Winter quarter has officially begun! And — if you’re like me — so has the countdown to spring break. There are 63 days between today and 10 days of freedom. That’s nine weeks of classes, activities and all-nighters (because hey, who doesn’t procrastinate). Along with beautiful March weather comes a severe case of cabin fever, but 10 days offers a lot more opportunities than you may realize. While people dream of far off places with fabulous beaches and colorful mountains when they hear the word “travel”, not everyone has the money to go to Europe for a year. But hey, that’s OK! ‘Cause I’m here to tell you that’s not the only way to travel! You could stay in the good ol’ USA, exploring local attractions or heritage sites. The untapped potential is endless!
When people say travel within the USA, they think of places like the warm beaches of California or the busy streets of New York, but there are way more options than the popular hot spots. Antelope Canyon in Arizona is a narrow, slot canyon filled with oranges and red hues and known for its stunning beams of sunlight. There’s almost no necessary climbing in the upper canyon (but be ready for long walks), and the photography you leave with will keep you and your friends enchanted for years. This is also an ideal place to go on a family vacation. Kids of all ages will find the colors mesmerizing but might find the long walk a little tiring.
Another great place to go is Black Canyon in Colorado — a steep-walled gorge near the Gunnison River. The sharp drops and flowing water provide home to deer, elk and golden eagles.
If going out of the state doesn’t sound good, Mount Rainier is an amazing option. The snow-capped volcano seen occasionally on our daily commute is a breathtaking place to go with friends to either ski or camp in the beautiful snow. Other places in Washington like La Push offer cold beaches, gorgeous hiking trails and blue lakes. Try boating, fishing or just walking along the sandy beach. Ape Cave near Mount St. Helens is another Washington gem, and features a series of cool, dark caves created by flows of lava.
For out-of-state attractions Virgin America, JustFly and Allegiant Air offer flights from $20 to various locations across the country. Be sure to book at least a month in advance and be ready to have one or two stops on the way. Flights will usually be the most expensive part of the vacation. If you travel with friends, hotels can be as cheap as $15 per night and usually include one meal. If flying isn’t your thing, get in your car or on a bus and visit all the wonders offered in Washington.
As for food, packing eighteen PB&J sandwiches in a suitcase probably isn’t the best idea. Once you reach your destination, either purchase bread and some sandwich fillings of your choice or find a restaurant to experience local cuisine without going over your budget. Before leaving, be sure to research the activities that your destination has to offer. Find maps and research activities that you might be interested in doing. Booking in advance is always cheaper than booking on the spot, and you can usually find some great deals on the internet. Websites like hotel.com, tripadvisor.com and expedia.com allow people to compare prices of different hotels and offer great deals.
There are really easy ways to start trip-planning. The first step — start saving up. After speaking to almost 30 students at UWT, The Ledger found that most students spent $25 to $30 on food and drink every week. Students who drive tend to spend around $30 to $35 per week on fuel. Things like coffee, sandwiches and snacks that are available almost everywhere cost students almost $225 per quarter. Driving to campus can cost a similar amount or more, depending on where you’re from. That’s almost $450 per quarter!
There are cheaper alternatives to a daily cup of joe and snack. Try to buy things in bulk from places like Winco, which is just a five minute walk from campus. Homemade coffee is cheap (and if you live with your parents, free), and can be heated at any time using one of the many microwaves available on campus. And if you’re really craving something different, West Coast Grocery has some great options for as little as $1.50. Bring a packed lunch to school and carry snacks from home to save that extra couple of dollars.
As for driving, most students must be thinking, “Well how can I reduce that? Gas is expensive.” Well, a U-pass is $45, and carpool is always an option. If you live close enough, grab a bicycle and get some exercise on the way to class. The best part of this option is that you won’t have to spend an hour looking for a parking spot on campus.
There are so many possibilities in our reach before the end of winter quarter, so why not embrace them? My advice to students is this: Skip that $4 cup of coffee, there are better experiences out there.