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5 Cheap Spring Break Vacation Ideas

These fun destinations offer affordable options and fewer crowds compared with more popular locations

spinner image Secret Beach in San Pancho, Nayarit
Spring break travelers can find quiet beaches in the town of San Pancho in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
Pyrosky / Alamy Stock Photo

According to the online travel agency Expedia, travelers in 2024 will check into rentals with pickleball courts, voyage to places where their favorite TV series are set, and visit “destination dupes” — vacation spots that duplicate the features of well-traveled attractions but draw fewer crowds and offer more savings.

Although the notion of alternatives isn’t new, dupe mania is rooted in recent overtourism. “People have been flocking to popular destinations in record numbers, which is driving an uptick in travelers who are seeking less crowded and less obvious alternatives to these popular vacation spots that still offer all the charm,” says Melanie Fish, head of Expedia Group Brands public relations. 

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Nearly 60 percent of travelers surveyed by the market research firm Future Partners agreed with the finding that dupes will grow.

“Even more than the lower price, a dupe holds out the promise of a great experience,” says Arnie Weissmann, the editor in chief of Travel Weekly, a travel business publication. “Chief among the risks that can ruin a trip are your fellow travelers — other travelers are competitors for the same resources you’re looking for, from an upgraded room to a good table at a fine restaurant.”

Consider the following five destination dupes to help you make the most of spring break.

spinner image sunset on a beach in San Pacho, Mexico
Surfing at sunset is one way to spend spring break in the town of San Pancho.
Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo

Popular pick: Florida

Dupe destination: Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

From Pensacola to the Keys, Florida is a perennial spring break beach destination. Sun and sand lovers will find an alternative in Riviera Nayarit, the Pacific coast stretch of Mexico’s state of Nayarit just north of well-known Puerto Vallarta. The beach town of Sayulita offers the bohemian appeal of Key West — easy to navigate on foot and full of fishing charters and small hotels — with the beachcombing access of the Florida Panhandle and surfing akin to New Smyrna Beach. It’s more expensive to stay at a beachfront resort such as Amor Boutique Hotel compared with a town option such as El Pueblito Sayulita, but both are walking distance to the water where waves are gentle enough for beginners to take a swimming lesson. Travelers renting a car can explore even quieter beaches in the nearby towns of San Francisco (a.k.a. San Pancho) and Lo de Marcos.

spinner image aerial view of Montana Redonda, Dominican Republic
Visitors can sit back and enjoy the view from the top of Montaña Redona in the Dominican Republic.
Eugene Sergeev / Alamy Stock Photo

Popular pick: South Padre Island, Texas

Dupe destination: Miches, Dominican Republic

If you’re looking for the long strands associated with South Padre Island, consider Miches on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. About 90 minutes from the Punta Cana airport, the developing town of Miches offers more than 30 miles of beach, including Playa Esmeralda, a palm-fringed strand lapped by inviting turquoise waters. Birders looking to swap coastal Texas birding sites will find many different water birds and migrating land birds at nearby Limón Lagoon. Adventure travelers and photographers can take excursions to plunging waterfalls, including Salto de la Jalda and the mountain viewpoint Montaña Redonda. All-inclusive resorts are springing up along the coast, but there are more budget-friendly options closer around town, including condo rentals, homes and eco-friendly glamping-style dome tents.

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spinner image People skiing in Schweitzer Idaho on a winter day.
Travelers to Sandpoint, Idaho, have access to Schweitzer, the largest ski area in Idaho and Washington.
Avery Liebren / Alamy Stock Photo

Popular pick: Vail, Colorado

Dupe destination: Sandpoint, Idaho

Ski towns are popular with spring breakers looking for fun in the snow. Travelers who want a mountain destination and great savings should turn their attention to the northern Rockies where Sandpoint, situated on Lake Pend Oreille, offers a charming downtown and access to Schweitzer, the largest ski area in Idaho and Washington. The region has plenty of winter hiking and cross-country ski trails, as well as old-fashioned sleigh rides at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch. Bargain lodging options range from the Outdoors Inn, a classic motel updated with woodsy decor, to cabin rentals from Twin Cedars. Similar to other great ski towns, Sandpoint has cozy coffee houses such as Monarch Mountain Coffee, craft beers and burgers at Matchwood Brewing Co. and films and concerts at the 1927-vintage Panida Theater — all within walking distance of each other.

spinner image a sign of direction for Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on Interstate 25
The town of Truth or Consequences in southern New Mexico was named after a game show in 1950.
simon leigh / Alamy Stock Photo

Popular pick: Palm Springs, California

Dupe destination: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

If a desert climate, hot springs and distinctive architecture suggest visiting tony Palm Springs in Southern California, look for similar appeal in Truth or Consequences in southern New Mexico. Originally named Hot Springs, the town renamed itself after a popular television game show in 1950. But the hot springs remain, generated by a 50 million-year-old rift along the Rio Grande, surfacing mineralized water ranging from 98 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Soak in history at Hoosier Hot Springs, founded in 1937, bathe riverside at Riverbend Hot Springs or overnight at Fire Water Lodge to have your own in-room geothermal mineral hot tub. Instead of mid-century modern architecture, downtown offers Southwestern adobe buildings housing cafés and galleries, and visitors can take day trips to surrounding 19th-century ghost towns.

spinner image Memphis city skyline at dusk
Beale Street in Memphis is known for nightlife and live music venues.
Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Popular pick: Nashville, Tennessee

Dupe destination: Memphis, Tennessee

On the Cumberland River, Nashville embodies the glamour of country musicMemphis, about 212 miles west, trades country swagger for soulful blues on the mighty Mississippi River, where downtown’s new Tom Lee Park reinvents the waterfront with walkways and sunset-viewing decks. Musically, Memphis’ story starts on nearby Beale Street, a magnet for blues musicians since the 19th century, now home to live music venues including B.B. King’s Blues Club. Rent a hotel room at Caption by Hyatt Beale Street Memphis to be close to the music. Tour the original home of Stax Records, re-created at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and groove to its legendary artists, including Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. Memphis, of course, draws music pilgrims to Elvis Presley’s former estate Graceland, neighbor to the concert venue Graceland Soundstage. 

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