College Winter Break Ideas—Trips You Can Take on a Budget

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Where should you go for winter break? You have zero classes for the next three weeks and nothing but time on your hands. That's a great problem to have. But how can you make the most of the holiday season? We've got some cool ideas for your winter break getaway, and we even made a playlist to soundtrack your holiday vacation.

Winter break isn't just awesome. It's absolutely necessary. You've worked your brains out this semester. You deserve some time off. Not only that, but you absolutely need this time off for your mental health, your physical well-being, and your long-term ability to achieve peak academic performance. That's why they invented winter break, as a way to prevent you from burning out.

[Well, not actually. Read here if you want to know the real reason Why Schools Break For Winter.]

But practically speaking, winter break is the first line of defense against student burnout, the traditional dividing line between semesters, and a time of year made generally awesome by twinkling lights, holiday parties, and hideous sweaters. So, how can you take advantage of this sweet and all-too-fleeting academic respite?

Hit the road!

According to WalletHub, 2 in 3 Americans plan to travel this winter. If you use your winter break wisely, you could be among them. The length of each school's break may vary, anywhere from 2-4 weeks. Spend some of that time seeing, doing, and experiencing new things.

If you're concerned that the extended time off might dull your finely-tuned academic tools, check out 9 Habits For Staying Sharp Over the Holidays.

Otherwise, read on for college winter break trip ideas and some tips for how to travel on a budget.

 Come Together Right Now

Get group rates. That's how college kids get to places like Cancun, Puerto Rico, and Miami Beach. Companies like EF Ultimate Break and Student Universe book group travel packages, especially those geared toward adventurous college students. If you can get together a group of the required size, you could get a great package rate on flights, lodging, activities, and even meals. If you're looking for something affordable and all-inclusive, this could be your best bet. It's also a really cool way to make lifelong memories, build lasting bonds, and share embarrassing moments about which you are thenceforth sworn to secrecy. Get your people together, get a great deal, and get out of town.

 Head Out On the Highway

There's nothing like an aimless trek across this great, sprawling, and varied nation of ours. Like Lewis and Clarke, the homesteaders of the 1800s, and all those smelly hippies who traveled by tie-dyed bus in the 1960s, venture into the American wilderness — be this urban, rural, or actual wilderness. America has it all: vibrant metropoli, bucolic splendor, verdant natural space, towering snowcapped peaks, and endless stretches of stagnant nothingness. Oh yeah, and strip malls. Tons and tons of strip malls...everywhere. But still, there's a lot to see, and you can get there with four wheels, gas money, and a few couches to crash on along the way.

If you're looking for a unique way to map out your road trip, plan your route around The 100 Best Colleges & Universities by State 2019!

 Walking on (the) Sunshine (State)

Pop quiz: Why do the elderly love Florida so much? Because they're smart. With age comes wisdom. With wisdom comes the realization that cold weather sucks. Florida doesn't have cold weather. Sometimes it has "ooh, it’s chilly, I should put a shirt on" weather, but not actual cold weather. So obviously, this is a great place to temporarily escape your picturesque, snow-blanketed New England campus, or your gross, frigid, drizzly Mid-Atlantic school. (I went to Rutgers. I know your pain.) South Florida is the perfect escape because flights are cheap and constant. And once you get there, there are 10 billion AirBNBs; you can bounce from beach to beach; and if you're smart like the seniors down here, you can take advantage of awesome early-bird diner specials.

And just in case you fall madly in love with Florida and decide you never want to leave, get in-state rates by transferring to one of The Best Online Colleges in Florida.

 Band On the Run

Looking for a good excuse to travel but you're not sure where to go? You know who always knows where to go? Rock Stars. Unlike you, they have tour managers, which means they have a pretty good idea where the action is. Use your winter break to meet that action where it lives. Pick your favorite touring band — or just somebody you've always wanted to see — and map out a trip according to their corresponding road itinerary. Buy a few concert tix, pack your bags, and meet Lizzo, Billie Eilish, or Weird Al Yankovic (no judgement) out on the road.

 Join the Love Train

Volunteering to help others isn't exactly a vacation, but it is an amazing way to see the world while giving of your heart and your time. Travel abroad to build houses, feed the hungry, support cleanup efforts, protect wildlife, engage seniors, and a lot more. It works out perfectly that the season of giving coincides with your winter break. Sign up for a volunteer effort that can take you somewhere new, offer you a new perspective, and give you a path to bettering the world and yourself.

And if you’re interested in continuing your positive work once the new semester begins, find out How To Do Community Service.

 What a Wonderful World

It really is. See at least a small part of it during your time off. You don’t often get three-to-four week breaks from work or life when you’re older. While you have the chance, strap on a backpack and live out the broke-college-kid cliche. Scrap together a cheap flight to anywhere in Europe, then book your way through youth hostels, hop trains from country to country, and eat food from roadside stands and rolling carts whenever you can. Get out there and see some things before your a$$ is back in class.

If you get a taste of that big old world and you decide you're not ready to end your adventure, you may be a perfect candidate for Worldschooling and Online College.

Wherever you choose to go, you'll need music. And it is the holiday season, so we made you a present. Go ahead. Open it now.


It's a playlist of hearth-friendly fare you can take with you wherever you go: a collection of songs undisciplined by genre, cheerful in mood, and containing the occasional Christmas songs (but only those that don’t suck).

Enjoy, and we’ll catch up with you after the holidays!

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