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Posted at 12:50 PM ET, 03/ 9/2011

College students book last-minute spring break trips

By Jenna Johnson

SpringBreak1.jpgObviously, spring break is on the minds of many, and Yahoo! has seen a spike in the number of searches for "spring break" and "spring break packages" this week.

Most of these searches are coming from major metropolitan areas and 70-percent of searchers are male, according to the company Yahoo! Search Data. A majority of the beaches being searched for by name are in Florida -- the top four being Vero, Pensacola, Jacksonville and Palm beaches -- although searchers are also looking for beachy spots in South Carolina, Virginia and California.

Need some help planning your spring break get-away?

Last week, I was online to answer spring break questions, along with Thomas E. Betz, an attorney at the University of Illinois who represents students, and Nancy Trejos, a travel writer here at the Post. Here are some of my favorite questions and answers:

Alternative Spring Break: So it is on my bucket list to travel to Africa and do service work there but what really worries me about it is if I go to another country like that would I be able to drink bottled water and prevent myself from losing my health?

A. Nancy Trejos :
Traveling is always a calculated risk, despite all our advances in medicine and technology. The best you can do is prepare yourself for any emergency. Make sure you get any recommended shots for that particular country. Also see your doctor before you travel. Get a check-up and deal with any issues you might have BEFORE you travel. Make sure you have all the medications you need, and it wouldn't help to throw in some cipro in case you get really sick. I would keep a written record of all pertinent medical information on you all the time: the name and number of your doctor, your blood type, any allergies, etc. in the event that, heaven forbid, you are found somewhere unconscious. And if you do have to end up at a foreign hospital or clinic, don't go alone. The buddy system when traveling abroad always helps.

Question from Jenna Johnson: Tom, police in vacation hot spots spend a majority of their time dealing with loud, drunk or lost tourists. Are these officers less strict than cops students deal with back home? Can you get away with more when you are on vacation?

A. Thomas Betz :
It is often assumed that law enforcement is more relaxed at spring break destinations. It depends on the nature of the infraction in most cases. Alcohol use in public or on the beach may not result in an arrest or ticket but rather an order to cease. On the other hand selling pot is not going to be ignored nor will its open use. Traffic violations will generally be enforced to prevent accidents and danger to pedestrians and other vehicles...it is also a revenue source for local government. Any action that would normally be classified as a felony will result in strict law enforcement...assault and battery, sexual assault, theft etc. Spring break does not mean there is a suspension of the rules of decent conduct or the obligation of enforcement by police.

Hey Jenna-- Do you have any tips for Web sites or other services where I can find good deals on Spring Break trips? Obviously everyone knows about Expedia, but are there any more obscure sites out there that offer either good hotel rates or airfare?

A. Jenna Johnson :
I usually start with Expedia and the other big search engines, but then go directly to the airline, hotel or car rental company to book. I find that the companies themselves have the same good deals -- and it's easier to make changes or cancel when there's not a third-party involved.

I encourage you to book your spring break trip like you would any trip and avoid Web sites you haven't heard of that advertise super-amazing-spring-break-package-deals.

My dad swears by Bing. A few of my friends are big fans of Kayak.

I bet Nancy knows of some other good sites.

A. Nancy Trejos :
I'm one of those friends who likes Kayak! It's great for finding the cheapest air fares. Sidestep is also good. But I second Jenna's suggestion to always go back to the airline or the hotel to see if they can match the fare or rate or offer you an even better deal. Some of the airlines even have a price match guarantee. A friend of mine once successfully got an airline to lower a fare when she showed proof that one of the third party sites was offering a lower fare. If you can handle not knowing exactly what you are going to get, you can get some amazing deals on Priceline. You name your price and specify, for instance, that you will only take a three-star hotel or higher, and usually you can get something good. TravelZoo offers special deals on airfare, cruises, lodging and more. If you are flexible with travel dates, Airfare Watchdog is a great site. Also keep tabs on Farecast, which predicts whether or not fares will go up or down using past trends.

What are some good cheap-but-fun spring break ideas for college students on a budget?

A. Thomas Betz :
You might check with your campus about alternative spring break opportunities. Many of these involve travel with a group of volunteers and they may have a way to help you finance the trip. Parents might like you coming home to clean the yard or otherwise build up goodwill you can use later.

I want my Spring Break to be like a Kesha song. Dirty, lots of drinking and of course glitter on me, the floor, etc (you get the idea). How can I make my SB be like Kesha with a little Charlie Sheen thrown in?

A. Jenna Johnson :
Hahaha -- well there's a description of spring break that definitely didn't exist a generation ago. Good luck with that. Please don't die.

Want to read more? Here's the full transcript.

And this week on Campus Overload Live, I will be chatting with Andrew Ferguson, a DC-area parent who wrote "Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid into College." Send us your questions now!

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  | March 9, 2011; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Spring Break  | Tags:  Campus Overload Live  
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Next: 'Crazy U' delves into admissions process

Comments

When I was in school, I used student travel sites like studentuniverse.com - since the offers are only for college students, the prices are usually a bit lower than kayak or expedia

Posted by: cdaniels2006 | March 11, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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