Scene: Daytona Beach 1992, back when it was THE hot spot for spring breakers. I was playing volleyball on the beach when a man approached me and asked me out. I met up with him at a restaurant later that evening and we ended up talking all through the night. We dated for four months before we got engaged, a short marriage that might qualify me for a dinner invite with the Kardashians. Lesson learned: Don't accept a marriage proposal from someone you met on spring break!
A lot has changed since then, including me! Spring break can be a lot more than just snorkeling and rum punch. In recent years, I've spent my spring breaks with my daughter volunteering for those less fortunate. Not only are you making a difference in a community, but you're also learning about new places and people, and scratching that travel itch at the same time! Helping others has been a life-altering experience for me and sharing your spring break for a greater good is the most fulfilling vacation you can have.
Whether you're more like Tracy circa 1992 or 2012, there are plenty of affordable adventures for those taking to the skies this spring break.
Panama City, Florida, located in the Northwest handle on the Gulf Coast is a very welcoming town that turns into party central for spring break. With an official spring break website that offers tips for your stay, including where the party's at, you don't have to miss a beat!
South Padre Island, Texas is two miles off the southernmost tip of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. Start your spring break out right -- with a full belly -- at The Salt Lick for the best Texas BBQ in Austin and drive down to the beautiful island to get your party on. Dance your flip flops off with DJs spinning on the beach all week, and enjoy free pancakes for breakfast or dinner at Beach Reach!
Las Vegas, Nevada is not the first place you might think of for spring break travel, but with MTV hosting its big spring break party at the Palms Casino Resort, sin city is sure to be a guaranteed 24-hour party scene!
Cancun, Mexico is still all the rage for spring breakers looking for that fantastic fiesta. Enjoy dance parties at the pool and the beach all day, and venture out to some of the hoppin' spots around town like Señor Frogs and Dadyo at night. With thousands of other coeds and miles of beach, Cancun is sure to rock your party.
Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island has everything and then some to keep your family entertained for your entire spring break. Enjoy the spas, casinos and top-notch restaurants while your kids splash around in the water park. The whole family can enjoy the soft sands and crystal clear Caribbean!
San Diego, California offers diverse options for having fun as a family, with the fabulous San Diego Zoo, Be Wild Animal Park, beaches, museums, lots of shopping and restaurants. Whether you visit during spring break or any time of year, you can't beat the idyllic Southern California weather!
Denver, Colorado is a great spring break destination for those less tropically included. With longer days and warmer temperatures, ski resorts as winter gives way to spring are optimal for family winter sporting. Crested Butte and Winter Park near Denver, Colorado are two of my favorites.
St. Jude's children's research hospital in Memphis, Tennessee offers spring break volunteer opportunities for groups of two or more. Visit with the children at the hospital, reading to them or playing with them, helping to alleviate the pressure they and their families feel with all that they're going through. In your downtime, Memphis offers a lot of attractions including museums, art collections and, of course, Graceland, Elvis Presley's famous home.
Food & Friends in Washington D.C. offers volunteers options for helping to feed the hungry. You can help prepare food in the kitchens, work with the organization staff on planning and scheduling or deliver food to those in need. Plus, spring break is also cherry blossom festival time, when our nation's capital is looking its handsomest.
OutReach 360 connects you with orphaned and disadvantaged youth around the world to offer support in the way of education, and the one thing they need the most: love! I've volunteered with the organization in the Dominican Republic and found that it's more than just volunteering; my work helped transform the lives of the kids in the orphanages as well as my own.
Grab a bottle of water at the airport instead of another cocktail; you don't want an unwanted sobering extension to your trip if you're denied boarding. No matter where you're headed this spring break (and hopefully it's on JetBlue!), remember to pack light, pack right and make safety your number one priority!
Follow Tracy Christoph on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Wingwoman_Tracy