College students are known for many things, and saving money — or making it — isn’t one of them. You don’t need statistics about minimum wage or average student income to know that the joyous feeling of payday, or the sense of relief you get from reading “approved” after swiping at the grocery store, are just small successes that indicate that financial struggle is real.
This means we have learned to savor the things we do splurge on — a flight to another city, for instance. We aren’t all at the point where a weekend or a week-long trip across seas, or state lines for that matter, is plausible; still, the independence that college brings might have you itching to travel.
We’re here for you with a list of spring break week getaways that you can make happen on a single paycheck, maybe less if you’re that good.
Megabus, a U.K. and U.S. bus company that operates throughout the Midwest, helps make it possible, if you know how and when to use it. According to the travel site Wanderu, Megabus uses a profit model called yield management, by which it attempts to influence consumer patterns through price surges and drops. This means that prices are based on the demand and popularity of a trip — hence, a Friday night trip to a trendy city like Austin, Texas or a metropolitan city like Chicago will not be nearly as affordable as a Monday afternoon trip to a quaint town like Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Here are some tips to help you be strategic when searching for the elusive $1 bus ticket, or for general low price fares:
Plan in advance.
For spring break, this means now. Since the model Megabus uses is based on supply and demand, the fewer tickets that are booked on a trip, the lower the price will be. The further you’re booking from the date you’re traveling, the lower the price will be.
Be flexible with your arrival and departure dates.
You have a week. If a Friday or Sunday bus trip is beyond your budget, consider leaving on a Saturday or a Monday, both of which are cheaper than the former. Play around your departure and arrival dates so that you can optimize your chances of finding the cheapest ticket price.
Take the bus route less-traveled.
I’m just as much of a snobby Chicagoan as the next person, but there are over 30,000 towns and cities throughout the United States, some of which (outlined below) are worth a trip. With low prices, Megabus incentivizes routes that are less-travelled.
Iowa City, Iowa
Go for: Bar scene, museums.
Walkablity: Very walkable.
For partiers: Studio 13 is Iowa City’s only gay bar and dance
club that features live DJs, drag shows, karaoke and theme parties. Pedestrian Mall, or “Ped Mall,” is known for local art galleries, musicians and nightlife scene, home to many 2 a.m. bars frequented by University of Iowa students. There’s also shopping during the day.
For foodies: The Hamburger Inn No. 2, Devotay (tapas and
For nerds: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
(15 minutes east of downtown), University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame, Antique Car Museum of Iowa, Old Capitol Museum.
For naturists: Lake MacBride and Coralville Lake — both
north of downtown, are used for camping, hiking and boating.
Also noteworthy: Iowa City is the only city in North America
to be named a “City of Literature” by UNESCO in 2008. Iowa City sits on the list with Dublin, Ireland; Prague, Czech Republic and 20 others cities.
AirBNB: $53/night for two guests.
Go for: Nature, food.
Walkability: Not quite Chicago, but the metropolitan transit, or CARTA, provides free electric shuttle lines and busses that operate through and around the downtown area.
For naturists: Rock City — a Chattanooga attraction since 1932, features a 4,100-foot walking trail, 90-foot waterfall, 180-foot long suspension bridge and Lover’s Leap, where you can “see seven states.” (6 miles from downtown). Ruby Falls is a 150-foot waterfall inside Lookout Mountain.
For foodies: St. John’s Restaurant (Southern) or Alleia (Italian), are both under the umbrella of the James Beard award-winner for Best Chef, Daniel Lindley.
Be a local: Travel to the historic St. Elmo District at the foot of Lookout Mountain, just outside of downtown, to get a feel for a residential home to small boutiques and restaurants.
AirBNB: $60/night, accommodates two people.
Go for: Shopping, music and horse races at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.
Walkable: Certain neighborhoods throughout Louisville are walkable, and it’s possible to take the city bus between them.
For hipsters: The Highland Shopping District, often described as “Bohemian,” is home to art galleries bars, coffeehouses and restaurants.
Music scene: Louisville has an increasingly thriving music scene, culminated in one of its most famous venues, Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar. Also check out Headliners Music Hall and Howl at the Moon.
LGBTQ spots: Louisville has a substantial LGBTQ population, most represented in the Highland and East End areas. The Connection is Louisville’s best known LGBTQ club, home to a notably large dance floor on which the drag shows are regularly hosted.
For the adventurous: Louisville is home to a 24-hour extreme skateboarding and BMX park called Louisville Extreme Park, which features a 24-foot full pipe, a 7-foot vertical pipe and seven different bowls of different sizes.
Be a local: Order a mint julep, the quintessential Southern drink traditionally consumed during the Kentucky Derby, but sold year-round at Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge. Also try the Hot Brown, a broiled, open-faced turkey sandwich, or a Derby pie, a chocolate-infused pecan-like pie.
Also noteworthy: Old Louisville, south of downtown, is the third largest National Preservation District and the largest Victorian district in the U.S. Walking tours of the area are available.
AirBNB: $65/night, accommodates two guests.
Go for: History museum, art galleries, quirk factor.
Walkablity: Somewhat. Specific neighborhoods are walkable, but getting from one to another can be difficult. Find a hub and plan your trip around what’s available there. The North Side, which is known for its diversity, is home to bars, restaurants and galleries.
Be a local: Order chili from Skyline or Goldstar and know what the server means when he or she asks “three-, four- or five-way?” Cincinnati, famous for its unique take on chili, serves it atop spaghetti, infused with cinnamon or cocoa powder. Three-way will get you cheese, four-way will get you onions or kidney beans and a five-way will get you all three.
Also noteworthy: Cincinnatians are not correcting your manners when they respond to you with “Please?” The native expression, “bitte?,” used by German immigrants who built the city can be understood as “What?” or “Could you repeat that?” in English.
AirBNB: $51/night, accommodates two people.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Go for: Restaurants, art galleries.
Walkablity: Very walkable.
For creatives: The Ark, an intimate, 400-seat music club that hosts folk and rock performers regularly. Also available is the Michigan Theater, which hosts independent films as well as musicians.
For foodies: The Slurping Turtle, by chef and owner Takashi Yagihashi and Arbor Brewing Company, a brewery with a solid vegetarian and vegan menu.
For nerds: The University of Michigan Law School Quadrangle, known for its gothic architecture.
Be a local: Order the “fragel,” a deep-fried raisin bagel rolled in cinnamon sugar, which can be found at Bagel Fragel on Plymouth Road.
Also noteworthy: Nickel’s Arcade, a 20th-century shopping arcade, where a glass, atrium-style ceiling covers shops and art galleries.
AirBNB: $58/night, accommodates two guests.