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Popular spring break destinations are notorious for attracting crowds of young partiers for a week of binge drinking. And the season of spring break getaways, which typically extends until late April, is just getting started. But if you’re ready for a spring vacation, you don’t have to join the hoards.
Travelers usually spend about five days on a domestic trip and, unsurprisingly, the Mexican resort destinations of Cancún and San Jose del Cabo remain the top two international destinations for spring breakers, according to Allianz Global Assistance, a travel insurance company. But the typical spring break experience is certainly not for everyone, and if that kind of a vacation sounds like your worst nightmare, consider booking a less crowded, more affordable getaway instead.
We found six alternative spring break destinations in the US where you can find affordable hotels and flight options, and avoid large crowds, based on data from Booking.com, Kayak, Priceline and others.
And don’t worry about booking a last-minute trip, either. Reports from CheapTickets.com compared seven different booking windows for March travel, and found that booking just one week out could save 16% on hotels and 20% on package deals, compared with the average price for the month.
In a statement, CheapTickets’ travel expert Justine McDonald said, “This is the first spring break season where the data is proving it pays to wait and book last minute.”
Skip Mexico this year and try Puerto Rico instead, for a no-passport-required spring break getaway with a similarly beachy vibe. According to Kayak, San Juan saw a 113% increase in searches year over year, indicating that the post-Maria comeback is in full force. (Aguadilla and San Juan both landed on Priceline’s list of “emerging” spring break destinations, too.) So go now, before Puerto Rico lands on the list of too-crowded spring break spots. But wait until April, and enjoy a 31% drop in airfare. Best of all, there are points hotels all across Puerto Rico, including the stunning, just-reopened St. Regis Bahia Beach.
This is definitely not your typical spring break getaway. But it’s walkable, and though the weather will start improving, you can still count on few (if any) crowds. According to Booking.com, you could save as much as 54% on accommodations in Boston during the week of March 18, making it one of the best options for budget-conscious travelers. Getting there is easy, too. From New York City, you can fly from all the major airports and land at Boston Logan International (BOS) within an hour, and vice versa. Google found that round-trip fares from New York-JFK to Boston were $142 during the last two weeks of March. You can also ride with Amtrak, or take a bus.
Similar to Austin, you’ll find excellent live music and incredible food in New Orleans. April is one of the best times to visit New Orleans because it’s not too hot, and you can even experience Jazz Fest festivities. Accommodations in New Orleans are generally 19% cheaper during the week of April 15 to April 21, but a number of hotels in the Big Easy are also offering seasonal deals at this time. The Hilton New Orleans Riverside is offering a spring package with up to 30% off nightly rates, and on March 14, the Ace Hotel in New Orleans is running a 24-hour flash sale. Book then, and get 30% off any three-night stay between March and August.
One of Kayak’s top deal destinations in March, come here for a spring break filled with barbecue and live music. After South by Southwest, things in this Texas city quiet down, and both Booking.com and CheapTickets said booking later can help reveal significant savings. (Accommodations may be 25% cheaper if you hold off until the week of April 1.) You can find great flight options from American Airlines and Southwest Airlines to Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and it’s easy to explore the city by foot.
Find steep savings in Nashville, too, which is 23% cheaper during the week of April 15. Fly to Nashville International Airport (BNA) or, if you have extra time, enjoy a leisurely road trip through the South on your way to the city. Be ready for country music like you’ve never heard before — some bars in this music city have multiple floors with live bands playing simultaneously.
Outdoor enthusiasts and families, this one is for you. Warm weather and thin crowds make Phoenix a great alternative for spring breakers. You’ll find breathtaking desert views and hiking trails here, and the Valley of the Sun is about two hours from Sedona, where you can find Red Rocks National Park or take a scenic drive to the Apache Trail. According to Google, Phoenix is trending for the last two weeks of March, but accommodations should be 41% cheaper by the week of April 22.
Looking to travel abroad for spring Break? Expect to put aside a week or more for your trip, and consider emerging spring break destinations like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (airfare in March drops 13%, according to Kayak), the Dominican Republic and England.
Featured photo of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, LA by Simplyphotos/Getty Images.
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