When you think of the most classic, quintessential spring break locations, Cancun, Mexico has to be one of the firsts to come to mind. What’s not to love? There’s authentic Mexican food, breathtaking views, one of a kind nightlife, and beaches that seem to stretch on for miles and miles. Since the days of MTV televising student’s spring break vacations, Cancun has been the go to spot for college students to get away between semesters. However, when you are a college student just barely stretching your meal plan enough to cover the end of the fall semester, going on a vacation can seem like an unnecessary luxury. Between hotels and entertainment, it can start to feel like a decent vacation will mean staying in sketchy hotels and eating one meal a day, which will likely be McDonald’s. But, like anything that seems out of reach, there is always a way to cut minor corners and make your dream, spring break vacation a reality. Before you check out flights, rooms, and calculate how many 6 packs you’ll have to skip to save up enough money before spring break; grab 3 of your friends and get ready for a trip you’ll never forget.
The key to finding inexpensive and affordable flights is to book as early as you can and to travel outside of the peak season. Booking your flight should be the first part of your budget that you spend. Since you are aiming to head out there for spring break, it can be difficult to avoid the peak season exactly. The best times to travel to Cancun, while saving a bit of money, is between February and April which is conveniently placed right in the middle of most college and university spring breaks. The closer you get to your actual travel dates, the higher the prices will be. Do your research online to find the best flights for you and your crew and book your tickets as soon as you can. All schools have a different spring break schedule but if you decide to head to Cancun around March, when the weather is warm and as close to paradise as you can imagine, a 5 day, 4 night stay from 3/20-3/24 could work perfectly. For a round trip flight leaving from New York to Cancun, Mexico during this time frame you can find trips for as little as $320. Throw in an extra $50 for a ride to your hotel after your flight, split 4 ways of course, and you are looking at starting total of $345.
If you didn’t know, people aren’t staying in hotels anymore. This is especially true if you are working with a strict budget without too much room for flexibility. When you are hitting a popular vacation destination like Cancun, you can expect the hotels to be overpriced and not worth the money. The closer your hotel is to the action, the more cash you and your squad are going to have to cough up. This is a money hole that will certainly eat up your budget if you let it. Skip the overpriced hotels and jump straight to an Airbnb. You and your friends can get an entire apartment or house to yourselves for your entire vacation and feel like you are staying in a comfy home instead of a stuffy, slightly sketchy hotel room.The best part is that you can find Airbnb’s located near all of the party action at a much cheaper rate than most hotels. You should take some time to research an Airbnb that is located in desirable area that also fits your budget. To get an idea of how much you are looking at spending, an Airbnb during this time frame can cost as little as $98 per night (like this one). When you throw in the taxes and fees, you are looking at a total of $495. When you divide that total by the 4 people going on the trip, you are responsible for $123.75. A total steal!
What’s a vacation without amazing food to eat? Cancun is a mix of fine dining and some of the best street vendor foods you will ever taste. Whether you want to go on a food adventure or just want to get full on endless streams of tacos, there is a budget friendly option for everyone’s tastes. One of the premiere places to eat while you are visiting Cancun is El Fish Fritandas. The atmosphere screams I’m here to relax and totally be a vacationer. The food is mouthwatering and everything you expect when you step off the plane in Mexico. But, the best and most satisfying part is that the prices are totally budget friendly which means you can enjoy a wonderful dining experience without ruining your budget. Nailing down places to eat while you’re in Cancun is likely going to be the easiest part of planning your vacation. There are delicious places to eat just about everywhere you turn. Check out roundups (like this one) that list great budget friendly restaurants in the Cancun area. On the flipside of planning out where you are going to eat, you can totally wing it and explore the endless street food options available all throughout Cancun. There’s nothing like freshly grilled, shredded pork tucked into a handmade, warm tortilla made in a food truck. You’ll never look at Taco Bell the same. Try to stay within a specific eating budget to avoid wasting money. A $200 budget should be more than enough to enjoy all that Cancun has to offer.
The reason most students want to go on a spring break vacation is to indulge in the wild nightlife. Like most vacation spots, Cancun is covered in bars and nightclubs that stay open until the wee hours of the morning bumping out everything from top 100 classics to the best in Reggaeton, Salsa, and Merengue. Get the full experience by hitting up Cancun’s most popular bars and clubs like Senor Frogs where the party is fun for any age. To save money, try to find bars that offer drink specials like open bar or happy hour deals. Buying alcohol is the quickest way to burn through your cash while on vacation. Pick out a few places that offer great drink deals to start out your night and migrate to other bars that may be a bit more pricey afterwards. Since you enjoyed happy hour at the beginning of the night, you won’t feel the need to spend much more on drinks as your night continues on. Congo Bar is a popular tourist spot that offers low prices on open bar which makes it a great option to start out the night. Aside from nightlife, you will likely want to enjoy the beautiful Mexico weather during the day with sun soaked beach trips to places like Playa Tortugas, a serene favorite of locals, or Linda Playa, a tourist playground. Mexico is more than beaches and body shots, of course. Go on a foot tour of El Meco Ruins and El Rey Ruins for as little as $3 or $4. You will be immersed in grandiose history, older than time and also take amazing pictures that will last just as long. With your nightlife and daytime tours tallied up, a budget of about $175 should be plenty.
Let’s total the cost of your Cancun spring break budget vacation:
Flight: NYC to CANCUN $320
Airport Transportation: $50 split between 4 people
Airbnb: As low as $123.75 for your portion ($495 in total)
Eating & Drinking: $200
General Transportation: About $20