8 less-expensive spring break destinations

Last-minute spring break deals can still be found in Mexico, Georgia and France

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

Like groceries, new cars and concert tickets, travel is looking expensive in 2023. Hotel prices are up. Airfare is, too. Even cruises are getting costly. That’s not great news if you’re just starting to consider a spring getaway.

“If people haven’t planned their spring break by now, it is going to be very expensive,” says Jan Jones, lecturer of travel, hospitality and tourism at the University of New Haven.

But those prices aren’t slowing travelers down this spring break. “Young people specifically don’t care. They want to travel,” Jones says. And that determination to travel is another factor keeping prices high. It’s also creating scarcity; hotels are filling up, and restaurant reservations are disappearing.

Despite high prices and less availability, Hayley Berg, lead economist at Hopper, encourages travelers not to give up on bargain-hunting. “There are definitely still deals available,” she says, “especially if you are flexible.”

You could use affordable hotel rates to dictate your trip, following the right room rates for a staycation or a stay nearby. Berg says that, although hotel prices are high overall, Hopper is still seeing deals pop up for last-minute bookings.

Or you could skip the hotels and airplanes altogether by taking the bus to nearby beaches or campsites, or giving a bike camping trip a go. (Weather permitting, of course.)

Although you may be tempted to maximize your travel time — booking the first day you can leave town and coming home the Sunday before you go back to work — altering your schedule could be the key to cheaper flights. Laura Lindsay, global travel trends expert at Skyscanner, says day-to-day price differences can be significant, so browse fares to depart or return on less popular days, such as Tuesday or Wednesday. Berg says flying those days can save you $100 off domestic airfare or upward of $150 on international tickets.

There’s a little time left to save for a spring trip. Your best bet is to set price alerts for spring break dates and destinations you have in mind, and follow the deals.

Caribbean trips are expensive, so I went to the Caribbean of Maryland


Instead of Hawaii, try the Yucatán Peninsula

Mexico has something for every kind of spring break traveler: sunny beaches, adventure in tropical rainforests, culture in buzzing cities or calm in charming villages. But no region offers great airfare deals from all over the United States quite like Cancún.

But don’t fly in and stay put, and definitely avoid ultra-busy Playa del Carmen. Use Cancún as a jumping-off point to rent a car and explore less-touristy parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, such as Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state and the place to be for admiring architecture and learning about Mayan history, or Puerto Morelos, a tiny beach town with amazing seafood.

Natalia de la Rosa Hilario, a food writer and operations leader for the Mexico food-tour company Club Tengo Hambre, recommends heading to the “super cool” fishing village of Celestún, famous for its flamingo-filled nature reserve. En route to Celestún, de la Rosa Hilario recommends pulling over to take a dip in the area’s famous cenotes, or sinkhole freshwater pools. They’ll have facilities for you to change, swim and get back on the road refreshed.

How to eat on vacation without feeling terrible


Instead of Nashville, try Denver

According to Priceline data for domestic travel between March 1 and April 30, Denver is the most affordable destination for both hotels and airfare.

There’s some ski season left in nearby mountains, and in the city you’ll find temperatures are still cool, with March and April highs in the 50s and 60s. In lieu of lounging by the pool, try hiking with fewer crowds.

At Ball Arena, sports fans have their pick of NHL, NBA and NCAA men’s basketball tournament games (opening-weekend games will be held in Denver on March 17 and 19), and the Colorado Rockies host the Washington Nationals for their home opener Thursday, April 6.

For those who want to partake in legal pot, the cannabis tourism industry includes private or group tours of the city’s dispensaries and grow houses.

We asked: What happens if TSA finds weed in my bag?


Instead of Italy, try Spain

For those on the East Coast, Berg found spring deals on flights to Spain, including Barcelona, its most-visited city, and island nightlife capital Ibiza.

You could fly in and have an incredible time in either, or use your trip to dig into the small but mighty northern region of La Rioja, famous for its red wine. Stay in Logroño, La Rioja’s capital city, where you’ll find wineries within city limits, friendly locals and incredible bars and restaurants.


Instead of Miami, try Vegas

It’s no surprise that Las Vegas is the most-booked domestic spring break destination for both Hopper and Skyscanner. With spring highs in the 70s and 80s, Vegas is a no-brainer for a warm-weather escape, plus it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck cities in terms of hotel rates and airfare. Skyscanner ranks Vegas as the cheapest destination for Americans traveling in April, and it’s Priceline’s second-most-affordable city for flights and hotels in March and April (just behind Denver).

You don’t have to go wild, either. To avoid the chaos of pool parties and night clubs, head off-Strip for a calmer spring break in the sun.


Instead of the Caribbean, try Florida beaches

Despite the recent devastation of Hurricane Ian, Florida is set to be one of the most popular spring break destinations in the country — and not just to its big cities.

Destin and Anna Maria are among Vacasa’s top vacation searches between March and late April, and rentals in panhandle beach towns along State Road 30A are the among the most booked for family spring break trips.

Skyscanner data shows Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale rank among the cheapest domestic destinations to fly into. Travelers can then browse for hotel or vacation rental deals within driving distance of those hubs to cobble together the most affordable trip.


Instead of Paris — actually, try Paris

Both Skiplagged — an airfare search engine for cheap flights — and the low-cost Icelandic airline Play have deals from the East Coast to Paris this April. And believe it or not, it is possible to enjoy the French capital on a budget.

For accommodations, look for private rooms at hostels or hotels in the city’s outer arrondissements near public transportation stations. Berg says the median hotel rate in Paris during spring break is $297 per night, but there have also been prices as low as $95.

Then you can get strategic with your sightseeing, such as researching free or discounted museum visits (for example, the Musée d’Orsay is free every first Sunday of the month) or using free audio guides to go on your own walking tours.

When it comes to eating and drinking, stick to sandwiches, and remember that “bistros” are usually cheaper than a “brasserie” or “restaurant.”


Instead of Cape Cod, try Tybee Island, Ga.

With affordable flights to Atlanta from the Midwest, put Georgia on your spring break list.

Eat your way through Savannah, where highs are in the 70s in March and April, or enjoy Georgia nature camping on Jekyll Island or Lake Lanier, or you could grab a sweater and head to Tybee Island for a “coastal grandmother” spring break at the beach.


Instead of San Diego, try the Baja Peninsula

For spring breakers on the West Coast, head south to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula for a shoulder-season adventure. Travelers can drive down the coast from the border to Rosarito for surfing or picking up beautiful ceramics, or check out Puerto Nuevo to eat its famous lobster.

De la Rosa Hilario encourages travelers to head south to stay in La Paz (which is also easily accessible from Los Cabos airport). Not as upscale as Todos Santos, and more local feeling than Cabo, La Paz is a favorite of de la Rosa Hilario’s for great food and beaches. Plus, gray-whale-watching season runs through March, although you may get lucky into April.

More travel tips

Trends: Japan | Cool all-inclusives | Let ChatGPT plan your day | Is it safe to go to Mexico? | How to be a good weed tourist

The basics: Better travel 101 | Cash-free tipping | Should you always book direct? | Traveling with kids | Decide where to stay | A pre-trip checklist of house chores | How to get your passport | Avoid getting sick | Budget for your trip | Do you have the right travel insurance? | How to travel with pets

Flying: Fly like a decent human being | Gear to pack | How to set airfare price alerts | PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR | Can I fly with weed? | AirTag your luggage | Airport parking 101 | Deal with airport crowds | Why you should stalk airfare after booking | Pet flying 101

Driving: 9 tips for road tripping with a baby | Try the Airbnb of rental cars | Rent an EV | Do I need an international license to drive abroad? | Avoid big rental car fees | Alternatives to flying with your pet

National Parks: A comprehensive guide | Where you need reservations | Lesser known parks | Parks etiquette

Greener travel: New rules of responsible travel | Bike to the airport | How environmentalists travel | How to find ‘greener’ flights | Make your travel better for the planet

Go by train: Overnight Amtraks | Grand Canyon | Vietnam | Harper’s Ferry

In case of emergency: | Make a backup plan | Manage airport disasters | Your flight is canceled | How to get a human on the phone | What to do if your car gets stuck | Find your lost luggage | How to get a refund for a canceled flight | Deal with a bad hotel room | When you’re bumped off your flight | If you get rebooked without your family | What are my rebooking rights? | Recover a lost item at TSA, the airport or your flight