If the winter doldrums have got you down, it’s the perfect time to think about getting away from it all a few weeks from now—whether that means a trip to sunny shores, exploring cultural centers of Europe, or a fun (and cheap) road trip to a destination closer to home. Teachers, college students, and parents of school-aged children are most likely to book vacations during spring break, which usually falls sometime in March or April; but after a long few months of cold weather, just about everyone is feeling restless. Although some spots popular with the spring break crowd ramp up prices during this time, we found under-the-radar destinations that offer reasonable rates and fewer tourists, but just as much enjoyment. Plus, it’s even possible to find spring break vacation ideas that actually cost less than staying home.
Montego Bay, Jamaica
The infectious rhythm of Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae music, makes the island the perfect antidote for the winter blues. Caribbean destinations are just coming off the winter high season, so hotel rates start dropping as we move into spring—and Jamaica is already an affordable island to begin with. Plus, while the Sunshine State tends to be packed with spring breakers, the islands offer sunny-weather getaways that aren’t Florida. With its pristine beaches, outdoor activities including snorkeling and zip-lining, restaurants, and beach bars, families, couples, and party-goers alike can find what they’re looking for on Jamaica. All-inclusive resorts along popular Montego Bay offer great package deals: Stay at the Royal Decameron Montego Beach for around $200 a night.
Just after the craziness—and high prices—of the Mardi Gras season, but before the popular Jazz and Heritage Festival kicks off in late April, New Orleans in early spring offers a little pocket of pleasant temperatures, lower crowds, and affordability. Although good times, music, and nightlife can be had at any time of year, surprisingly New Orleans isn’t a major spring break party spot, so it’s also a great time to take the family. Stroll along the rues of the French Quarter, nosh on beignets at Cafe du Monde, and then retire to your room at the Hampton Inn and Suites for around $200 a night. Flights from New York are under $300. NOLA is one of the 15 spring break ideas you haven’t thought of yet.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Although it might not be warm enough for swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, the chain of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks still makes for a perfect spring break getaway: Think long walks on deserted beaches, low crowds and room rates, and pleasant temperatures for fishing, golfing, visiting lighthouses, or horseback riding. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial (the first airplane flight occurred in Kill Devil Hills), watch wild horses on the beach, or go off-roading along the shore (with a permit). Opt for a vacation rental to save money on hotels, and cook your own meals instead of going out to eat every night.
Although the tourist season in London runs year-round, visiting in early spring is a relatively less busy, and more affordable, time to go. Emerging from the dreary winter, weather in London looks up at this time of year, too, as the lovely gardens of the city start to bloom. Although London can be an expensive city, there are plenty of free attractions, including many top museums such as the National Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert, and Tate Modern. More free sights include street performers in Covent Garden, the stone lions of Trafalgar Square, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, watching a debate in Parliament, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Stay right across the Thames from Big Ben at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge for around $200 a night. Flights from New York are around just $350, making it one of the 15 best places to go in Europe for spring break.
Red River Gorge, Kentucky
This top rock-climbing destination in Daniel Boone National Forest is at its most stunning in spring, with wildflowers blooming all around the 100 natural sandstone arches and other amazing rock formations. But you don’t have to be a climber to enjoy the area’s trails and natural beauty. National Bridge State Resort Park even offers wildflower walks, and visitors can also rent canoes or kayaks, or go on a guided canoe trip, along the river. Camping is a great cost-saving way to get the most out of your adventure; you can also rent cabins or affordable lodge rooms. It this appeals to you, you may also want to take one of these luxury camping adventures that even indoor people will love.
There’s really no bad time of year to go to Hawaii, thanks to its warm and steady climate; although winter into spring break does tend to be a more popular time to go. But the “Southwest effect” that’s occurred since the airline started flying to the island chain is still going strong thanks to additional flights from the west coast starting in January, one of the 13 ways air travel will change in 2020. Increasing competition means visitors can take advantage of the low prices, with flights around $450 from Los Angeles. Travelers can choose whether to island-hop between Oahu and Maui, Kauai, or another island; or choose to stay right in Waikiki in Honolulu at Hotel LaCroix for around $160 a night.