11 Spring Break Budget Busters to Avoid


Planning to whoop it up on spring break? Let your fun flag fly without obliterating your bank account by avoiding these getaway budget busters.

1. Lodging

Even now that I'm in my mid-30s (that's the first time I've written that — gimme a minute), I still prefer inexpensive lodging to high-end hotels when I travel, at least when it's on my own dime. As an alternative, I opt for short-term apartment rentals (like Airbnb or VRBO) or even crash with friends to help save a ton of money that, when you think about it, I'm just sleeping away.

Anita Covic, destination specialist TripTogether, a travel site that helps travelers meet other travelers, also thinks this route is the way to go.

"Cutting costs doesn't have to be stressful, and one of the biggest costs that can be cut is lodging," she says. "Personally, I think hostels are a great alternative to expensive hotels. Airbnb is a great option for a large group of people. Eating out can add up as well. Try booking a hostel or Airbnb [rental] with a kitchen and stock up on groceries that can be easily converted to quick breakfasts and lunches."

2. Airfare

Save on airfare by knowing when to shop for plane tickets, and use a multifaceted approach by consulting discount sites and the airlines proper to see who offers the best price. You also can avoid spending full price for airfare by setting alerts for deals. If you happen to earn frequent flyer miles, check out the new award travel search engine PEX+ to find the best price on an award ticket.

3. Eating Out

When you're on vacay, it's easy to get lax on your waistline and your wallet. Keep both of these areas in check by curbing your cravings for junk food (which might go hand in hand with those hangovers, by the way) while trying to make more of your meals wherever you're staying (made easier with a kitchen). Find ways to munch for free instead of popping into a restaurant, café, or fast-food joint for every meal.

"Dining out at new restaurants is one of the best parts of traveling, but there's no need to eat out three meals a day," reminds saving expert Andrea Woroch. "Many hotels and hostels offer some sort of free breakfast, typically consisting of fruit, cereal, and pastries, which is plenty to start your day. Sandwiches are an easy meal to prepare in-room, which you can then pack as lunch for a day exploring the city. When looking for a spot to eat, use apps to track down coupons for nearby restaurants and search for daily dining deals via Groupon Now."

4. Alcohol

Oh, alcohol. It's the stuff that many great spring break memories are made of — but it can quickly take your budget from hero to zero if you're not careful. To reduce how much you're spending on booze, remember one word: pregame.

"Drinks at bars and restaurants are very expensive, so if you're planning to do some drinking, try to plan a get-together somewhere where you can bring your own alcohol — like someone's hotel room — before you go out," advises The Stave Diaries travel blogger Stefanie Parks. "This way you can get your alcohol from a grocery or convenience store and won't have to splurge for more expensive drinks while you're out."

5. Entertainment and Activities

When you're traveling, you want to see and do as much as possible within your destination. However, an action-packed schedule comes with a cost. Before you embark, take time to review entertainment and activity options and identify those that are most important and affordable to you.

"There are plenty of free things you can do on your trip, like a day at the beach, viewing art galleries, or simply exploring city streets," Woroch says. "You can even skip the pricey guided tours and take a self-guided walking tour for free. Print city guides from resources like City Walking Guide or download a walking tour guide on your mobile device using apps like Rick Steves Europe Travel and City Maps and Walks."

6. Hidden Fees

The money trap is right there in the name — hidden fees — and these can add up to a substantial amount when all is said and done, slowly chipping away at your budget along the way.

Saveful.com's Louis DeNicola details some of the more common offenders.

"Rental car companies can charge around $10/day for a collision damage waiver, but many credit cards include that coverage free of charge," he points out. (See also: What Does Car Rental Insurance Really Cover On Your Credit Card?)

Travelers should also look for hidden hotel-related fees. Some hotels in popular tourist destinations charge a resort fee on top of the standard room rate. Hotels may offer extra perks, such as free Wi-Fi, to members of their loyalty program — even brand new members.

"Some hotels' minibars have weight sensors and you might get charged even if you didn't drink or eat anything," DeNicola adds. "Review your bill before leaving the hotel."

7. Convenience-Store Goodies

When you have a packed spring break schedule of exciting activities, it's not only easy to eat out more than you normally would, but popping into convenience stores for quick snacking items also is more prevalent. Two dollars here and there for bottles of water, coffee, candy, and chips may seem like insignificant expenses, but if you're doing it every day, you'll find that you're wasting a decent chunk of change.

"Limit the excess you spend on drinks and snacks by packing fruit or granola bars and a refillable water bottle to stay fueled and hydrated during a long day of exploring," Woroch suggests.

8. Mobile Data

I recently traveled to Montreal for the New Year's holiday and I was conscious to turn off my mobile roaming and data as soon as we crossed the border from the United States into Canada. But would you believe that when I received my bill for that period there was $20 of international charges on it? Apparently I wasn't fast enough, or the networks got crossed as I approached the border, and I incurred the fees I was trying to avoid. And that was within seconds to minutes. Can you imagine what I would have been charged had I left it one for a few hours or days?

Woroch warns against a similar situation.

"To avoid pricey data-overage fees, turn off pop-up notifications and use a Free Wi-Fi Finder app to track down local hotspots. Otherwise, turn on your phone's Wi-Fi locator to find a free Internet connection wherever you are and take this time to post pictures and reply to emails."

She also recommends downloading any maps you may need ahead of time.

As an extra tip, if you have an experience like I did during my Montreal trip, be sure to give your wireless carrier a call to explain the situation. If you're a loyal customer, they may waive those minor, erroneous fees like they did for me, but you won't know unless you pick up the phone to fight it.

9. Photo Memories From Secondary Sources

Photo ops are everywhere these days, and there are plenty of companies that are cashing in on them, like pictures you get at the beach and those funny snapshots at the end of a thrill ride. Don't fall for it. You and every single person you know is armed with a phone at their fingertips. Set up backgrounds and strike your own poses to enjoy free shots that you can post to social media immediately or print when you get home.

10. Souvenirs

I have a rule at my house than nothing comes home from vacation that isn't either some form of art or a useful object — which means to say that no junk souvenirs, like spoons, shot glasses, and other bric-a-brac, are welcome. My photos are good enough memories of my time on vacation, and they help me save money, space in my luggage, and a backache from having to carry otherwise heavy objects.

Blogger Barb Webb provides other easy ways to cut back on souvenir spending.

"Theme parks, hotels, and restaurants often have buttons, stickers, postcards, and other trinkets they gift for free to patrons," she says. "Stop by the local tourism office and you'll find everything from free coloring books to posters and key chains to add to your souvenir collection. Also look for local extension agencies that will have free treasures like recipe cards, calendars, and other small items."

To turn photos into more organized memories like I do, Woroch suggests using the Keepsayk app to organize pictures and create a photo book, or use deal sites like Coupon Sherpa to find coupon codes from photo book makers like Snapfish, which usually offers steep discounts.

11. Gas

Gas is affordable now, but we don't know where it will be in a few weeks or months when we're more on the go. Even while it's inexpensive, you still want to score the best deals possible.

"There are a few ways to reduce your fuel costs, including using the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest gas nearby; paying with cash to avoid the extra 10 cents for credit card charges; and using your warehouse club membership to save up to 30 cents per gallon at their fuel pumps," Woroch says.

On a personal note, I've been visiting BP stations almost exclusively to fill up at the pump for a few months, and I use its loyalty card to rack up points. Just the other day, I received a generous kickback of $.63 per gallon — yes, you read that correctly — which resulted in a total savings of about $10 for a complete fill-up. My total cost was $18 and change for a full tank of premium gas, all because I swiped my loyalty card consistently. Totally worth the two seconds it takes.

Are you headed away for spring break? How do you plan to save? Where will you splurge? I'd love to hear about your vacation plans in the comments below.

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