Breakin’ on a budget: Cheap ways to travel when spring calls

Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport
Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport
Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

By Leah Devorak | Photo Editor

Spring break is next Friday — but wait. You’ve yet to book a trip? Have no fear, because it’s still super easy and affordable to go somewhere last-minute. You just have to know where to look, which is exactly what this guide is here to show you.

To start, here are a few pro tips to begin your search for the perfect vacation:

At this time, flying is both cheaper and easier than driving, and it is much faster than taking a bus. Always check the price of flights before trying to tackle any other method of transportation. Flying, especially when done within the United States, tends to be the better option if care is taken when searching for tickets.

To save as much money as possible, try to travel on weekdays only. During the weekends, prices go up, since that’s when most folks tend to travel. For the purpose of showing how much money weekday traveling can save you, all flight and hotel prices given in this article are for the dates of Monday, March 6, to Friday, March 10. Additionally, all flights are departing from Pittsburgh International Airport.

Finally, use discount sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak or Priceline in order to get the best deals on both flights and hotels. And to cut down on hotel costs, don’t be afraid to bring some friends and book the room with two double beds and a pullout couch. This will slash the price everyone pays dramatically.

Now for some fantastic places to travel:

Austin: This trendy city, self-described as the music capital of the world, lies near the east coast of Texas. Flights here at the moment are incredibly cheap, with roundtrip tickets starting at $259 through Allegiant Air. Once there, one will certainly not be bored. The city sports incredible nightlife, outdoor activities, museums and music events to occupy every second of your time. It’s also just a three hour drive to the beach, and when rental cars are as little as $46 per day, why not go?

New York City: It’s one of the most popular places to travel, but it’s also one of the most expensive. In order to save both time and money, make sure you fly there. Websites like Expedia or Travelocity typically offer deals to members where, if you book the flight and hotel together, you will get an extra discount off of one (or even sometimes one for free). So sign up for one of those sites and look for those combo deals. Another great tip is to fly into Newark, New Jersey, rather than LaGuardia or JFK. It’s right across the river from NYC, and public transportation gets you into the Big Apple in no time. Roundtrip flights to Newark start at about $460 on Expedia.

Tampa: This Floridian gem near the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect replacement for the ever-popular (and expensive) Miami. Flights start at $290 roundtrip on Travelocity, but the site cautions to book soon if you’d like to go; prices will be increasing up to 18 percent within the next five days. The city abounds with reasonably priced hotels, too. A better option than downtown Tampa, though, might be the area’s beautiful white sand beaches located an hour away on the Gulf of Mexico, like Madeira or Clearwater Beach. Instead of booking a hotel, it’s best to rent a home or condo in the area and split the cost with all the people coming along. Try Airbnb for the best deals. One three-bedroom house on the website, located in Madeira Beach, can be rented for only $230 per night.

Nashville: Avoid driving or busing to this destination at all costs. Driving takes about 8 hours and a bus takes about a day, stopping first at Chicago before heading to Nashville. Expedia currently has roundtrip flights to the area starting at $250 — and they only take about four hours. Plane ticket prices this low are wonderful, for hotels can be a little pricy in the Music City. Definitely consider sharing rooms here to spend as little as possible.

Napa Valley: For a warm yet calm getaway, try exploring Napa Valley, California’s wine country. Fly into Sacramento, located an hour east of the area, and then drive to your hotel of choice. Flights to Sacramento start at $342 on Priceline, and Napa Valley hotels can be easily found through the website TripAdvisor. One great hotel is the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Spa Napa Valley American Canyon for $105 per night — much cheaper than anything that would be found in the more crowded southern parts of the state.