Last-minute, budget-friendly, Spring Break destinations

For American teachers on a traditional 9-month contract, Spring Break might be the most needed of all breaks throughout the academic year. It’s been too long since Winter Break. Summer’s close enough for the kids to start thinking about it, but not close enough for us to be excited about it. State testing is just around the corner. This is the calm before the storm!

Even though I know my academic calendar, I always get somewhat surprised when the breaks come. I’m always somewhere between, “FINALLY,” and, “Wait… already?”

This sometimes leads to a lack of forethought about where and how to spend my Spring Break. Though admittedly, not having kids makes it a whole lot easier to wing it at the last minute.

In this article, I’ll cover the most affordable Spring Break destinations in and near the U.S. right now, for the 2020 season.

Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Known as the “City of Sin” – but it’s much more than that!

It’s no surprise that Las Vegas is a huge destination for bachelorette parties, girls’ trips and fun weekend getaways. Most people know that it’s a haven for nightlife. What most don’t consider though, is venturing a bit outside of the Strip to see what the area has to offer. And there’s a LOT!

The draw: Vegas is SO AFFORDABLE during the week! It’s not uncommon to see room rates under $30 nightly if you want to stay near the Strip. If you’re willing to spring for a bit more (still under $50 nightly!), you can get a much nicer place. This was a search for the week of March 15th, 2020, to give you an idea.

The weather’s gorgeous during this time, too – and there actually are several all-ages and budget-friendly attractions! You just need to know where to find them. ;

Free/low-fee attractions: Here’s a quick list of free and affordable things to check out while you’re in Vegas:

  • Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden. This is a free attraction that’s pretty to explore.
  • Flamingo Wildlife Habitat. This would be great for families with small children, or for anyone who loves animals! The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat is located on 15 lush acres near all the action, adjacent to Caesar’s Palace. Sprinkles Cupcakes is nearby, too, which kids and dessert-lovers alike will enjoy!
  • Circus-Circus. Note that the actual rides are pretty expensive, and probably not worth it for kids or adults. But the circus acts are free! They start daily at 11am
  • The Fremont Street Experience. This light and sound show is quintessetial Vegas! The show itself is free – though if you want to try something else out, you can zipline above with SlotZilla.
  • Streetmosphere at the Venetian Hotel & Casino. One thing I love about Vegas is you can feel like you’re travelling all over the world in just a few days! Streetmosphere takes place at the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, where you really do feel like you’re in olde tyme Venice, Italy. The shops themselves denote an attraction, but they go up a notch by putting on performances by talented and classically trained actors, singers and musicians. If you want to splurge, you can look into gondola rides or Madam Tussaud’s, also located at the Venetian.
  • Volcano Eruptions at Mirage. Volcanoes are just neat. See one for free outside of the Mirage Hotel!
  • GameWorks Arcade and Playground at Townsquare. Great for families with young children.
  • Hershey’s promises free chocolate samples. Mmm!

The Great Outdoors: If you’re willing to drive a bit out of the city proper, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views, and an array of recreational activities. Springs Mountain Recreation Area, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, Valley of Fire State Park, River Mountains Loop Trail, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and several hot springs are all somewhat close-by. Whether you like hiking, fishing, rock climbing or hot springs, you can find it near Vegas!

Food: Vegas is known for it’s top-notch buffets and dining options, but there are a ton of family-friendly choices as well. Somebody else already did a great job compiling a list of the buffets. Check them out here!

As far as a personal recommendation, I visited Vegas back in June and have to recommend the Aria. The food was just incredible, and there are a ton of options. I wish I had thought to share more photos with you all!

I love when you can have macaroni & cheese, enchiladas, crab and steak in the same meal.

San Diego, California, United States
More than the beach and Sea World!

San Diego isn’t exactly a location that’s under the radar. Families have been going there on vacations for decades! The challenge is, how to do so in a way that is budget-friendly. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy to spend way too much money. Thankfully, it’s not impossible to spend less and have a great time there!

The draw: Spring is actually not the ideal time to go. The water’s still freezing, there may still be some stray rain showers, and the marine layer starts thickening up in the mornings (though it’s neat to watch it clear, when you have time!). But with highs in the mid 70s-80s throughout most of March and April, it’s worth considering.

While it’s a bit more than Las Vegas, rooms are still very reasonably priced compared to areas popular at this time like Cancun, Phoenix and Palm Springs.

Free/low-fee attractions: Finding free and low-cost attractions in San Diego is a bit harder, but it’s not impossible. Here are some I was able to find from a bit of searching:

  • Balboa Park. There is so much to here. The Spanish architecture is beautiful, the museums are genuinely interesting, and there are several coffee shops to stop and get a treat if you’d like.
  • Beaches, of course. San Diego has at least 30 public beaches that are free to the public. Do be mindful of where you park, though.
  • Seaport Village. This is a cute place to walk around, relax, enjoy the ocean and maybe have dinner or ice cream.
  • Tidepooling! I still enjoy this as an adult, but kids will really love finding anemones, fish and crabs in the pools. Keep an eye on the tide times for where you’d like to go. La Jolla and Hotel del Coronado are popular for this.
  • Farmers’ Markets. La Jolla Open Aire Market takes place on Sunday mornings at La Jolla Elementary School. Little Italy Mercado has one on Saturday mornings/afternoons, and you can catch one at North Park on Wednesdays, late throughout the late afternoon/early evening. And there are a ton more, so there’s surely one near wherever you end up staying!
  • Stargazing. On the first Wednesday of every month, following the monthly “Sky Tonight” planetarium show in the Fleet Science Center’s Space Theater, members of the San Diego Astronomy Association set up telescopes in front of the Fleet Center building, by the large fountain in Balboa Park.
  • Cruisin’ Grand Car/art shows. From April-September, you can catch these free shows, where people wander to check out the art and neat cars. If your Spring Break is late enough, you might be able to get to one of these.
  • The 59-mile scenic drive. This is the ultimate road trip to get a feel for the beauty this area has to offer.

The Great Outdoors: If your family likes views or photography, San Diego gets another point as far as destinations go. Considering that beautiful weather, coastline and theme parks are the big reasons people visit San Diego, I won’t go too much into this one. Check out this list that somebody else has already put together.

Food: Being that San Diego is a major metropolitan area, you can have all kinds of food at pretty much any time of the day or night. What San Diego does exceptionally well at, however, is making the journey just as pleasant as the destination. There are several areas that are just nice to be in. Check out restaurants in Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter, or Seaport Village. And peruse this list of neat, family-friendly places!

About Author

I'm just another teacher who loves to travel! I currently live and teach on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, which is a destination in it's own right. I love discussing, sharing and creating opportunities for teachers to travel farther and more often.

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