Spring Break is right around the corner and for those of us taking a family vacation, it also means relaxing with the family, getting away from the cold weather, crystal-clear blue ocean waters, and a restful time. For college-aged kids though, Spring Break means partying … a LOT. If the word Spring Break brings back some memories that you either barely remember, or shudder at the mere thought of them … then you’re probably too old to enjoy some popular destinations (during this one week).
Don’t get me wrong, the destinations I list below to avoid, would be perfect and awesome if it were any other week of the year. But if you want a peaceful family vacation, you should probably steer clear of certain popular party destinations between early March and beginning of April and instead, try the alternatives.
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Panama City, Florida
If MTV once filmed a reality TV show at a destination during Spring break, it’s probably a place you should avoid during that time. Otherwise you’ll find yourself trapped in what feels like a raging hormone infestation.
In March, this ocean-side city in Florida becomes a magnet for hundreds of thousands of college-aged students looking to get their release from the college-life pressure. Spring Break in Panama City is so popular that it even has its own website dedicated to the “holiday.. For an entire month, Panama City becomes a city swarmed with spring breakers entering bikini contests, foam parties, and non-stop barhopping.
However, if you find yourself in Panama City during Spring Break, no worries. There are some places you can still go to get the peaceful beach vacation you were wanting.
Most of the college action is on the East end of the city so as long as you stay West, you can avoid all the noise and action. Stay and eat high-end … none of the college kids can afford it. And go shopping and hit places earlier, more than likely the young ones are still sleeping after their late night clubbing.
Alternative: Amelia Island – The southernmost of the Sea Islands, a chain of barrier islands that stretches along the east coast of the United States from South Carolina to Florida. Amelia Island is 100% nature, serenity, and beauty. Daily nature walks and wildlife sightseeing cruises in March and April makes this a family-friendly Spring Break destination. While Amelia Island is just a short 30-minute drive to Jacksonville International, the long deserted beaches, wildlife, and clear, warm water makes it feel as if you were in another country. Junior golf, pristine beaches for building sand-castles, shark tooth necklaces, and sea turtle hunts are just some of the activities for your young ones to enjoy on Amelia Island.
Cancun is beautiful and large enough that you can still have a great vacation. However, it’s crowded. And the idea of walking the street markets with a toddler and a bunch of hungover college kids, isn’t something I’d classify a peaceful vacation.
My senior trip was to Cancun so I know what goes on there. Flashbacks of the … well … I’d better not say, my parents may read this. All I can say is that while Cancun, Mexico is a great destination at any time of the year. It’s more about priorities.
Cancun is extremely busy during Spring Break and by 3pm, it is not uncommon to see the college kiddos walking around, drink in-hand, and having a great time. Kids can get away with a lot more outside of the United States, so Cancun becomes more about drinking than other places because it’s easier to get into the clubs.
Fortunately, if you want to experience and teach your children about the Mexican culture, you can! Spring breakers and college kids are on a vacation from learning. They have no interest in understanding the local culture. And don’t forget about snorkeling on the Great Mesoamerican Reef. It’s breathtaking!
Alternative: Riviera Maya – The postcard perfect waters in Riviera Maya is a place that has truly been blessed by nature. There is culture, adventure, thrills, nature exploring, and language immersion all at once.
Xcaret is a Disney-esque eco-archeological park theme park located in the middle of the Riviera Maya corridor in 12 acres of jungle and seashore. Think: your favorite theme park blended in with a jungle safari, an aquarium, a museum, a water park, and a Vegas-style show all in a paradise setting. Kids get to have fun and parents get to relax in a traditional sweat lodge or at the spa.
South Padre Island, Texas
The area is basically a non-stop party and because of the scorching temperatures … nudity is not uncommon on Coca-Cola Beach … a beach sponsored by the soft drink. Crime rates are low compared to other Spring Break destinations making it one of the top places to go during March and April. It’s overly crowded due to more than 100,000 college coeds flocking to the normally quiet, small island just off the tip of Texas. At night, student’s wills are spoiled for choice with the island’s impressive array of nightclubs and bars.
10 months of the year, you can have a peaceful relaxing family-friendly destination. From fishing to surfing to shopping to sand-castle building … South Padre Island a great way to enjoy the warm weather while keeping the kids entertained – as long as it’s not in March or April.
Alternative: Galveston, Texas – Beautiful resorts, an aquarium, discovery museum, paddle wheelers, and rainforest (with bat cave and two-toed sloths). Moody Gardens in Galveston offers one-day kids’ camps with various themes, a kid’s club, a Texas-size pool, a spa, and a Schlitterbahn Water Park right next door. Galveston offers everything in a resort destination – beautiful accommodations, entertainment, shopping and 32 miles of Gulf Coast family-friendly beaches.
School’s out for the week, and spring break is a great time for family bonding and relaxation. The last thing you want to do is take your kids to a spring break hot spot and be embarrassed by the antics of wild college kid taking a break from the books. Sure, the kids-gone-wild scenario may never totally fade away from the spring break scene. But there are still plenty of great alternative destinations where the only wet T-shirts you see are those worn by the little tikes splashing around in a pool or water parks.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock, Cancun CVB, South Padre CVB, and Kaleidoscope Adventures
Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of “The Procrastinating Mommy” – a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom or on Facebook at: The Procrastinating Mommy.