Assistant Director of Student Activities Tim Miller said this year 13 students are going to Guatemala to do a variety of community service projects and 11 students will travel to Miami to build houses with Habitat for Humanity.
“These trips end up being a better experience than going somewhere like Cancun, because (the trips) give students leadership opportunities and introduce students to new places that they can enjoy without drugs or alcohol,” Miller said.
Miller added that the Office of Community Service plans to expand the variety of service trips for next year’s spring vacation.
GW Protestant Campus Minister Loreen Smith has sponsored alternative Spring Break trips with GW for the past 11 years. This year she helped plan the trip to Guatemala and trained GW junior Lenny Sapozhnikov to lead the trip.
Sapozhnikov said the Office of Community Service advertised the trip to the entire GW community before Winter Break. He said the office accepted 17 of 30 applicants, and 13 of the 17 accepted students chose to participate. The group has been fundraising to raise the total trip cost of $15,000.
“The purpose of this trip should be different for every student,” Sapozhnikov said. “As a group, we agreed that we are going to Guatemala to use our Spring Break in a positive, educational and contributing way.”
Other students will stay on campus and take advantage of the city as well as the activities GW has to offer during Spring Break.
Special Events Coordinator for Student Activities Debra Berger said the Hippodrome is not planning any events for this year but will be open next week during regular hours with March Madness basketball games on television.
“It is hard to plan things for students, because when students stay in D.C. for break they like to go out and explore the city,” Berger said. “We are encouraging students to go and take advantage of all the Hippodrome has to offer as well.”
Many students have decided to stay on campus for break. Junior Dorothy Cascerceri said she is coming back early from her trip to Los Angeles to spend time in D.C.
“I am looking forward to coming back and resting before classes start up again,” Cascerceri said. “I am also looking forward to working (at a local tutoring center) and making some extra money.”
Freshman Christen Flick said she has to stay on campus for cheerleading practice, but she did not complain about having to remain in the area.
“I was a little disappointed at first, but I am looking forward to being in the city and enjoying D.C.,” Flick added. “I haven’t done the whole D.C. thing yet and now I finally have the chance.”
Miller said there will be volunteer opportunities for students who stay on campus.
He said the Office of Community Service still needs students to volunteer for tutoring programs that help local high school and elementary school students who are not on Spring Break.