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Here in Texas, we celebrate spring break earlier than much of the country. This means our own spring break 2019 family trip is already in the books (and boy was it a hit). During our early spring break week, much of my Facebook feed was filled with photos of friends and their kids having fun at Disney World, skiing, on a beach or visiting family. However, I also saw multiple posts from other friends who were (desperately) looking for last-minute travel suggestions after finding their own spring break agenda a bit … empty. They were hitting high prices and fully booked hotels.
In case your spring break is still yet to come and you were too busy with life to book a vacation in advance, here are some last-minute family spring break travel tips and ideas.
Road Trip Time
Last-minute spring break flights to the popular destinations are often going to be very expensive, especially if you need enough seats for a whole family. My advice for last-minute school break travel is to hit the road. Decide how far you are willing to drive for fun and draw a mental radius of that distance in every direction.
Maybe you can’t get a deluxe resort room at Walt Disney World or a cabin in a national park, but perhaps you can find a room available on points near a more regional theme park or state park, especially if you can make it to a nearby region that has a different spring break week than you. As an added bonus, prices at these more regional destinations are probably much more wallet-friendly than at the nationwide hot spots.
Hotel points can also cover where you want to stay and if you are selective, you might be able to stay somewhere on points with built-in entertainment options like the waterpark at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Florida.
Use Those Points
You don’t have to blow your budget to plan a last-minute spring break trip. Once you figure out where you are going, dig into what you want to do when you get there. Your Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be used to get your family tickets to LEGOLAND and Universal Orlando. Those Chase points won’t help at Disneyland or Disney World, but Citi ThankYou points can help you cover Disney costs. If you like to ride popular rides, Universal and Disneyland are actually better last-minute destinations than Disney World due to the respective Express Pass/FastPass systems.
It’s OK to think more creatively, too, as points can cover horseback riding, lift tickets, tours, zip-lining and almost any family travel experience that money could buy.
If road tripping isn’t your style and you want to think bigger this year, check international flights using your miles. While Orlando International may be overloaded during some weeks this spring, a US spring break week doesn’t typically overload Europe the way it does some closer-in destinations.
For example, this week is Austin’s spring break and via United MileagePlus, I see 30k saver economy awards from Austin to Europe leaving as early as tonight. If you want to fly in style, business class awards for the whole family can be grabbed for 60k miles. Here are good points hotels in London for families if you cross the pond.
Should South America be calling, your family can fly on American Airlines via Dallas to Buenos Aires as early as tomorrow in business class for 57,500 miles each way (economy available for 30,000 miles). Perhaps that can be a jumping-off point to visit Iguazu Falls.
Here are some of the best miles and points to use for last-minute travel.
Cruise Outta Town
If you have a somewhat larger budget to work with, it may not be too late to book a spring break cruise (which is exactly what we did). I see the same Disney three-night cruise to the Bahamas that we just enjoyed still available on March and April dates.
Especially if you can drive to a port city, taking a cruise is a “big” spring trip that doesn’t have to involve a ton of preplanning. Assuming you can’t find a last-minute cruise special, you may pay a bit more booking so close in and some popular activities or meals might already be booked full, but that shouldn’t diminish your fun on the high seas one bit. Believe it or not, points can actually help with cruise costs, too. (Here are cruise booking tips for families.)
Any Hotel With a Pool Will Do
Sure, the term “staycation” is over-played, but the idea behind it is timeless. You don’t have to go to South America, take a cruise or drive through the night to have a memorable spring break. Frankly, a pool, some late-night room service dessert and a couple of days away from the norm should do the trick. Last summer, we spent time with friends floating around a Marriott hotel with a lazy river in the shape of Texas that was less than an hour from our house. It was easy to get to and we had an absolute blast. No planes, trains or long road trips required.
In that case, a Marriott annual certificate (up to 35,000 points) from a card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card might be all you need to come away looking like a spring break hero. (Here are other great Marriott 35k ideas and hotels with five-star pool complexes in Florida).
While waiting until the last minute to book a family spring break trip isn’t my most recommended strategy, it can play to your advantage if you are both creative and flexible. Last-minute award availability is a real thing, especially if you don’t follow the crowds. And, you don’t need to travel far to make big memories together.
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Featured image by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy
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