Spring is in the air, and that can only mean that spring break is nearly upon us. The very mention of this popular vacation might bring back memories of MTV beach houses, college students living it up, swim-up bars, and spending endless amounts of money on questionable amounts of alcohol. Or perhaps you prefer a more laidback vibe, and the idea of enjoying a spring getaway at a less frenzied pace sounds more appealing to you.
With flight costs notoriously expensive around popular spring break times, why not stay closer to home? These five US cities are all easily reachable by domestic flights, have a major airport, and are serviced by multiple airlines at different price points, meaning no long-haul flights, layovers, or missed connections. These destinations are all well connected to other U.S. regions and reachable by bus, car, or even train in some cases — if you prefect to avoid flying altogether.
Here are the top 5 destinations in the US for a cheap spring break getaway for both the party-seekers and chill-chasers:
Panama City, Florida
No spring break list would be complete without mentioning this “Spring Break Capital of The World.” Constantly ranked as Florida’s top spot for beachgoers, Panama City has all the ingredients for a memorable spring break. While Florida offers numerous cities and beaches for those looking for a spring break getaway, Panama City is known to be one of the most affordable spots in Florida.
At the time of writing, a search on Airbnb for a weekly rental in April (for 2 people) is about $600.
In addition to having accommodation coming in well under other Florida destinations, Panama City also offers activities day and night at price points that are sure to entice those looking to keep costs down.
Simply strolling and enjoying the white sand beaches is one free way to spend your day. If you are very committed, you can even pack a lunch to save costs on the many lively beach restaurants that tempt you in.
Or, if you prefer, head inland to Pitt and Sylvan Springs, where you can splash about in a tube or kayak or wander the trails and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the park. Panama City also is a great choice for both families and the younger crowd, as there are options for everyone here.
While prices may have risen in recent times, Panama City still offers a chance for a spring break on the beach, but at a lower price tag than many other US destinations.
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Outer Banks, North Carolina
Looking for a more mellow beach destination? A visit to the Outer Banks might be just what you seek.
A trip to these barrier islands can be cost-efficient as they are located within driving distance from many east coast areas, not only saving you money on flying but also the headache of air travel during this time of year.
Spring brings warm and mild temperatures to the area, and since the actual tourist season hasn’t started yet, the beaches are yours to explore. Climb the dunes along the ocean, and take in the views. An Outer Banks spring break also means that you can take advantage of the many seafood choices that occur in Spring.
After being closed all winter, most restaurants start opening up at this time, meaning it shouldn’t be too hard to get a prime table and prime prices.
While a trip to the Outer Banks can get pricy during the summer, the average weekly price in April for an Airbnb for 2 people is currently about $700.
Remembering that you can cook in for most meals and spend days aimlessly combing the beach for free, this destination surely deserves a spot on the budget spring break getaway list.
New Orleans, Louisiana
A spring break getaway to New Orleans could be the perfect way to spice up your season and be the best remedy for the dreary March and April weather that tends to linger about for far too long.
Spring is the time to enjoy New Orleans without the muggy oppressive heat that summer cooks up. In addition to its warm and sunny weather, New Orleans is just overflowing with culture around every corner. One major attraction here is simply strolling and enjoying the charming streets of the French Quarter.
During March and April, it’s possible to find an Airbnb for 7 nights in the Big Easy for between $400-$500 (price based on 2 people). In addition, New Orleans is being added as a destination for most budget airlines, with flights from major US cities as low as $30 one way.
One main reason to head down to the big easy is for the food scene. Any foodie will tell you that New Orleans is a culinary destination in itself, but eating your way around this city’s famous restaurants might not be the cheapest way to spend your spring break. However, a visit at this time of year can land you in the middle of any of the city’s famous music and food festivals, meaning you can try more dishes without breaking the bank.
Daytona Beach, Florida
It’s no shock to see Daytona Beach on any spring break list, as it’s been a classic favorite for years. While this destination does see higher prices in spring break time across the board, there are still ways to save on a trip to this party capital.
Hotels and apartments have never been more plentiful, meaning those who look can find lower-priced options. The area is well connected with taxis and shuttles, and most restaurants and bars are overflowing with special deals every day of the week.
Finding an apartment here in March or April can be done with an average weekly price as low as $400 for 2 people, and many cater to larger groups as well.
While flights to Daytona Beach airport are higher at this time of year, you can save money by flying into Orlando and either taking a shuttle or renting a car to reach Daytona Beach instead.
For example, New York to Daytona Beach for a week in March could cost you about $300 with a layover in Cleveland. The same dates but heading to Orlando are currently only about $100. Even if you factor in a shuttle at approximately $40 each way, that still saves a big chunk of change.
Not to mention if you were planning on renting a car anyway for your trip, Orlando might make a much more budget-conscious choice, depending on your starting point, of course.
Partying poolside all day not your thing? What about a trip to Washington, D.C. to take in some culture instead? Thinking of a visit to this national capital in the spring should immediately bring your mind to one thing- cherry blossoms. This is the time of year to plan the perfect outfits and go take advantage of the beautiful backdrop that the city’s blooming cherry trees offer.
You might be surprised to see this city included on a list of budget-friendly spring break getaways, but the wide range of accommodations that are available in various neighbors and various price points makes finding something affordable not very difficult.
For example, many budget travelers choose to stay across the River in Virginia and commute via subway into the city center. A search on Airbnb yields many good choices, from guest suites to entire lofts, many coming in under $600 for a week.
Perfect for history buffs, D.C. is a good choice for spring break travel, and wandering among the monuments is much more manageable than doing so in the blazing summer heat. If the spring weather gets a bit drizzly or chilly, pop into one (or all) of the city’s famous museums, from the Smithsonian to the National Gallery.
The sheer amount of free activities in D.C. is another reason it can be considered a budget destination. There is so much more to do in Washington, D.C. than you might think, making it perfect for travelers of all ages. In addition to being a hit with history fans, Washington D.C. is also perfect for foodies.
The impressive food and drink scene here offers something for travelers of all tastes and budgets. To explore more off-the-beaten path and usually lower price options, follow a local publication. They are always in the know with tips and deals, helping travelers explore the local food and drink scene without breaking the bank.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com