Tips to enjoy a thrifty spring break vacation

1) The Road Trip - A Classic American Vacation

At first glance, it might not seem like the most glamorous of vacations, but driving can be one of the most exciting things you can do. Not only do you get to see everything along the way, but you also get to explore places you won't be able to see when taking a plane, train, or boat.

- Research and plan your trip well. This tip goes for any vacation. Research the place to which you're going and really look at what is offered there in terms of food, nightlife and entertainment.

- Know your route. You could just pull up some quick directions, but sometimes these are wrong. You're a college student, so do your research. Know the areas you're passing through and if you want to stop at them. Sometimes you can find little nuggets of gold in small towns.

There are a variety of tools out there that make it easy to plan a trip. Google's satellite map service allows you to plan a route and gives you directions while also letting you look through satellite imagery. Follow your route via the images to look at where you're heading and make sure the road doesn't just disappear in the middle-of-nowhere.

- Find cheap gas. Seeing your tank almost on empty can put a bit of worry in your heart, especially if you have no idea where the next gas station might be. Our pump patrol shows you gas stations and their prices, sorted by location.

- Avoid traffic and construction Navigate your routes to avoid construction zones. Use the link to the right for more information on locating construction zones.

- Drive smart. Depending on your speed, save some gas mileage by keeping your windows up and the A/C on. According to the Mythbusters, if your car goes less than 50 miles per hour, it becomes more efficient to leave your windows down, but if your car is traveling greater than 50mph it is better to use your A/C.

- Check with the city. Almost every city and town has a website; check it or check with the City Hall or Chamber of Commerce. Call them and ask about the local places to eat or interesting places to stop. You might be happily surprised by what you find.

2) Travel by air

Now if you must insist on flying, there are things you can do to avoid getting nailed on the many fees and hassles.

- Search for deals. As always, do your research. Airlines want to fill their birds, so look for deals that they are offering. JetBlue, for example, uses their twitter account every Monday to promote deals. Also, depart from smaller airports; some cost less to travel out from

* Fare Compare juxtaposes the price of flights from every major airline from using real-time data allowing you to compare each flight.

- Hop around and don't fly direct. The Award-winning blog, Lifehacker and it's viewers suggest avoiding purchasing direct flights. Instead, look for trips with layovers. Doing so will save you money, but be warned, it might create some hassle with making the connections.

3) Take a cruise

So you want to travel by boat? I suggest taking a five or seven-day trip to maximize your time on vacation. As always, doing your homework can lead to great deals on cruises.

- Sail on the off-season. The tourism industry, in a way, is similar to farming. Every area of the world is ripe for travel during a specific season and during that season, prices hit the roof. During Spring beak for example, Mexico, the Bahamas, South Florida and the islands are popular travel destinations. Avoid these high costs by shopping smart and looking for deals during the off-season.

* Vacations-To-Go is a ticker that lists cruises about to depart. If you're spontaneous, these trips are heavily discounted and will save you money.

- Use "repositioning cruises". The folks over at Cruise Critics explain that periodically, all cruise lines move their boats to new locations because of the season.

- Be selective about your room. Everyone loves having a room with a view, but how long are you realistically going to be in there? the cost of a port-side room is much higher than the inside cabins. They cost significantly less and are often much darker, which can be good for light-sleepers. These rooms also rock less because they sit closer to the boat's center of gravity. Use your room for what its worth, then get out on the deck and enjoy yourself.

- Avoid on-board connections. The on-board phone and internet services cost a fortune. Use the the port of call services that cost less, or just put down the electronics and enjoy your VACATION!

4.) Bring your friends.

Remember that old saying: friends don't let other friends vacation alone?...Okay! Maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but I made my point. Get three or four of your best friends, convince them they will save money by skipping the trip to Cancun and travel in a group. Not only will you split the bills, but more people can lead to a quicker and more intuitive solution to problems. Also, the stories will be much, much better.

- Give everyone

a job. When I travel, I usually do it with a friend of mine. We have separate jobs that make our lives much simpler. I, being the spontaneous one, drive, deal with people, and handle the day-to-day activities. He, on the other hand is a very organized person and handles the navigation, planning, and money. He also does a lot of the research.

- Be crafty. Mini-refrigerators and bathroom hair dryers can be lifesavers when it comes to food and leftovers. The mini-fridge usually comes standard in hotel rooms, so if you're staying in one hotel for a few days, consider going to the grocery store to pick up supplies. Lunch meat and bread make for cheap, easy lunches. Heat your leftovers using a microwave (if you have one) or use the bathroom's hair dryer. Put it on the highest setting and be patient. It might not be perfect, but its better than nothing. I did this on a recent trip to Vegas and had hot leftovers almost every day.

- ASK. ASK. ASK!!! Whenever you go somewhere unknown, check with the locals. Even if you've done your research, drop into a coffee shop or the local city hall. If you come in with a nice attitude, people will usually respond positively. The local businesses usually have better food and service than many corporate, nation-wide chains and love out-of-town visitors. They survive because of word-of-mouth and will treat you very well. Go in humble and you will usually leave full and happy.

Good luck and travel smart!



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