Travel plans for procrastinators

If you have landed in the middle of the second semester with nothing organized for spring break, it may not be too late – and STA Travel has some suggestions to get you out of the country and into the sun.

Jennifer Apple, the GW branch manager of STA Travel, a full-service travel agency that specializes in student arrangements, is familiar with difficulties that groups often face when making spring break plans.

“It can be hard,” Apple said from the agency’s office at Marvin Center, “because you wait and wait for everyone to get on the same page.”

Apple said that it is late in the game, but a mid-March getaway is still doable. She advises students to “get on it” and finalize plans within the next few of weeks.

“There’s no drop-dead date,” Apple said of a deadline for booking, “but things will definitely be filling up. It’s been pretty much non-stop since everyone came back from break.”

Apple said it is possible to secure a trip in February, but as space decreases in popular locations – such as Cancun and Jamaica – prices increase.

“Some of the less-expensive hotels for traditional spring break have gone up,” she said, with certain packages rising in price as early as mid-December.

Although packages for these hotspots and others are dwindling, many are still available at reasonable rates. She said typical charter packages are the best deals.

Pump it: Warm and sunny beach locations are prime for spring breakers looking to party hard in the middle of the semester. Apple listed three of the agency’s best-selling, go-crazy destinations at the following estimated rates: a Cancun beachfront place at $977, and spots in Jamaica and Acapulco at $877 and $1,007, respectively.

Flight fare from Dulles International Airport to Miami International Airport was estimated at $209.50 on United Airlines, a representative said.

Soak it in: A trip to Europe is an ideal choice for jetsetters who want to catch up with friends studying abroad or bask in more culture than sun. “Europe is a great option if you want to balance partying at night and touring during the day,” said Kristen Celko, STA vice president of marketing and e-commerce.

The summer months are peak for European tourism, so “this is the least expensive time of year to go, airfare wise,” Apple said.

Cities that top the list of European vacation spots are London, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. Webb estimated the price of a flight from a Washington airport to London Gatwick on Northwest Airlines at $493.50.

Get lucky: Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during spring break this year, a jaunt to Ireland offers a fun scene. With over 35 million Americans claiming Irish descent, Dublin will be packed with American tourists and brogue-heavy natives alike on the March 17 national holiday. The official 2008 festival runs in Dublin from March 13 to 17.

Travel with a purpose: Students looking for a service opportunity in a beautiful natural environment can check out “Turtles and Treetops Adventure,” an in eco-friendly Costa Rica trip sponsored by STA.

Great “for people looking for something different and manageable,” Celko said, the program combines touring the tropical ecosystems of Costa Rica and helping endangered wildlife.

“The treetops piece (of the trip) comes when you go zip-lining through the rainforest,” Celko said.

The package, which includes the tour and airfare, is running at a 15 percent discount right now because there is still space left.

“It’s a great deal,” said Celko of the $845.75 price tag. She added that STA has “a ton of other volunteer packages in Latin America and Central America.”

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