I’m taking my Spring Break a little early this year, and despite the threat of Coronavirus, I am getting on a plane. There are excellent flight deals around at the moment and I am taking advantage of a cheap flight to Australia.
I’ve traveled all over the world, alone, with friends and with family in tow. No matter where I go, I always travel with a budget in mind. This likely comes from a childhood of car camping trips, drink bottles for water and lunchboxes for sandwiches.
My favorite vacations have been the most affordable. Vacations with my own children have included hikes in new national parks, playtime in city parks and treasure hunts for fun food to eat in foreign markets. My favorite girls trip began with cheap flights to Europe, staying in a Youth Hostel in Amsterdam and catching the free ferry across the water to an antique market.
This spring, you may want to rethink travel plans based on CoronaVirus and the risk factors to you and your family. Keep up to date with travel facts and risks with CDC Travel Warnings.
Impact of Coronavirus on Travel
There are some great deals to be had, but buyer beware!
If you are going to fly, book hotels and pay for activities, be sure to read cancellation policies. If you have heard it is a good idea to pay for your vacation by credit card due to generous refund policies, read the fine print for your card or insurance provider as to their policy with Coronavirus. Most credit cards, including American Express and Chase Sapphire credit cards, cover many insurance claims but do not cover a disinclination to travel due to an epidemic.
Travel insurance and policies have similar exclusions to credit cards. In particular, popular insurer Travelguard state in their Coronavirus advisory that because Coronavirus became a known risk on January 24, 2020 any claim arising from Coronavirus may not be covered if the policy was purchased or the trip was arranged on or after that date.
If you still have the will to travel, travel to places with good quality health care!
Go Somewhere Warm for Spring Break
The majority of travelers during Spring Break are heading for somewhere warm. Puntacana, Mexico is still a hot spot for West Coast college students and Florida is still hot for East Coast college students. For me, that means I want to go somewhere else!
If you are looking for warm and cheap, check out Hawaii. Alaska Airlines has great deals from California to Oahu (Honolulu airport). How does $99 each way sound? Oahu is generally considered the least expensive island to visit due to the high number of hotels. With so many hotels to choose from, prices will be competitive.
Hawaii is a top-rated destination for Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists, and with the current travel warnings, there are likely many empty hotel rooms in Oahu. One website I always find good is Priceline. Look for smaller hotels with small kitchens that are a few blocks off the beachfront. I also map the location for proximity to supermarkets and bus stops so that I can minimize my expenses. Hawaii can be expensive if you aren’t watchful.
Fresh fruit is plentiful and it is super easy to get budget-priced smoothies for breakfast and poke for lunch or dinner. Food trucks are also plentiful and affordable.
Grab dinner and take it to the beach and watch the sunset. For affordability, forgo island hopping and either rent a car or use the fairly decent bus system to get yourself around to free activities. National parks in Hawaii are fantastic and offer plenty of thrills and challenges along the many hiking trails.
The weather in Austin, Texas in March and April is beautiful. With very few days of rain (4 to 5 days on average) and a balmy 72°F to 85°F - you can stay within the U.S. and still enjoy a warm vacation on a budget.
Austin traffic can be a challenge, the downtown area is busy and hotels are usually a few hundred dollars per night. The warm weather though, may make it the perfect city to spend the day and evening exploring. There are plenty of budget-friendly options in surrounding areas where you can park your car for free and drive wherever you please. In particular, Georgetown is about an hour out of Austin and offers great hike and bike trails along the river. (I found private bedrooms on Airbnb from $20 per night!) Bonus - it is on the way to Waco, Texas, the home of Chip and Joanne Gaines and their store, Magnolia!
If you want local advice on things to do and where to stay, there is a great Austin-only app - Beenthere.travel. Using the app you can connect with locals based on interests, ask questions and get their perspective, advice and the best deals in town.
Go Somewhere Fun for Spring Break
When I tell people I am originally from Australia, most people confess that Australia is on their bucket list but it is so far and so expensive. Well, things have changed - the flight is still long, but now you can get non-stop flights (15 hours) and it is so worth the long trip. Plus, Australia is a good deal for budget travelers at the moment!
Australia, like Hawaii, is a popular tourism destination for travelers from Asia and so is missing the tourism dollar at present. The latest reports are indicating a 35% drop in visitors this month due to vacation cancellations. Flights from West Coast U.S.A. normally cost around $1,800, I bought my ticket for just over $1,000 and deals released from Qantas show flights at $650 return from San Francisco to Melbourne or Sydney.
If low prices don’t persuade you, looking at the beautiful beaches and cute koala’s at Visit Australia may help!
There are plenty of hotel deals around and with a generous exchange rate - around 1 Australian dollar is equivalent to about 65 cents for Americans, making the stay even more affordable. The cost of living is relatively similar to most of the U.S. so that means your dollar goes almost twice as far. The weather is beautiful in mid fall, as Australia heads into winter for July. Most areas that were affected by the recent bushfires are back open for business and certainly welcome the extra visitors.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco in spring is stunning. The fog has not yet appeared, as it does in summer, and the cold winds from the bay are light. The sun is shining and California poppies are beginning to appear.
The absolute best deal on accommodation I’ve found in any major city is in San Francisco. The very clean, very affordable and safe HI-Fisherman’s Wharf hostel is just out of downtown on a cliff overlooking the ocean. For $39 you have a comfortable bed or $135 for a private room, free breakfast and free wifi, with cooking facilities in the hostel kitchen. You can walk to the Pier areas, Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park.
My 70-year-old parents have stayed here. I’ve stayed with groups of high school students and another trip I enjoyed the private room for two. Bonus, you can even score free parking nearby and a supermarket within walking distance!
Go Anywhere at a Discount for Spring Break
I regularly travel to Europe, all over North America and across the Pacific Ocean and have some great ‘go-to’ sites that I can rely on to give me reasonable prices and options. No matter what website you use for travel, accommodation, car rental or activities always cross-reference the reviews and prices with another website where possible.
I generally use Airbnb but will always compare the same search options on VRBO. If traveling to major cities, it is a good idea to check out Hostels if you are traveling alone or just two of you.
Priceline - Expedia - Hotwire - Kayak etc. Compare airlines and hotels to the company website where you may get free breakfast or parking for the same price. For example, if Expedia gives you a good price on a Hilton Hotel room, check the Hilton Hotel website to see if there are better deals there.
Related: How to Find Last Minute Travel Deals
Again I will start with Priceline - Expedia - Hotwire to get a sense of prices and then check Kayak for price trends. Kayak gives you an idea of the best time to buy your tickets and when the lowest prices are likely to be released. Note too that some smaller airlines like Southwest Airlines do not appear on websites such as Expedia, so be sure to check your local airline too.
Most sites will give you the option to +/- flexible dates, but what if you don’t have a destination in mind? Try Skiplagged. I love their home page message, “Ridiculous travel deals you can’t find anywhere else. Our flights are so cheap, United sued us...but we won.”
When you buy an airline ticket you will often receive an immediate car rental offer before you check out. These are generally well worth purchasing. Again cross-reference the price with a quick search on Priceline or Expedia. If you are looking for a car to get you from A to B, try Rent-a-wreck for older cars to rent at a steep discount.
Enjoy someplace warm, somewhere fun and anywhere at a discount, but mostly enjoy your travels this spring!
You might also be interested in: Cheap Family Vacation Ideas [That the Whole Family will Enjoy]