That second week in March


A guy poses during a contest at Club La Vela in Panama City Beach.

Published: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 10:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 10:49 a.m.

Got (extra) cash, will travel

Spring break is right around the corner. And many of us are wishing it was next week, but we'll have to settle for the second week in March.

There are those of us who have tight budgets and will have to travel locally, and those of us who have extra cash and will explore different regions and continents.

For those in the latter category, STA Travel and TRiP offer spring break packages in the United States, the Caribbean, South America and Europe.

If Gainesville winter isn't cold enough for you and you have about $1,200 in your bank account, go skiing in Lake Tahoe, Calif., with TRiP. After a busy day on the slopes, you'll be lounging in the heated pool or Jacuzzis at the Heavenly Resort. The price includes airfare from Orlando, hotel costs and transportation to Lake Tahoe.

South of the border, TRiP will take you backpacking through Inca ruins in Peru for $900 (includes airfare, park fees and equipment). You should probably be in decent shape because you'll be hiking high in the Andes Mountains. Reserve a spot as soon as possible and call 846-3004 or visit TRiP's Web site (http://union.ufl.edu/trip).

Whether you want beaches, European cities, snowboarding or skiing, STA Travel offers vacation packages to almost every popular spring break location. STA Travel specializes in student travel and helps you plan the complete vacation - from the airport to the parties. Stop by the STA Travel office in the Reitz Union for more information.

Cruising around

If you don't have the dough to travel to Lake Tahoe or Peru, but are still young and restless, have a super spring break in Florida and the Caribbean.

"For smaller budgets, we have a really good deal for the Bahamas," said Crystal Simpson, a STA Travel advisor at the Reitz Union. "Cruises have good offers too."

A four-day cruise to the Bahamas starts from $300 a person. A five-day cruise to Key West and Cozumel from Miami starts from $338.

However, if you're under 21, don't count on a cruise. Most of the cruises allowing people under 21 are filled. Don't fret too much though. Simpson said a high-speed ferry frequently departs from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and makes the trip in two hours. The under 21's can enjoy the Bahamas too - the drinking age is 18.

For other cruise information and spring break packages from STA Travel, visit their office in the Reitz Union or call 338-0068.

Driving destinations

There are other options besides cruises and ferries. St. Augustine is less than a two-hour car ride from Gainesville. St. Augustine offers historical adventures, camping, surfing, Atlantic swimming, fishing and boating. Just book a room at your favorite cheap hotel for a few nights and you're all set. Visit the St. Augustine tourism Web site for more information (http://staugustine.com/visit/).

If you're into the more wild side of spring break, some classic getaways are Panama City, Daytona Beach, South Beach and the Keys.

The Travel Channel ranked Panama City Beach as the No. 1 spring break hangout in 2003 and it'll probably live up to your craziest expections. The one nightclub you shouldn't miss is Club La Vela, the largest club in the United States. It's divided into theme rooms with different music genres, a pool deck, beach area and a sports bar. The club is 18 to enter, 21 to drink. Other hot spots: Spinnaker Beach Club & Paradise Grill, Lattitudes Bar & Grill and Harpoon Harry's club. For more information on club, bars and cheap hotels, check out (http://springbreakpanamacity.com).

Daytona Beach is just a few hours drive away and you're guaranteed for fun. Check out Razzle's Night Club, at 15,000 square feet it's one of largest nightclubs in Daytona Beach. Visit (http://discoverdaytona.com) for bars, restaurants and hotels.

Flamboyant South Beach is famous for pushing the boundaries. Nightclubs Level, Crobar and Rain will be no different. Level is 40,000 square feet with six bars on three floors. Crobar has a glass-enclosed VIP room. Rain is a landmark indoor-outdoor club. For more clubs and bar listings, visit (http://www.southbeach-usa.com).

Last but not least, the Florida Keys. Key Largo offers Coconuts Restaurant & Nightclub, a place for blues and Top 40 music. Farther south in Key West is Rick's Key West, one of the top clubs in the area with nine bars, live music and the best DJs in town. To find more clubs, restaurants,bars and hotels in the Keys, visit (http://www.floridakeys.com/).

And of course, there is always Disney World. But I won't get into that.

Alternative breaks

Some students aren't into drinking and partying. And for those students, there is Florida Alternative Breaks.

"FAB provides an incredibly unique spring break experience, because unlike your traditional spring break, FAB trips are centered around community service," said Jessica Horwitz, FAB director.

A group of 15 students volunteers in cities across America, dealing with social issues like urban povery, education, low-income housing and AIDS, she said.

Horowitz said the goal is to foster volunteerism in the students so that they bring the volunteerism spirit back to Gainesville.

All FAB trips are $200, which includes travel, meals and housing for the week. Scholarships exist for students with financial need.

Visit the FAB Web site (http://union.ufl.edu/fab/) to download an application for the trips to:

  • South Carolina - Low-income housing
  • Atlanta, Georgia - Urban poverty
  • Charlotte, North Carolina - AIDS/HIV
  • Washington, D.C. - Equal education
  • Jackson, Mississippi - Equity in education
  • Atlanta, Georgia - Women and children's issues
  • Plant City, Florida - Farm workers' rights
  • Pittsboro, North Carolina - Animal refuge
  • Don't procrastinate and get started now planning for your spring break. Good luck!

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