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It's Never Too Early For Spring Break…7 Break-Aways

It's Never Too Early For Spring Break

By Toni Stroud, Tribune staff reporter.

November 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved.

College students probably already know this. But just for the record, the dates for spring break 2004 are March 20-28 for Northwestern, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and DePaul. The vacation comes earlier for Loyola students, Feb. 28-March 7, and later for Columbia students, March 27-April 4. Children in Chicago Public Schools--and their parents--must wait longer for their spring break, which lasts April 9-19.

In Puerto Rico, we found a college-minded spring break package at San Juan's Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort that combines aspects of a party atmosphere in a destination outside the Daytona-Panama City-South Padre-Cancun circuit. Its "Latin Spring Fest Package" is good March 1-May 31.

But the same resort also has a package that might interest twosomes looking for something beyond a beach party, or could be expanded for spring breaking families. The "Town & Country" package, good year-round, goes to the beach resort in San Juan, on the island's northeast coast, then becomes a drive-it-yourself road trip to another hotel on Puerto Rico's west coast, in the Rincon area. (800-791-2553;


$1,308 per twosome, assuming a six-night stay March 21-27.

Includes: ocean-view room at Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort; American breakfast buffet each morning; one salsa lesson per person, taught by a professional instructor at the resort's Picante Lobby Bar & Lounge; one two-hour body-surfing lesson per person, taught by professional or amateur body surfers; per person admission one evening to Babylon nightclub; nightly admission per person to bartending competition at the resort's Picante Lobby Bar & Lounge; $20 long distance telephone card per room.

Doesn't include: air fare to San Juan; airport-hotel transfers; hotel taxes of 21 percent.


Of items equivalent to those of the package:

Hotel: $1,350 ($225/night) for ocean-view room at Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort, assuming a six night stay March 21-27.

Breakfast: included in room rate.

Dance lesson: free to hotel guests.

Body surfing: $80 ($20/hour per person) for a two-hour lesson.

Night club: $40 ($20/person) for admission to Babylon in Wyndham El San Juan Hotel.

Bartending competition: $60 ($15/person each night) assuming you'd want admittance on two nights.

Phone card: $20 assuming you and your traveling companion would spend at least that much on your own.

Total: $1,550 for package equivalents.

Difference: $242 less with the package.


$1,284 per two adults, depending on choice of second hotel, and assuming a six night stay April 9-15.

Includes: three nights at Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort in San Juan; three nights at the Lazy Parrot in the Rincon area; breakfast each morning; four-day rental of two-door economy car; hotel taxes.

Doesn't include: air fare to San Juan; airport-hotel transfers; rental car insurance.


Of items equivalent to those of the package:

Hotels: $1,224, based on a three-night stay at Isla Verde Beach Resort ($272/night, including tax); and a three-night stay at the Lazy Parrot ($136/night, including tax), assuming a six night stay April 9-12.

Breakfast: included in room rate.

Rental car: $208 ($52/day) for four day rental of compact car from Hertz.

Total: $1,432 for package equivalents.

Difference: $148 less with the package.


E-mail Toni Stroud:

Spring Break-Aways

Seven destinations sure to provide college craziness or fun for family


January 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. All rights reserved.

Winter hasn't even given us its best shot yet, but it's already time to start planning for spring break.

The state's college and university students get vacations in March. Georgia Tech, Emory University, the University of Georgia and Georgia State are closed the week of March 8.

Most k-12 schools in the metro area have breaks later, either April 5-9 or April 12-16 -- which means most of the college kids will be back at the books before families hit the beaches and theme parks in search of a somewhat tamer getaway.

While the top places to let off steam remain the same -- Panama City Beach and Daytona Beach, Fla., Jamaica, and, of course, Cancun, Mexico -- destinations such as Costa Rica and Barbados are coming on strong.

But spring break isn't just about Jell-O shots, ear-pounding music, booze cruises and girls in bikinis and the boys who love them.

Families seeking less frenzied party scenes can opt for Orlando theme parks, the Georgia coast, Hilton Head, S.C., or Gulf Coast resort towns including Destin, Fla., and Gulf Shores, Ala. Couples eager to go somewhere the wild things aren't can check out grown-up spots like Las Vegas; Tulum, Mexico; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Here are seven destinations and deals to help you get moving. Most can be booked online, or a travel agent can help.


• Best for: Hedonists in training -- older teens and college-age kids eager to shed their inhibitions and party in a wild and crazy setting. High schoolers won't be happy about having chaperones, but those under 18 can't rent a hotel room without one.

• Don't forget: A passport or driver's license (or government-issued photo ID) and certified copy of a birth certificate to get into the country. Once there, remember: Acts of public lewdness, disturbing the peace and public drunkenness are crimes punishable under Mexican law.

• Good deals: Aeromexico Vacations is offering all-inclusive vacations from Atlanta to Cancun for travel March 8-10 and March 15-17 at a discounted rate. Vacations include round-trip airfare, hotel transfers, accommodations at the Costa Real Cancun or the Oasis Beach Resort, all meals, all domestic and select international beverages, daily activities, nightly entertainment and 24-hour traveler assistance. Prices start at $494 for a four-night vacation, $694 for five nights and $774 for six nights (per person based on double occupancy). Add about $100 per person for fees and taxes. Call 1-800-934-2622 to book. Also, offers seven-night spring break packages with hotel and airfare from Atlanta from $509 per person (with four sharing a room) at Maria de Lourdes to $829 per person (four in a room) at Oasis Cancun and Omni Cancun. Expect to pay about $150 additional for fees and taxes. All-inclusives are higher. 1-888-777-4642,

Costa Rica

• Best for: College-age kids and older teens (see Cancun) who've grown weary of Cancun or active types who want outdoor adventure (snorkeling, kayaking, tree canopy tours, rain-forest exploration, horseback riding, golfing, surfing, sport fishing and whitewater rafting) along with their partying.

• Don't forget: A passport. It's also a good idea to bring an insurance card (you never know) and lots of sunscreen.

• Good deals: has all-inclusive seven-day Saturday-to-Saturday packages (excluding airfare) for $469 per person based on quad occupancy for accommodations at Jaco Beach Resort. Also included: party charter buses to and from San Jose International Airport with free drinks, three meals daily, unlimited alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages on property, and two all-you-can-drink parties at "the hottest bar in town." 1-866-255-8828,

Las Vegas

• Best for: Couples looking for a glitzy, sophisticated getaway and maybe a little amore. Even if you're not a high roller, there's plenty to keep you occupied -- shows, restaurants, nightlife, spas and endless shopping.

• Don't forget: If you're thinking about pulling a Britney Spears, remember to pick up a marriage license before you show up at the chapel.

• Good deals: Visit the South Seas without leaving the country. The gold-draped Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino offers a breakaway from $119 per night per room through April with lots of extras. The deal, available on, includes a deluxe room; $250 in savings certificates for shopping at Mandalay Place; two-for-one breakfast at House of Blues; free wine sampler with dinner entree at Red, White and Blue; and a $35 suite upgrade (at check in, when available). The tropical-themed resort has three pools in a palm-studded oasis with machine-made waves and a lazy river, a shark reef where you can swim with the sharks, shows ("Mamma Mia!" among them), a 135,000-square-foot casino, Spa Mandalay and two wedding chapels. Book by March 1 at

Panama City Beach, Fla.

• Best for: College-age kids and older teens (see Cancun) who want a quick driving destination -- it's less than six hours from Atlanta. The city welcomes more than half a million students from colleges and universities all over the country to its 27 miles of sugary beaches. In April, when the collegians are back on campus, the family vibe is good.

• Don't forget: Unlike in Mexico and the Caribbean, where the legal drinking age is 18 (and enforcement is lax), you must be 21to buy or drink alcohol. Open containers are not allowed within vehicles or within 50 feet of a public thoroughfare. And if you do drink, stay off balconies. Oh, and bring your insurance card. For more information on the area, call the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-722-3224 or visit

• Good deals: Book the very happening Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort -- one of the nicest beachfront hotels -- through for $249 per person with four sharing a room for seven nights (which becomes $404 with all the fees and peak-week add-ons). But you get such amenities as a pool with waterfall, jacuzzi, fitness center, free shuttle to nightclubs and microwaves and mini-fridges in every room. Other properties available. 1-888-777-4642, also has a good selection of packages for seven-night vacations, and every guest gets a "Party Pak" that includes a Panamaniac party card, spring break party cup, party cooler, camera with free developing and a spring break T-shirt. Rates depend on what week you travel, but the week of March 6-13, the Chateau Motel is $200 per person per week with four people sharing a standard beachfront room with two queen beds. 1-888-782-9722,

Hilton Head

• Best for: Active families and teens who like to play together.

• Don't forget: While the Atlantic Ocean won't exactly be balmy, hotel pools are heated and there's plenty to do: tennis, horseback riding, golf, boating. If you plan to get out on the water, bring a sweatshirt or jacket.

• Good deals: Good luck. The period between April 3 and 17, when metro public schools are on break, is considered high season (along with mid-June to mid-August) on the island. But the place will be hopping with families, and children's programs at resorts will be in full gear. Expect to pay about $1,950-$2,500 for a weekly rental of a two-bedroom oceanfront unit at Palmetto Dunes Resort, which Travel+Leisure Family magazine ranks No. 1 in its 2003 list of top family resorts in the continental United States and Canada and 20th in the United States and Canada by T+L World's Best Awards. Another great choice, recommended by About's Travel With Kids (, is Disney's Hilton Head Resort, designed to evoke a 1940s hunting and fishing lodge. It's on a secluded island in Shelter Cove Harbor, but there's a shuttle to Disney's Beach House on the ocean. And the children's programs are tops. Visit or call 407-939-7775. For more help with accommodations, visit the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce site at or call 1-800-523-3373.


• Best for: Couples taking advantage of Bermuda tourism's Companion Flies Free packages.

• Don't forget: Your bermuda shorts. Seriously, you'll want to pack your best resort casual attire because Bermuda isn't really a cutoffs and flip-flops sort of place. And while it won't be cold in March or April, keep in mind Bermuda is in the mid-Atlantic -- not the tropics. But the weather will be great for golfing, tennis, shopping and enjoying the island's cultural treasures. You'll also need a passport or driver's license (or government-issued photo ID) and certified copy of a birth certificate to get into the country.

• Good deals: Because it's the low season, tourism officials have teamed up with Delta Airlines and TNT Vacations to offer three-night packages starting at $319 per person from Atlanta on the Companion Flies Free plan. The $319 is for the Granaway Guest House (, a five-unit bed-and-breakfast in an elegant manor house built in 1734 in Warwick Parish about a mile from Hamilton and a couple of miles from the South Shore beaches. If you want something on the beach, you can book the Grotto Bay Beach Resort ( on 21 naturally landscaped acres in Hamilton Parish for $370 per person or the Surf Side Beach Club ( on the South Shore in Warwick Parish for $423 per person. Book by Feb. 29 for travel through April 15. Go to for details; call 1-800-237-6832 to book.

Puerto Rico

• Best for: Couples, families and teens who'd rather swim in a bioluminescent bay or hike through a rain forest and explore a well-preserved old city than whoop it up. Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel magazine touts the something-for-everyone appeal of Puerto Rico in a February article on where to have a carefree, fun-filled spring break far from the "excesses of such party capitals as Cancun, Negril and Daytona Beach."

• Don't forget: Your driver's license or government-issued photo ID (required to board an airplane but not necessary to enter the U.S. commonwealth). Sunscreen and bathing suit; it'll be plenty warm for splashing in the Caribbean.

• Good deals: Liberty Travel's Get Carried Away packages to Puerto Rico include airfare and hotel for five nights. We priced the ESJ Towers on Isle Verde Beach April 10-15. The tab for two adults and two children in a Super Saver room: $2,670.80. For details or more hotel options, visit or call 1-888-271-1584. Or book the Wyndham Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino, 10 minutes from Old San Juan, with from $2,661 for two adults and two children, including airfare on Delta Airlines. Details and other hotels, 1-800-920-7070,

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