With the cold air approaching and the holidays behind us, it's time to make peace with the fact that all we have left are the short, frigid days of winter and the countdown until spring. Bah humbug. But, wouldn't it be better if you actually had something to count down to?
A convergence of factors make now the perfect time to start planning the spring break of your dreams. For example, a study from CheapAir.com concluded that the best time to buy a domestic airline ticket is 54 days in advance, or 7½ weeks out. Depending on when your spring break falls, that sweet spot could be approaching faster than you think. Along with airfare deals, hotels and resorts in popular spring break destinations offer frequent sales that you can pounce on if you're paying attention. Need more guidance? Keep reading for more spring break do's and don'ts in 2015.
Consider more than one location
Lots of places are known for their epic spring break shenanigans -- think Cancún, Mexico, Panama City, Florida and Daytona Beach, Florida. However, there are a ton of other destinations that are also perfect for spring break in their own unique, and often quieter, way (Austin, Texas, Yellowstone and the District of Columbia are just a few that come to mind). Whether you're most interested in finding the best price or looking to try something new, consider a destination off the beaten path or even somewhere you've never been. The more destinations you look at, the more likely it is you'll find the perfect spot.
Shop around for the best deals
Since spring break is a popular time for family travel, prices for lodging and airfare tend to inflate, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to save. For example, you might find that rates surge drastically in some locations during this time of year, but only rise modestly in others. The easiest way to find out if you're scoring a great deal is to explore pricing for some of your favorite destinations through a site like Expedia.com, Hotels.com or Priceline.com. You may have your heart on Hawaii, but what if Cancún costs half as much? You won't know unless you check.
Consider off-peak times and days
If you have more than one week off for spring break, avoid traveling during the weekends when prices are sky-high. Instead, depart and arrive on a weekday. In addition to finding more lodging availability at your chosen destination, you may also score better airfare deals by avoiding the weekend rush.
Go somewhere you hated last time
It's easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to travel, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things. If you've gone somewhere once and found it to be just average, consider trying a new locale this year. Online travel sites can help you explore a plethora of destinations that could meet your criteria, whether you want a beach vacation or a week at a quiet mountain retreat. But you won't see anything new unless you entertain your options first.
Ignore deals and discounts
Just because you've saved money at one destination in the past doesn't make it a good deal this year. In fact, deals and discounts are often location-specific and tend to change due to a variety of factors. When you start shopping for airfare and lodging deals, search for special deals and packages that can save you both time and money.
Forget about alternate lodging options
Gone are the days when families simply picked a hotel and showed up. These days, travelers have much more to choose from, ranging from all-inclusive resorts to beachfront condos. To browse what's out there condo-wise, take a look at popular vacation rental sites like VRBO, HomeAway and Airbnb. When it comes to all-inclusive resorts, explore your options on popular online travel websites like Expedia or even on CheapCaribbean.com.
They say that your vacation is what you make it, but that doesn't mean that you can't "make it" better than it could have been with some proper planning and research. If you want to have the best spring break yet, spend some time browsing popular destinations and consider doing things differently this year.
About the author: Holly Johnson is the founder of travel website, Travel Blue Book, which covers travel experiences ranging from cruising to fine dining. Holly also writes about frugal living, travel and budgeting on her other website, Club Thrifty, and at Get Rich Slowly, Frugal Travel Guy, Personal Capital and many other online publications.