Oh the place you’ll go

Picture the ideal spring break. Is it sitting on a white sand beach sipping at an oddly colored drink with a small umbrella? Maybe it’s going crazy with a bunch of scantily clad teens at a Miami hot spot. Perhaps you’re not the beach bum type and would rather spend your time touring Europe’s most picturesque museums and cafes.

Now forget all that. After all, you are a poor college student. You’ve got bills and food to worry about and financing an escape to another climate should be the last thing on your mind. But wait a minute. Don’t you deserve a break? So start packing and get ready to budget or splurge as your wallet dictates.

Now you’re ready for your break, you’ve gotten your friends together, saved every penny and packed your bags. So, where are you going? While it may be difficult to picture yourself in a swimsuit in the dead of D.C.’s frigid winter, now is the time to start planning if you want available flights and accommodations at reasonable prices.

Jamaica $500-$700
The perfect island getaway, this tropical island is as well known for being the home of reggae as it is for its pristine beaches.

Freshman Chris Nitti, who can’t wait to visit Jamaica this spring break, said that the beaches are “a lot nicer than the ones back home in New Jersey.”

One of the best locations for both a laid back vacation and also a party lover’s dream, the island has a lot to offer to every kind of tourist.

The two major destinations to choose from when traveling to Jamaica are Negril and Montego Bay. When deciding on one or the other, it really depends on the kind of vacation one wants. Montego Bay is unquestionably the hot spot of this island paradise. With a seemingly eternal nightlife, great reggae acts and miles of beaches, it is the happening place to be. There are many hotels in this relatively metropolitan area, all which cater to a variety of tastes and budgets.

As with most tropical destinations, American travelers should be wary of anyone trying to take advantage of them in Montego Bay. Rated second to Jamaica’s capital of Kingston in size and crime rate, this spot is mostly safe in and around resort areas.

Negril, called the “capital of casual” has been a major “hippie center” since its popularity grew in the 1960s. Negril retains the relaxed lifestyle to this day. The only major resort local on the western coast of Jamaica, Negril retains its small bay town quality by carefully controlling the resort industry. No building is allowed to stand higher than the tallest palm, with the single exception of the picturesque Negril Lighthouse.

When staying in Negril, once simply cannot do better than one of the beachfront cottages located on many resort properties. For those who don’t want to give up so much of their hard earned money so quickly, there are a variety of less expensive hotels that sit right along the beach. Jamaica offers an incredible mix of the very laid back and life on the wild side and with packages for around $700 dollars it’s not too expensive.

Spring break is all about the planning, and when it comes down to it packages are the way to go. The best tip is to shop around. Visit GW’s own STA Travel in the Marvin Center or stop by Conde Nast in Georgetown – both offer an abundance of spring break packages. For nearly every destination you can imagine for spring break, travel agencies offer packages which can help to save money on flights and accommodations.

Make sure to have an idea how much you want to spend before you head over, it is important to set limits for yourself. After all, once an agent shows you a picture of beautiful Acapulco that costs an extra $200, it may seem worth it. The bottom line is you and your friends will have a wonderful time whatever your destination is, don’t get romanced into spending out of your means.

Cancun $600- $800
Everyone has heard at least one crazy spring break story that happened in Cancun and this isn’t by accident. The sprawling beaches are only rivaled by the intricate and very stylish clubs which dot the coast. Cancun is the second most popular spring break destination and for good reason, it’s relatively affordable and the whole drinking age (18) thing doesn’t exactly hurt.

Many of the clubs are so popular they have become famous around the world, and locations like Fat Tuesday’s and Pat O’Briens are must-visits for any club enthusiast. If you need a break from your hectic clubbing, the areas surrounding Cancun thrive with ancient history. Once located in the middle of a major Mayan center, temples and relics are still scattered around the surrounding countryside. Tours make daily treks out of the city to show off the best of the ruins and there are hiking and biking trails with spectacularly exotic views. Not really into the history thing? Another popular and unforgettable experience are trips to swim with the very docile dolphins.

Accommodations are seldom a problem in Cancun since there are large high-rise hotels galore usually with ample room. But like any destination, especially around spring break, hotels fill up fast. If you are sure you’re ready for the frantic pace of the Cancun scene, get your room early and this could be the perfect spring break locale.

Another very important thing to keep in mind is to always read the fine print in any package. Departure tax, which is a $10- $30 fee sometimes charged by a government for leaving the country, can surprise travelers. Flights are subject to availability and can be heavily dependant on your point of departure and hotel vacancies can disappear far in advance. So be ready to alter dates and destinations, don’t get your heart too set on one location and you’ll be ready to have a good time wherever you end up.

Panama City $200-$300
Called Spring Break USA, this is the traditional location for the college getaway. Attracting nearly half a million college students yearly to fill up more than 27 miles of beach along the Florida coast, Panama City is advertised as the number one spring break destination for American college students. This “Southern Riviera” sports massive hotels totaling more than 18,000 rooms throughout the city, but make sure to reserve your space far in advance as every one is greatly in demand.

While Cancun may be the club capital south of the border, Panama City unquestionably holds the American title. With the likes of Club Le Vela, which is currently the largest club in the United States, you can’t go wrong. If you do make it to Panama City, Club Le Vela is a must. With theme rooms full of different decorations and bars in nearly every room, it’s easy to always find something new and a bit on the wild side here.
Also speaking very well for the beaches of Panama City are it’s somewhat relaxed rules. It’s perfectly normal, and a bit of a must-do, to back your car out onto the beach and roll your keg out of the back for a fun-filled afternoon in the sun.

Europe $400-$600
For those who can live without sun and beach on their spring break and long for a bit more culture, how about a European destination? Each city, from London to Amsterdam has it’s own unique culture and experience to suit nearly every touring student.

Known internationally for it’s freer lifestyle, Amsterdam has enough to get even the most conservative college kid in more than a bit of trouble.

“Amsterdam is the Venice of the north – art, culture and, of course, lots of pot,” said junior Dan DiCicco, who visited Amsterdam his freshman year and is planning to go again this spring break. He spent his break visiting the museums, coffee shops and various areas of the city. He said everyone should venture into the Red Light District to at least say that they have seen it.

“The Red Light District is very unique, you won’t find anything else like that in the world,” he said.

Don’t think, however, that Amsterdam is all about just taking it easy. The city has a wealth of museums, such as the must-visit Van Gogh Museum, and beautiful architecture to suit any history buff. The city itself is very manageable. Home to about half a million people, nearly everyone rides a bike to get around there is certainly not a sense of this being a just another crowded big city.

If Amsterdam doesn’t sound exactly like your type there is always London. One of the great cultural centers of the world there is little that one can’t find in and around the city. With some of the most expansive museums in the world, one of the world’s best music scenes and perhaps the best collection of clubs in the world, London has it all. It isn’t, however, a cheap city. Dining as well as accommodations can be hard to do on a tight budget, but if one plans well enough it is possible to get by on a reasonable amount of cash.

Make sure to tour London in a group on your first day to get a good feel of the layout of this sprawling city, then get ready to hit one of the clubs. If you like the idea of a late-night scare, there are a wealth of tours which show you the creepy side of gothic London.

If you decide to go to Europe, a group student package is the best way to go. An Internet search will yield a wealth of organizations that lead tours to countless locations throughout England and the continent, and it is all done for a reasonable price.

Once you’ve decided on your destination, who’s going to go with you? Getting a perfect group of friends together can make or break your spring break and often helps with the price. Many travel agencies offer discounts and occasionally a free vacation for one member of your group if it is large enough. For example, if you have 15 or more people traveling with you, STA allows one person to travel for free.

Once you’ve got a destination in mind and friends to go with, you’ve got the makings of a memorable spring break.

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