Wanderlust: Spring Break Dreamin’

Opinion by Johnny Bartz
Feb. 25, 2011, 12:25 a.m.

Wanderlust: Spring Break Dreamin’I don’t know about you, but I’m getting spring fever — spring break fever that is. At just over three weeks away, it’s not too late to make travel plans.

First, you have to decide where you’re going. Consider if you want to go someplace warm or not. An “unconventional” destination can be just as hot as the Mexican beach if you want it to be. Also think about your price range. Factor in at least $150 per day on a vacation, adding on your “social dues” on top of that.

My picks for this year are Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Havana or Costa Rica. A cursory flight search says that all these destinations are reasonable given their normal average prices. For Mexico consider Cabo or Cancun. At this point, you’ll probably want to stay away from more upscale Mexican resort towns, such as Acapulco, Mazatlan, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta — flights are just too expensive. If you’re willing to spend a bit more on the flight, check out Bangkok or Buenos Aires. Both places are cheap once you get there.

Within the U.S., you might want to just get away to NYC or go up to Seattle. Miami, Panama City and San Padre Island are, of course, our spring break destinations. I would avoid Honolulu if you haven’t already made reservations. Flights and hotels are too expensive, and while it is very nice, things are very pricey. It’s better off-season or on your parents’ dime. Closer to home, there is nothing wrong with spending a few days up in SF followed by catching a few rays in SoCal. Call me Captain Obvious, but staying in the U.S. can be also be an issue if you are underage.

When looking for flights, like many, I prefer Kayak.com.  Fares are generally 50 percent higher during the week of spring break than those of the rest of the month, but if you are creative in your dates, you can usually work around this. If you are done with finals early, try leaving a few days before and then coming back early. Or you may conversely want to leave a few days into spring break and come back late. The first few days of class aren’t all that important anyway, right?

The plane ticket is only half of the trip, right? Well, not necessarily. It saves you a lot of money if you can stay with someone you know, but pay for a hostel if you have to. Just make sure the place checks out on HostelWorld or a related site before you go. I’ll never forget the Pirate Hostel in Rio de Janeiro that I was supposed to stay at — there were actually bugs crawling on the mattress, and as I first entered the communal room, a dog took a number two in the corner. Needless to say, my friend distracted the owner of the “lovely” hostel as I grabbed all of my things and tore down the street, not looking back.

Despite it all, I tend to go the cheap route on lodging because honestly, tell me how long you are going to stay in the hotel. Actually, my only real criteria are that things don’t get stolen and no bedbugs. Albeit a bit unwarranted, my largest fear in life is bedbugs —  I’m itchy just thinking about them. I’m not even comforted knowing that all beds have microscopic dust mites — “bugs” — crawling around and that bedbugs don’t carry disease. Never put your bag on, next to or especially under your bed. It’s a good idea to immediately wash your clothes upon returning home. For security, bring a small padlock to lock your things. More importantly, leave your unnecessary valuables at home!

Now you’re ready for that spring break you’ve always dreamed of. If you do go to Cabo, be sure to check out College Beach. It’s just like a frat party with more light, everyone in swimwear and all with a tinge of sunburned pink. Don’t expect a cultural experience in Cabo — or any other Mexico beach destination for that matter. Nearly everyone you see will be American and also intoxicated — at any hour of the day. Resist the tendency to get judgey, and either join the crowd or just vicariously partake in that wet t-shirt contest.

One word of caution — drinking and being in the sun all day may seem like the perfect mix, but much like drinking on a long flight, you must drink plenty of water as well to avoid feeling exceedingly uncomfortable. Don’t outdo yourself too early — think special dinners. I’m sorry, but passing out for the night at 6:30 p.m. is not classy.

Whatever you end up doing over break, have fun and relax. You deserve it. If all else fails, remember that all of spring quarter at Stanford is like an eternal spring break. So if you’re not quite in speedo shape, you’ve got four weeks. See you at the claw.

Johnny wants to hear about your cures (past or future) for “the fever.” Drop a line at [email protected].

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