C ollege spring break: what an over-stereotyped vacation, right?
We're supposed to be jetting off to, I don't know, the Bahamas or Cabo or something and frolicking on the beach with overpriced beers and deep tans.
Um, yeah sure, except that no one I know is planning on jetting off anywhere. We're too poor.
It is possible that those people do exist, but everyone in my circle of acquaintances is planning on cramming too many people into too few old cars and sputtering off somewhere in the desert -- armed with Kraft Mac & Cheese for a week.
For many of us, cheapness is a basic requirement for spring break. We've been focusing on school, not work, and there really isn't any extra money hanging around. So here are some well-practiced ways to make your trip a little cheaper.
If you're driving somewhere, carpooling is the biggest money saver. Gas is usually the most expensive aspect of any trip, especially when the car is racking up miles in the meantime. Having one more person to split the bill helps.
If anything, grab a hitchhiker on the way out of town, or check sites like couchsurfing.org for a butt to fill that extra seat.
If you haven't yet chosen a location, consider cost in the decision.
All of the above suggestions require enough open space that no one will think it's odd when you're cooking dinner on a camp stove in the back of your truck -- so no Las Vegas or Los Angeles, I guess. The desert is a great choice, because it's cheap, sparsely populated and it's not too hot yet.
Consider going somewhere on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management), because it's always free; certain Forest Service lands are the same. If you're set on going to one of the National Parks or somewhere that costs money, it's probably cheaper to buy an annual Parks Pass at $80. The pass offers access to most federal recreation areas for free, for a full year after your purchase date. Seeing as it costs $20 to enter Rocky Mountain National Park for a day, that'll pay for itself fast.
More info: store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html.
Speaking of couch surfing, spend as few nights in a hotel as possible. Hotels are a total rip off, especially since you're going to spend most of your time tearing up the town rather than sleeping there.
Find friends of friends to stay with, or just bring a sleeping bag and sack out wherever you end up. It's warm enough now that you can do that, and who doesn't like a good scorpion crawling across their face on a warm desert night?
Bring as much food with you as you can. Last summer, my good friend climbed in the car with a Tupperware the size of a duffel bag filled to the brim with quinoa. Though we made fun of her at the time, we didn't eat anything else for two days.
Buying rice and beans at the grocery store beforehand is guaranteed to be cheaper than eating at endless fast food places -- and you save yourself that inevitable curdled-stomach feeling on day four of Burger King and Red Bulls.
Maybe you'll save up enough money to send someone to Cabo next year -- but I'd still choose hiking around sagebrush with my friends any day.