By Francesca Di Meglio
Of course, you could spend spring break participating in a B-school overseas projects or working with Habitat for Humanity. But why not consider something novel for a B-schooler, like actually taking a vacation? Don't worry about your tight student budget: The travel industry is still bouncing back from post-9/11 economic woes, which means airlines and hotels are out to woo you. Check out these affordable, fun-filled alternatives to traditional destinations like Ft. Lauderdale and Daytona Beach:
South Padre Island, Texas. Located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast south of San Antonio, the island offers great fishing, windsurfing, and sun-bathing. Throw out your line in the Gulf, and you just might reel in an 800-pound marlin or wahoo.
The adventurer in you will delight in the water sports -- from Jet Skiing to hopping on a WaveRunner. The island boasts the fastest speed records on a 100-meter windsurfing course in the U.S. Once you get tired, you can sprawl out on the beach for some reading. Do your best to keep the sand out of that accounting textbook.
The South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau offers vacation packages. You can also check out discounted rates for trips to South Padre Island, Austin, and San Antonio on the travel Web site Expedia.
Spring Training in Florida. The Sunshine State has always been a hot spot for undergraduate spring-breakers. Students who want to take advantage of the weather but avoid the debauchery should consider heading to baseball spring training instead.
You can even bring the kids to Vero Beach's historic Dodgertown, the spring training site for the Los Angeles Dodgers. All 30 Major League Baseball teams hold workouts in Florida that fans can see for free. If you go early in the morning, bring a pen and paper, because you're likely to get autographs. (In fact, embattled New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi didn't let speculation about steroid use keep him from signing more than 40 autographs at a recent spring training session.)
Throughout March and April, you can travel to the ballparks in Vero Beach, Viera, St. Petersburg, or Disney World Resorts to see your favorite teams play scrimmage games. The Major League Baseball site offers great tips and tickets for taking in America's favorite pastime during the preseason in Florida. You can find hotel accommodations starting at $59 and flight-and-hotel packages starting at $337 for travel from Feb. 23 to Apr. 4 on Expedia.
Europe. If you want to get far away from the rat race, check out the bargain airfares to Europe. Expenses on the ground, where the strong euro reigns, are another matter. But, hey, for a quick vacation, you can't beat sipping espresso at an outdoor cafe in Rome, observing the artists near Sacre Coeur basilica in Paris, or swinging by Buckingham Palace in London to wish Camilla and Charles good luck. There's something for everyone on a European vacation -- romance for couples, culture for families, and nightlife for singles.
You can even find affordable ways to make more than one stop in Europe. Airlines like Air France are offering terrific fares from New York, if you act quickly. And as a graduate student, you can still benefit from STA Travel, an organization that provides discounts for globe-trotting students. Spring break packages to Europe start at $333, or even less if you're willing to stay in a hostel. Some airlines have age restrictions, limiting the discount to undergraduates. But, according to STA Travel, its agents will work with grad students to find similar fares in those instances.
Seattle. Vacationing in Seattle serves a dual purpose. With such desirable employers as Microsoft (MSFT ), Nordstrom (JWN ), Boeing (BA ), and Starbucks (SBUX ) dominating the local economy, the city is a paradise for job-hunting MBAs. So you can get to know an employment hub that also features many tourist attractions.
Be sure to check out the Experience Music Project, a 140,000-square-foot museum designed by Frank O. Gehry and opened to the public in 2000. Inside the $240 million facility, visitors discover interactive exhibits related to American popular music from jazz to Top 40. The collection of more than 80,000 artifacts includes one of the first electric guitars. And the 520-foot-high Space Needle, built in 1962 for the World's Fair, is a great place to take the kids (admissions are $6 for children under 14, $13 for adults).
A journey to Seattle makes for a nice car ride (or a trip on public transportation, which is reasonably priced) for West Coast MBA students. Northeasterners can take advantage of the travel Web site Orbitz' round-trip deal with Delta, including a stay at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Seattle from Mar. 10 to 13, starting at $353 per person. Of course, you will have to put up with the rainy weather, but think of all the money you'll save on sunblock by skipping the beach.
Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek Online in New York
Edited by Thane Peterson