11 Cheap Spring Break Spots You Should Book Right Now
Right now, many of us are in a spring break frame of mind. These precious weeks from early March through mid-April are designed for a number of things, depending on your age or location: Escaping the last gasp of wintry cold, relaxing with friends and family, and blowing your tax return on a trip.
The most ideal spring break destinations tend to be places where you can A) party if you so choose and B) keep your bank account at least semi-intact. In the center of that Venn diagram are the 11 cities below—most of them here in the US, but a few abroad worthy of your consideration if you have the time for extended travel—which Expedia has identified as relatively budget-friendly, and which we’ve identified as ideal for sipping cocktails happily in the sun as you emerge, like so many woodland creatures, from your long winter’s nap.
When to book for the cheapest spring break travel
Booking last-minute is always more expensive, although not uncommon: according to Expedia, in 2019, 63% of lodging bookings made during the spring break timeframe were made less than two weeks in advance of travel. Ideally, you'd be looking at least 90 days in advance, but we're guessing maybe you didn't do that for some spring plans, since you're reading this. (At the very least, this is good advice for next year—and you can still find deals now).
According to Hopper, which analyzes historical flight data to score the cheapest airfare, if you’re traveling within the US, look for flights departing on a Tuesday—the cheapest day for tickets, followed by Wednesday. Friday is the worst day for traveling, with prices averaging 19% higher for flights departing that day. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll probably find the cheapest flights looking for those departing on Wednesday, followed by Tuesday and Thursday. Friday remains bad. The end of March is the most expensive time to fly; shifting your trip a bit closer to either mid-March or early April will help you save.
As far as hotel bookings are concerned, Expedia notes that Tuesday comes out on top once again as the least expensive day to check in (on average, nearly 10% cheaper compared to Saturdays). You’ll get the best lodging deals if you book a trip for the end of April, when prices are about 10% cheaper than they are during the rest of the season. All that being said, if you’ve got some accumulated PTO, skip the weekend trip and go for a weekday getaway to save some cash.
San Francisco, California
Never thought we’d see “San Francisco” and “cheap” in the same place ever again, and yet, here we are! Perhaps it's because Big Tech is headed off to infiltrate other cities (sorry, Austin), but a trip to the Bay is much cheaper now than it was pre-pandemic: For spring break 2022, Expedia reports that plane tickets cost an average $347, while lodging will cost about $217 per night in March and $236 in April. In San Francisco, you’ll find more than 1,250 miles of hiking trails to traverse, as well as Chinatown classics and a slew of new restaurants to fall in love with, including sushi joints, ramen spots, and plant-based eateries that’ll maybe, just maybe, make you want to trudge up and down those hills. (San Francisco’s nightlife is also rising from the ashes, in case—like us—that’s more your speed.)
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Skip Cancún, beloved: for Instagram’s sake, and for your wallet’s. According to Expedia, prices in Mexico’s most popular tourist destination are projected to be 15-25% more expensive than pre-pandemic prices. Fortunately, many of the country’s best beaches—which are equally as beautiful as Cancún’s, but promise far superior vibes—are located along Riviera Nayarit, a 200-mile stretch of shoreline you can fly to for about $350, and stay on for an average $283 in March and $329 in April. About an hour from Puerto Vallarta (an equally inexpensive choice!), you’ll find mountain hikes, jungle zip lines, seaside resorts, and a generally laid-back lifestyle that enamors locals as much as it does digital nomads. Anchor yourself in Sayulita for perhaps the most pristine surfing (and fish tacos) in the hemisphere.
Las Vegas, Nevada
It’s not uncommon for Las Vegas to land among the most popular spring break destinations, year over year. In 2022, Expedia expects flights to Sin City to average $286, while a hotel room will run you somewhere around $180 a night. (Of course, you can expect to lose any saved money in the casinos.) For party animals, Vegas is an obvious slam dunk: The pool parties are no joke, the clubs are as lit as ever, and your cup will always runneth over—much to the chagrin of your poor, raggedy liver—at the city’s plentiful bars, speakeasies, and happy hour spots. And when you eventually need to give your ringing ears a break, here’s our handy list of actually cool things to do in Vegas.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
If you aim for a trip toward the end of the spring break season, you’ll be catching Puerto Rico at the beginning of its most ideal window for visitors. The winter can be crowded, and the summer can be rainy, but April-ish is just right. Expedia predicts that roundtrip flights for this period will drop to an average of $309—combine that with multiple bioluminescent beaches, some of the best mofongo you’ll eat in your life, and the fact that Puerto Rico is leading the sustainable travel movement right now, and you’ve got every reason to go. Wander through the pastel-bordered streets of Old San Juan in the morning, take a dip in the ocean in the afternoon, end up at that bar from Despacito in the evening, and take comfort in the fact that you can get a solid hotel without selling an organ (right now, the average price per night is about $312 in March and $329 in April).
New York City, New York
Now, we’re not gonna sit here and tell you that New York City is ever going to be a cheap vacation. What we will tell you, though, is that there are cheaper times to visit than others, and that spring break this year will be one of those times. According to Expedia, hotels in New York—averaging $221 per night in March and $283 in April—are about 10% cheaper right now than they were at this same time in 2019 (thus compensating for the price of a slice of pizza, which has recently and controversially gone from $1 to $1.50, upsetting millions). If you’ve been putting off your return to the city—where Broadway shows, restaurants, and bars are all, much like the rent, on the rise once again!—now may be the time to strike. Plus, you can snag a flight for the low this year: tickets, on average, are just $282.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Reader, you saw it coming. What would a spring break list be without Florida? And what, indeed, would spring break in Florida be without Fort Lauderdale? Luckily, this classic—which, in our opinion, deserves more than the retirees-and-undergrads reputation the world has bestowed upon it—looks pretty cheap this year: according to Expedia, an average flight costs just $223, while hotels will cost an average of $302 per night in March and $320 in April. (And considering you’ll likely head this way with friends, your costs will likely be even lower!) Along with its famous beaches, Fort Lauderdale’s been beefing up its offerings: this year, use what you save to eat sushi on a private gondola tour, wander the world’s largest butterfly park, head underwater to explore shipwrecks, or do any other number of cool things tourists usually miss.
San Diego, California
Although San Diego’s weather kinda makes it feel like spring break all the time, right now is definitely the time to take your trip: According to Expedia, it’ll cost you about $304 to fly to San Diego this spring break, while a hotel will average around $248 per night in March and $265 in April. If you’ve got any young’uns in tow (or if you’ve simply got a young’uns spirit!), this is your place: the city’s many adventures, from the famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to LEGOLAND California, are all open for business. And in natural California fashion, there’s also a bunch of fun to be had outside, including beach days, scenic hikes, flower field frolicking, kayaking trips, and breweries. (Sure, you could argue the latter isn’t inherently an “outdoor experience,” but the best way to enjoy a craft beer in Southern California is most certainly with a breeze in your hair.)
Aruba’s nickname, ”One Happy Island,” wasn’t earned with white-sand beaches, crystal blue water, shipwreck dive sites, and windswept Divi Divi trees alone. (Although all that definitely helps.) With flights running at an average $407 and hotel rates sitting at about $491 per night, it’s also one of the cheapest Caribbean vacations you can take in 2022. After you’re all beached out (impossible), head inland, where the island’s unique desert climate really shines. At Arikok National Park—which takes up about 20% of the island—you can explore limestone caves, cacti-strewn expanses, and rugged, dramatic shorelines like Boca Prins and Dos Playa, all of which in some ways makes the island look more akin to California than the Caribbean.
Charleston, South Carolina
Despite its long-established popularity, South Carolina’s favorite seaside escape still managed to avoid succumbing to high price tags this year; according to Expedia, flights to Charleston will average about $292, and hotel rooms around $331 in 2022. While you’d probably be headed out this way to lounge on the shores and/or utterly gorge yourself on seafood and Southern comforts—neither of which we blame you for—it’s also worth checking out Charleston’s more eclectic sideshows. Aside from its pastel-painted architecture and beloved beaches, here you’ll also find dive bars, ghost adventures, and DIY venues that’ll help you create a spring break itinerary just as rich in relaxation as excitement.
Mexico City, Mexico
Before the pandemic, it may have felt like every person you’ve ever met—whether close friend, familiar acquaintance, or drunken Instagram follow—was posting from, or planning a trip to, Mexico City. That’s because CDMX is currently the place to be—and now you, too, can be there, and for the low. Flights to Mexico are relatively cheap right now at about $350 a pop; even better, the average stay will run you just $148 per night in March and $158 in April. Beyond seasonal deals, Mexico City itself is also a notoriously inexpensive place to visit. Come, eat and drink to your heart’s content, see some world-class art and architecture, eat and drink even more, and if you’ve got any cash left over, put it towards just one night in this Airbnb shaped like the Aztec snake god Quetzalcoatl.
Yet another misunderstood Florida destination, Tampa comes at a steep discount this year: with flights going for about $251 and hotels for about $265/night in March and $245 in April, there’s a case to be made for second chances here. Be amongst the first wave of spring breakers to help usher in a new era for the city in the burgeoning Water Street district; sip 100,000 wines (!!!) at Bern’s Steak House; crawl gourmet food halls and breweries along the “Gulp Coast” Craft Beer Trail; and obviously, hit the emerald beaches of the Atlantic, whether you go for well-known party spots or more remote, tranquil options (yes, they exist!). If you’re lucky, you might make even friends with a few manatees along the way.