Spring break travel tips: 5 ways to avoid screwing up your vacation

If you think spring break is just an excuse for college kids to have a carousingly good time, you could be right — but it’s also become the perfect vacation time for families, couples, solo travelers, and anyone who wants to find a nice warm beach or the perfect ski resort.

In other words, spring break is a great time to go anywhere. Just don’t screw-up your trip by making any of these five mistakes.

#1. Don't fly to the wrong destination

This has nothing to do with last May’s story about the poor woman who thought she was flying to Paris but ended up in San Francisco (assisted by the airline rep who apparently didn’t notice the boarding pass for France). No, this is about destinations that are "wrong" because they’re too expensive. Fly to a "right" destination that’s cheaper and you’ll have just as fun and save a buck or two.


Some suggestions include Boston, Denver, Miami/Fort Lauderdale and, yes, Paris. These locales may not be cheap from every departure city, but they are relatively cheap from many of them. You can thank a whole lot of airline competition for that — especially the numerous discount carriers.

Tip: Use a month-by-month destination search tool (FareCompare has one, but there are others); it can help you find cheap destinations and cheapest days to fly to them.

#2. Don't book flights with that incredibly cheap airline

Don’t book tickets on your favorite, cheap airline without comparing fares from other carriers. The reason is simple: No airline always has the best deal. Maybe you love Spirit, and that’s great — they often have good fares — but it’s not always the cheapest, as we see in these February fares for Chicago-Seattle flights.

  • Cheapest: Frontier, $221
  • Next cheapest: Spirit, $292
  • Cheapest non-stop: Alaska, $335

Tip: Always compare airfares. Then check to see what Southwest is offering, too, because it’s the only airline that doesn’t share price information with comparison sites.

#3. Don't pack the wrong things

Most of us are over-packers, but that’s a luxury we can no longer afford on airlines that charge steep "overweight bag’"fees (up to $200 on domestic flights). Pack light and pack smart; ban all "maybe" outfits from your suitcase in favor of comfortable clothing you’ve worn before and know you like. Keep shoes to a minimum to save space and weight; a good rule is to pack just two (i.e., pack-a-pair, wear-a-pair).


Tip: Use a carry-on bag. It won’t save you from a bag fee on every airline (Frontier and Spirit charge for all bags) but you won’t have to worry about losing a carry-on. If you must check a bag, be sure all must-haves like medications, eyeglasses, electronics and charging cords are on your person.

#4. Don't fail to read government warnings

International travelers can find a wealth of information about destinations around the world at the State Department’s website: Travel.State.Gov. Look up countries by name to see facts on passport and visa requirements, embassy contacts, safety and security advice, and information on local laws, health care, transportation and more.

Tip: If you don’t have a passport, start the proceedings at least six weeks before departure — but make that two months if you start closer to summer, just to be on the safe side. You can, however, expedite the process for a fee.

#5. Don't overindulge on the flight

For some travelers, the spring break party starts the moment they board the plane. which is fine. But please, don’t overdo it. Many flight crews have little patience with rowdy travelers and passengers have been kicked off planes for belligerent behavior allegedly fueled by too much alcohol.


Tip: In these days of cramped seats and not enough armrests to go around, passengers need to be extra respectful and mindful of others. We're all on this flight together, after all.

Now go and have some fun.