Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Break Travel Tips

Spring Break is swiftly approaching and students are already starting to leave Bloomington to escape to tropical paradises or to get some TLC at home. Luckily for me, my family has a lot of experience with booking travel, so I have managed to put together an awesome Spring Break trip for a fairly low price! I've decided to share these wonderful tips with you so that you'll have more cash to spend on souvenirs.

1. Book Early, Book Early, Book Early!
This is the #1 rule of travel! Start thinking about where you want to go for Spring Break around Thanksgiving. You will likely be unable to purchase plane tickets so early, but start giving the thought some serious consideration. Talk to friends and family, make a plan. That way, when January rolls around, you will have both the money AND the knowledge to book your flight and hotel to wherever you would like to go!

2. Fly Southwest
I have done a lot of flying in the past year, mostly thanks to the fact that I am dating someone who lives 700 miles away. Many students flock south for Spring Break, and if you are heading in that direction I HIGHLY encourage flying Southwest. Their no-nonsense policies (that include Bags Fly Free and No Change Fees) make flying a breeze, and the best thing about flying SW is the complete lack of hierarchy and prioritization of passengers. When I flew Delta, I was always in the last group to board because they called five different passenger classifications (including their Platinum, Gold and Silver SkyMiles members, then First class, etc.) before even getting to the Zones, of which there were four. It was a miserable experience and I always left feeling like I was nothing more than a little lining for the airline's pockets. When I fly Southwest, I NEVER feel less important than the next passenger, and they board according to check-in time. The best part? There are no assigned seats: seating is open, and is on a first-come first-serve basis.

3. Know the Roaming Gnome
Through the years I have used different websites to book flights and hotel rooms, mostly for the convenience of it. However, this Spring Break I discovered an incredible secret: Travelocity's "Top Secret Hotels." Travelocity keeps a list of hotels (ranked by stars and price) available in major destinations that go unnamed until the room is booked for the night. This is because the rates are so low, the hotels cannot be identified in order to maintain their regular rates. To a college student, what could be more fun?! Booking through Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels feels as though you are a spy on a secret mission who will only receive the coordinates of your next assignment when you confirm your purchase. I wound up getting a $300/night room for only $60! I was absolutely delighted and ecstatic. ALL around wonderful reviews for Top Secret Hotels! Give it a try, I do not think you will be disappointed.

4. Invest in AAA
For a low fee, you can become a AAA member and then reap the nearly constant benefits of having a membership card. In the past year alone, I would argue that AAA saved me $200 in discounts at amusement parks, restaurants and hotels. As a member, you will also have access to travel packages designed specifically for AAA. There are other perks as well: you can download an app that will point out all of the locations you can receive discounts in your area, and request trip information from your local branch. This can definitely come in handy for Spring Break, especially if you are traveling to an unknown area!

Enjoy Spring Break, and above all be smart. Be sure to be safe and have lots of fun!

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