It is that time of year again, and Spring Break is approaching fast. Spring break has long been anticipated as that symbol of the end of the winter blues and the start to better weather and approaching summer. Even after we no longer have school vacations ourselves, it is still a popular time to look at scheduling a few days away. And, for those of you that have children with those built-in vacations, it's a nice opportunity to spend some time together.
For many reasons spring break takes on different meanings to different people. Spring break doesn't have to mean bikinis, wet t-shirt contests, drunken stoopers, and Texas-sized hangovers. It can mean quality time spent with loved ones and friends, exploring new places, spending time outdoors, and just getting away from the routine of daily life. In recent years the economy has dictated a lot about what we are doing in the way of travel and how we are spending our hard-earned money. The term "staycation" has gained popularity for its elements of cost effectiveness, simplicity and practicality. I would like to take some time identifying opportunities for adventure and memories closer to home and closer to a manageable budget.
When in the planning phase of your adventure I recommend examining three main categories, 1) where you will go and how much time you have 2) who will be joining you, and 3) what you would like to spend your time doing. We will look at each of these separately.
WHERE/TIME: Destination and time available are very important factors in determining what kind of spring break you will have. Maybe you have a whole week or a long weekend. Once you have determined how long you can be gone you can start figuring out where you can go. Begin by looking at a map of your state. Most likely there are many places within your area that you have yet to explore. Think of places you have heard about but never have taken the time to visit. Imagine you are having distant relatives visiting your area for the first time. Probably there are places near you that are amazing when looked at through a fresh pair of eyes. It may seem very simple, but I would bet that you haven't explored the places right under your nose because you have become accustomed to them being so close. For example, state or national parks you drive by but never go in, historic areas, tourist attractions.
An idea to get you started is to look up the state's tourism site, such as, visitmaine.com, arizonaguide.com, washington.org. Every state has a page similar to these examples that will give information about where to go and what to see. If you are a fan of hard copy materials, look for the "request information" or similar link to sign up to receive printed travel materials that are usually free. The bonus to receiving printed materials is that you can carry them with you on the trip to reference without being tied to internet access. A quick caveat to this however is that you must allow enough time for the materials to arrive, so your request must be far enough in advance of your trip.
Once you have learned about the amazing places near you that are worth a visit, let's find out how long it takes to get the them and decide if it's in the time frame allotted. Check online for websites that will give you a distance between cities, a suggested route, and a map of the area to be travelled. This can narrow down locations within your reach and time frame.
PEOPLE: Who will be joining you on this spring break? Or will you be by yourself? Selection of your company is critical in the success of your holiday. If you know each other well and have already spent a lot of time together it will be relatively simple to spend this length of time together, but if you don't or are new friends disaster may ensue if proper consideration is not given in selection. I have personal experience in the latter example and had a spring break disaster by not selecting friends with the same interests to join me on a long weekend away. First look at the age range of people coming. Will there be children, seniors, infants, all may cause variation to your travel plans. Planning on going out to eat? Are there any places that are not "kid friendly?" Or are there places that will frown upon your under 21 teenager after a certain time? How about handicap accessibility or special needs considerations? When in doubt, call a few of the main places around the area and ask those questions prior to your arrival. Thinking ahead about some of these details will help to avoid unnecessary stress and frustration.
ACTIVITIES: Now that you know where you are going, how long you will be staying, and whom will be accompanying you, time to think about what you'll do when you get there. You may have had certain activities in mind when you chose your destination. Are those activities active or relaxing in nature? If it's action you are looking for make sure you have the gear needed, or make sure a business in the area that can rent equipment to you. Spring break is a great time to learn new things, have a look at any lessons for new activities available and give them a try. Taking advantage of new opportunities can be some of the most memorable moments of a trip. If it is purely relaxation that you have on your agenda look for accommodations that offer spa and massage options on site, it's one less thing to worry about if you don't have to search for your relaxation. Check local calendars of events for festivals, wine tastings, farmers markets or seasonal special occasions. If there are events you are interested in attending look to see whether they require a reservation or sign up prior to your arrival. It would be disappointing to be looking forward to an activity only to find that it has filled up and is no longer available. Lastly, choose activities that include all or most of the people along so that no one feels left out.
Spring Break is meant to be a vacation from normalcy. By thinking about these steps of time and location, company and activities, you can put together a well-rounded vacation that is closer to your home and maximizes your time away and the money you have left in your wallet. I hope your next break will be full of adventure and happy memories. Start some new trends and try some new things, you'll be amazed at all you can do and learn in a short amount of time if you plan well.