Getting away can still be done on a student budget


Sunny destinations are a popular option for students looking to get away for spring break.

It’s that time of year again — you’ve worked hard for months, penny-pinched for weeks and faced daily doses of stress — spring break looms ahead. But wait, you’re a student on a budget and the clock is ticking; what do you do?

Rest assure, there’s still availability and some great last-minute deals, you just have to act fast and know where to look.

The first step is to decide on a location.

Mexico (especially Cancun), Cuba and the Dominican Republic are popular sunny spring break destinations, says Colin Wood, national marketing manager at Travel Cuts. However, if you’re looking for something less conventional and a little off the beaten path, try Costa Rica.

For skiers/snowboarders, he suggests Whistler, Lake Louise, Mt. Tremblant and Mt. St. Anne.

If you want to stay close to home, Wood says Niagara Falls offers a lot of fun and reasonable accommodation prices. Or try Ottawa, where a glide on the Rideau Canal is a must as well as attending Winterlude (on now until Feb. 17).

The next step is a bit trickier: Finding a deal.

Frequent traveller Kathryn Da Silva, a Toronto native working on her PhD at the University of Ottawa, suggests shopping around and talking to a travel agent directly (in person or on the phone).

Wood agrees, “Lots of last-minute stuff never finds its way (onto the web).”

Taking red-eye flights, using AirMiles, Aeroplan points and/or an International Student Identity card (ISIC) are common strategies Da Silva uses to save money.

“If you’re able to, book all-inclusive because you’ll combine all your flight, food, alcohol and accommodation costs into one lump sum, which usually works out to be much less expensive,” she says. “Most universities also have ride boards or ride-share programs, where you can carpool with other students and share gas money.”

Those travelling on land can also look into Greyhound’s student and companion rates as well as Via Rail’s six-pack specials (for students travelling between the same destinations numerous times).

“No question, bus travel can be a great way for students to save money, and actually see something of the areas they’re travelling through,” says Wood.

Last, and most importantly, is cost.

“For Cancun, I would suggest a student with reasonable spending habits should expect to spend around $1,300 to $1,800 for a three and a half to four star (hotel),” says Wood.

He estimates Cuba at about $1,100 and Costa Rica at between $1,400 and $1,800 for all-inclusive (again at a three and a half star hotel). The best deals can be found in the Dominican, where prices begin around $900.

Alternatively, Whistler is pricier, costing upward of $1,500, he says.

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