Oyster’s Spring Break Guide: College edition

See recent posts by Kelsey Blodget

Swim-up bar at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace, a popular spring break resort in the Dominican Republic.
Swim-up bar at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace, a popular spring break resort in the Dominican Republic.

Hotels in this story

Planning a college spring break trip is serious business. You have to find a resort with a great beach, free-flowing booze, a party atmosphere, and fun activities — all for as little money as possible, on behalf of a group of friends of varying levels of responsibility (and solvency). We’ve been there. And we’re here to hold your hand every step of the way. (Or at least, most of the way — once you’re fighting a hangover after a night of downing flaming Bob Marley shots, you’re on your own.)

Five things you should know before you book:

1. Package-deal hotels are (often) dives. We at Oyster are usually pretty skeptical of package deals, but there’s no denying that student-focused booking engines like Student City and STA Travel often offer fair prices on spring break packages. But they broker deals with a limited number of hotels, and you might end up at a real dump. Remember: Sometimes hotels are on sale for a reason.

2. Details matter. A resort with generic brand liquor and cigarette-scented rooms that’s ten minutes from the beach might cost a little less, but the one with clean rooms, terrific drinks, a beach-side location, and free water sports clearly offers more bang for your buck. (We can’t prevent your hangover, but we can try to make it hurt less — those generic-brand drinks are a doozy the next morning).

3. Extra costs can add up. When calculating the cost of a trip, you need to take more than the hotel rate into account.Airfareis a huge factor –for example, although resorts in the D.R. can cost less than those in Jamaica, airfare to the D.R. tends to cost more.Don’t discount cab fare, either: If your hotel is two hours from the airport, you might end up paying the taxi driver over a hundred dollars each way.

4. Not all “party” resorts will be a party. The most important factor to consider is the destination. Aruba, for example, is extremely family-oriented, so you won’t find too many wet t-shirt or beer-chugging contests there. Even in popular spring break destinations like Jamaica, you have to be careful: The party-focused Iberostar Rose Hall Beach, for example, is a great value, but it’s in Rose Hall — a golf destination with lots of families.

5. “All-Inclusives” aren’t the only places to get endless food and booze. Big all-inclusive resorts can definitely save you money – if you’re going to take advantage of everything on offer. But if you’re likely to grab lunch at a jerk chicken stand and hit up local bars at night, you’re locked in to paying for more than you really want. Luckily, many Caribbean properties not billed as all-inclusives, including small, affordable ones, still offer all-inclusive plans – but they’re optional, you don’t have to pay for them until you get there, and you can choose from multiple packages at different price points. So you don’t have to pay for meals you don’t eat or drinks you don’t drink – you can choose the plan that’s right for you.

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