The Classic Spring Break Road Trip, Reimagined

Woman lying on hood of car in sunshine

Goodbye winter, hello spring! And with this season’s promise of a return to warmth and sunshine comes a little gift of good faith: spring break. Whether you’ve got a week off from your studies, you’re planning a family vacation with the little ones, or you just have got to get somewhere and shake the winter blues, spring break is here to make it happen. And while jet-setting or cruising are all well and good, there is a classic, and often more affordable, way to travel: the road trip.

Below, all of our best tips for where to visit, can’t-miss events, and how to make the most of the budding springtime scenery across the U.S. It’s your classic road trip, reimagined.

Palm trees against blue sky

Spring Break Destinations with a New Spin

The classic spring break road trip destinations are still a lot of fun, but if you’re looking to spice up an old favorite, consider adding a mini detour to your road trip:

  • If you’re headed to Daytona Beach, Florida, you might consider adding a day trip to St. Augustine. Lying on the beach, refilling your umbrella drink with abandon, and soaking in the sun are excellent ways to relax, but if you’re looking for a cultural detour (or a way to appease parents begging for a few educational activities), consider taking a mini trip 50 miles south, to St. Augustine. You’ll find plenty of cultural activities in our nation’s oldest city, as well as irreverent fun like the Alligator Farm where daredevils can zipline over Crocodile Crossing.
  • While road tripping to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for some fun in the sun, consider a stop in Savannah, Georgia if you’re coming from the south or the west, or Washington, D.C. if you’re coming from the north. A day spent exploring the moss-covered trees and quaint downtown streets of Savannah can add a lovely twist to your beach vacation. And while spring break will be a little early for D.C.’s famous cherry blossoms (predicted to peak this year between March 31 and April 3), you might consider an educational tour of our nation’s capital.
  • Along the way to South Padre Island at the southernmost tip of Texas—where you’ll get your spring-break-style fill of live music and beach fun—you might consider rounding out your road trip with a few Lone Star State highlights. We wrote about the wonderfully weird sights an interested traveler can find in Texas—like a gigantic boulder carved in the likeness of John Wayne, or Marfa’s mystery lights. Another excellent central-Texas destination is the South by Southwest tech, music, and film festival taking place in Austin now (from March 11-20). Cool fact: President Obama was this year’s keynote speaker.
pink cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument
Washington D.C.’s stunning cherry blossoms. Photo from Elite Tours.

The Best Early Spring Scenery Around the U.S.

The U.S. offers excellent options for those of us whose spring break road trip must-haves include breathtaking experiences with nature:

  • U.S. News recommends visiting the Grand Canyon in springtime when the weather is cooler and lodging is discounted. Spanning 277 miles, the Grand Canyon offers dedicated roadtrippers many options. If you go, don’t miss the Bright Angel Trail, an excellent hike for non-experts.
  • Fodor’s Travel recommends visiting Yosemite National Park—and Upper Yosemite Falls in particular—in early spring for excellent hiking and views of nature. With 10 waterfalls along the way and a “heart-quickening” opportunity to look straight down on one at the top, hiking in Yosemite offers nature buffs endless fun.
  • Springtime in Washington State also offers incredible opportunities for unique nature experiences. For instance, springtime kicks off the Boulder River Hike season as the snow melts and fills rushing waterfalls and rivers.
  • As flora is budding nationwide, Texas breaks out its famous bluebonnets, which thrive across fields and roadsides. Often mixed with Indian paintbrushes, you’d be hard-pressed to find more colorful and rich scenery.
Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Photo by Rob Greebon
Texas bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Photo by Rob Greebon

Are We There Yet?

Road trips aren’t all World’s-Largest-Ball-of-Twine attractions and excellent food finds—inherent to a road trip are the many idle hours of travel. Don’t despair: the hours confined inside your vehicle can be great for catching up with friends, checking out new music, and even just relaxing. But if you need to energize the vibe, car games can be just the trick.

For parents of young children on a road trip together, our number one tip is: plan ahead. Bring ample snacks, supplies, distractions, music, and even small gifts to your road trip adventure to appease kids and keep the “are-we-there-yet” questions at bay. Planning goes a long way for adults, too.

Pack Smartly, Drive Safely

Before you leave for your spring break road trip, pack your vehicle’s emergency kit and consider squaring away your roadside assistance plan if you haven’t already.

Just in case, you might want to have an app or two on hand in the event of a crash or emergency. And even if you want to log a lot of road time, always play it safe: if you’re too tired to drive pull over for a rest or let someone else get in the driver’s seat.

Ensuring proper auto insurance coverage on your road trip is another essential way to protect yourself: first and foremost, make sure your own policy is up to date. If you and your pals are using your car, check into short-term insurance to cover any other people you plan to let drive.

Get ready to saddle up your ride and hit the open road this spring break–and share your road trip adventures in the comments!