It’s that time of year again, when college students all over the country emerge from snow-covered dorms, cast their books aside and rally to the cry of, “Hit the beach!”
Yes, it’s Spring Break. What follows is a partial list of some of the most popular Spring Break beach destinations – including Cancun, South Padre Island and Panama City Beach – and how to find the best flight deals to get you there.
Most Popular College Spring Break Beaches
You already know about Daytona and Ft. Lauderdale, but here are a few more Spring Break getaway beaches that are extremely popular with students because they’re fun and can be exceptional bargains.
- Cancun, Mexico – Also called the “Mexican Caribbean” or “Mayan Riviera” because of its prized location on the southeast coast of Mexico in the Yucatan Channel, its entertainment options are endless from scuba diving off the second largest reef in the world to exploring Mayan culture by day and a great club scene at night.
- South Padre Island, TX – When you think of playing with dolphins, Texas may not be the first place you’d think of, but it’s just one of the many fun things to do on this popular barrier island located on the Texas gulf coast.
- Virginia Beach, VA – Temperatures may be a little chilly for sunbathing in March (not that that stops anyone) but this beach community also offers lots of nightlife action, great seafood restaurants and attractions like the three mile long boardwalk.
- Myrtle Beach, SC – This South Carolina hot spot boasts 60 miles of beaches and family-friendly attractions like amusement parks and water sports, plus over 100 golf courses. Plenty of dance clubs and live entertainment for singles and couples, too.
- Panama City Beach, FL – Spring time temps in the 70’s draw the sunbathers, but this the area is also renowned for sport fishing plus a lively club scene that’s a popular venue for touring bands. Hit the dance floor, swim with dolphins (yes, here, too) or just relax on those white sandy beaches.
- Cabo San Lucas – This popular Mexican resort on the Southern tip of Baja California is a mecca for snorkeling and diving, plus great nightlife, food and shopping.
Note on Mexico and Caribbean beaches: Anytime you leave the U.S., be sure to check with Travel.State.Gov for safety tips relevant to your destination country.
How to Get to Spring Break Destinations
Check out larger airports to popular beaches as well as the closest as bigger facilities sometimes have cheaper airfare.
Flights to Cancun, Mexico
Cancun International Airport (CUN): This is the country’s second busiest airport (after Mexico City) and is served by disount airlines like AirTran, Frontier, Spirit and Virgin America plus numerous other U.S. and international airlines.
Flights to South Padre Island
Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport (BRO): The closest airport to the beaches, this facility is served by American Eagle and Continental Express.
Valley International Airport, Harlingen TX (HRL): This airport is 40 miles from the beaches, and is served by Continental, Southwest and Sun Country.
Flights to Virginia Beach
Norfolk International Airport (ORF): This airport, just 18 miles from Virginia Beach, is served by discount carrier Southwest, plus American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.
Richmond International Airport (RIC): A two hour drive from the beach, Richmond is served by discount carriers AirTran and JetBlue, as well as several other U.S. carriers and Air Canada.
If you don’t mind an even longer drive, you may wish to check out airports in Washington, D.C. to see if prices are cheap enough to make the inconvenience worth it.
Flights to Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR): This airport is served by discount airlines Allegiant and Spirit as well as several larger carriers.
Wilmington International Airport (ILM): This airport located 75 miles away in North Carolina is served by Allegiant, Delta, and US Airways.
You may also wish to check prices to Charleston, SC and Charlotte, NC as well.
Flights to Panama City Beach
Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP): This brand new airport serving the Panama Beach area features flights on discount airline Southwest, plus Delta.
Pensacola Regional Airport (PNS): Located a two hour drive to the west, Pensacola is served by discount airline AirTran, plus American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.
Flights to Cabo San Lucas
Los Cabos International Airport (SJD): The airport is served by low cost carriers such as Frontier, Sun Country and Virgin America, plus other U.S. airlines and Canadian carriers as well as several Mexican airlines.
Maximize your savings by following as many of these tips as you can.
- Don’t Wait to Book Flights: Spring Break is an increasingly popular vacation period; don’t get shut out of a seat by waiting ’til the last minute to make reservations.
- Set Airfare Alerts to Multiple Airports: Cheaper fares may be found some distance from your favorite beach; set alerts for all airports you’re willing and able to fly to.
- Shop for Flights on Tuesday Afternoons: The cheapest day to shop for airfare is almost always Tuesday at 3 p.m. Eastern.
- Avoid Connections in Cold Weather Cities: Don’t lose a single day at the beach by getting stuck in a storm in Chicago or New York; when connections are necessary, try booking stops in relatively warm weather cities like Dallas or Atlanta.
- Know the Airline Baggage Fees: Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit charge a carryon bag fee but most of the other airlines do not. Pack light and save.
Okay, start booking – and don’t forget to pack the sunscreen.
In the next issue of GLF: Study Abroad Programs
Attention college students: Want a job when you graduate? Then participate in a study abroad program. That’s the message from a 2013 survey by Student Universe which has been helping college kids travel the world since 1999. (Read all about it in the March/April issue!)