Even if your best partying days aren't behind you, the organized amateur hour of hotel parties, packed clubs, keg stands and chemically fueled all-nighters can be a lot to put up with. If you're in their proximity and find yourself wanting to tell them at high volume that they're A) Doing it wrong or B) Are going to have to shut up for an hour or so, chances are they're still not the problem.
It's you. You're warned by just about everybody where the popular destinations will be and how to get around them. Those with the means usually do. American Express Travel surveyed 200 of its travel experts back in December and found that Seychelles, Brazil, Vietnam, Alaska, Grenada, New Zealand, Croatia, Bhutan, Norway and Greece would be the destinations of choice for most of their card-carrying clientele this year. With the exception of the holiday crowd in Greece and the soccer faithful headed to Brazil for the World Cup this summer, none of these destinations would rate a stop from the old Girls Gone Wild party bus.
The Travel Leaders Group leisure company conducted a similar survey and found that well-heeled travelers were really keen on spending this year in Peru, Tahiti, Iceland, Maldives, the Galapagos Islands and a number of other places where people aren't shotgunning Bud Light tallboys on their hotel balconies and bumping beats out of their convertible SUV of choice. Those surveyed are also willing to spend a lot more to get away from the "woooo"-ing crowds, with 52.6% willing to spend more on their vacations than they did last year and only 6% spending less.
Even those who aren't rummaging for their passports are shunning sunny spring break spots. Though the Travel Leaders Group found that 41.5% of respondents planned on taking their domestic vacations in Las Vegas, the remainder of the Top 5 included family-friendly Orlando (41%), cost-prohibitive Maui (39.7%), chilly cruise-ship Alaska (38.3%) and New York City (33.7%).
So where should you go to avoid spring break crowds without spending a bundle? Our friends at SmarterTravel have suggested five options for avoiding spring breakers everywhere but the airports without breaking your budget doing so:
Yes, it is still a little bit brisk in this near-arctic locale this time of year, but it's also nearly empty and desperate for your tourist dollars.
While not nearly as hard up as it was during the nation's banking crisis from 2008 to roughly 2011, Iceland is still a fairly inexpensive option around this time of year thanks to IcelandAir flights from Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Newark and elsewhere in the U.S. Their spring hotel-and-airfare packages start at less than $900 and include guided tours around Iceland and stops at the local hot springs. SmarterTravel also points out that this year's increased solar activity is making for some great Northern Lights displays, with rooms at the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel about an hour from Reykjavik in a prime viewing area going for $250 a night.
The Iceland Airwaves music festival isn't until November, but Reykjavik's clubs are open until 8 a.m. or earlier, its pylsa hot dogs are among the best in the world and its paskabjor dark Easter beer only pours around this time of year. While it's great to tour the Golden Circle, take in the glacial falls at Gullfoss and see the site of the world's first parliament -- which is also within the divide between two tectonic plates -- they're all extras in a town with a late bedtime where the coffee, beer, dancing and occasional serving of Minke whale are all a few options for keeping warm before the peak summer months.
The cherry blossoms around Washington, D.C., are lovely in the spring, but they have a tough time comparing with those in the ancient city of Kyoto or elsewhere in Japan.
For U.S. travelers, D.C. is just the closer option that's a little easier on the wallet and less difficult on a limited international vocabulary. The financial issue is somewhat less of a factor this year, though, as airlines add service and offer a whole lot of incentives for U.S. passengers.
Starting March 30, Japan Airlines will double its flights between New York JFK and Tokyo Narita, bringing the total number of weekly flights to 14. JAL is also discounting airfare to 30 cities in Japan during that time and reducing their prices to little less than $100 per flight with its Visit Japan fare. SmarterTravel also noted that Delta and United are running sales that include fares to Japan, but those deals dwindle away as days pass.
The Maple Leafs are in contention for a playoff spot, but Tom Ford and Justin Bieber haven't done much to lift this town's spirits in the past year or so. Crack cocaine, drag racing, mugshots, tabloid headlines -- it's all just so ... American.
Well, Toronto wants to do everything it can to distract you from its most public embarassments and remind you that there's more to this town than unfortunate scandal. The city recently unveiled an 11-mile Downtown Explorer cycling route that just about any visitor can access through the city's Bixi bike bike-share program, with many hotels now offering use of bikes to guests. The Gladstone Hotel, for example, offers a new Bikes-to-Borrow program for a ridiculously cheap way around the city.
Not that it's all that costly to get there around this time of year. Tickets from Chicago to Toronto in May via Porter Airlines are selling for as low as $114 each way for travel in April. Those same seats start at $156 each way a month later. Looking for flights on Atlanta and American, SmarterTravel also found tickets to Toronto starting at $569 in late March. That jumps to $620 by July.
San Antonio, Texas
Yes, there are deals to be had stateside as well, especially in cities that don't tend to be party destinations.
San Antonio has airline service from pretty much everywhere in the U.S. and, when it isn't hosting the Final Four tends to be a fairly tame spot in the spring. It also tends to be incredibly inexpensive, thanks largely to the city's SAVE (San Antonio Vacation Experience) deals on hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and resorts. The Holiday Inn San Antonio Riverwalk lets its rooms go at 15% to 25% off through the program, while spots at the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk go for 25% off and as little as $114 per night.
While peaceful compared with, say, South Padre Island or Daytona Beach, San Antonio isn't exactly dead during this time of year. Fiesta San Antonio runs from April 10-27, while the food festival Culinaria kicks off May 14. When the most happening events on the spring calendar include the San Antonio Zoo opening a new carousel this month to celebrate its 100th birthday and SeaWorld opening its new 13,500-square-foot aviary filled with tropical birds in May, you know San Antonio is throwing a different kind of party
It's not really a "spring" break when D.C. has spent much of late winter getting pelted with as much snow as the rest of the Mid-Atlantic, but the nation's capital still has a lot to offer around this time of year.
If you're looking to book now for spring travel, there are D.C. sales all over the place. American, Delta, Frontier and Southwest have all had recent domestic sales, and while the ones we've been watching have expired, there will likely be another wave of spring-travel sales.
Hotel discounts aren't a tough find, either. Destination DC shows 20% off rates for booking early at the Beacon Hotel and Corporate Quarters and 25% off three or more nights at the Embassy Row Hotel. P.S. All of the museums in the D.C. Smithsonian system as well as the National Gallery of Art are free to visit, as are the city's monuments.
This is a town that's only going to get cheaper, though. SmarterTravel notes that by the end of the year, JetBlue will likely have 12 more slots at Reagan International, allowing it to connect Washington, D.C., to more cities. In a recent MIT study, JetBlue was named the airline that most dramatically lowered fares when it began new service. That's no small deal, since JetBlue is also slated to take permanent ownership of eight slots it has been operating temporarily at DCA.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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