Affordable spring break centerpiece

Students are able to take various trips around the country or participate in volunteering activities with Iowa State's affordable spring break options. 

Iowa State is ensuring every student makes the most of their spring break by offering various trips and activities within their price range. 

Organizations at Iowa State offer several options for students, like the Pay It Forward (PIF) trip.

PIF is a student volunteer organization that participates in service projects around the Ames community throughout the year. “Our organization focuses on making an impact in Ames and around the country while developing servant leaders,” said PIF President Jacob Vos. 

PIF’s largest event of the year is their annual spring break trip to seven different U.S. cities. Up to 45 student participants travel by charter bus and volunteer in the communities they stop in. Housing is provided by local churches and community centers, with some more unique opportunities popping up each year. 

spring break volunteers 2

Students are able to travel and volunteer in cities by seeking shelter at various locations such as YMCAs, churches and community centers.

“Last year we stayed at the YMCA in the Rockies for the night,” Vos said. 

This year, PIF is serving in North Platte, Nebraska; Boulder, Colorado; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Grand Junction, Colorado; and Moab, Utah. Their final, two-day stop is Salt Lake City, Utah. Various indoor and outdoor service projects will be completed at each stop, such as helping community shelters, cleaning public buildings, trash pick-ups and building community gardens.

The PIF trip is all-inclusive for nine days. Participants pay a total of $525, which covers transportation, housing, food, tourism activities and a t-shirt. A competitive scholarship is offered based on responses to an application. 

“One of the coolest pieces of Pay It Forward is the impact,” Vos said. “The impact is not only on the people we serve through our service projects but also on the people involved in the Pay It Forward Tour. This is truly the experience of a lifetime!”

For more information on Pay It Forward, students can email payitforwardiowastate@gmail.com, check out their Instagram, @iowastatepif, or visit their Facebook page, Iowa State Pay It Forward.

Iowa State Recreation Services is also offering inexpensive spring break trips for students who love outdoor adventures.

Students can find a list of the trips available on the Outdoor Recreation webpage. Options include surfing in California, snow-sporting in Utah, a national park tour in the southwest, kayaking in Florida and plenty more backpacking, hiking and canyoneering ventures.

Registration deadline for each trip is 6 p.m. March 6. All of the trips are from March 14-21. Prices range from as low as $250 to $800, depending on equipment, lodging, travel, meals and number of paid trip leaders.

An guest blog featured on the Iowa State Recreation Services website from former senior Ellen Mais talks about a student experience with Outdoor Recreation’s spring break trips. Mais attended a backpacking trip in Georgia and Tennessee and a hiking and canoeing trip in Utah.

“The views and fresh air — as well as a complete lack of cell service — were invigorating,” Mais wrote. “But my favorite part of the trip was the people I met […]. Don’t be afraid to sign up by yourself! Everyone will be laughing and joking together by the end of the trip.”

If students cannot go on a spring break trip but are interested in what Outdoor Recreation offers, shorter weekend trips are available throughout the spring semester with varying registration deadlines. These include a wide variety of outdoor activities, like snow sports, kayaking, backpacking and rock climbing in different states in the country.

Outside of the university, students can find amazing deals on trips to some of the United States’ most famous cities with a few Google searches.

spring break volunteering

Students spent their spring break by volunteering around the country. Volunteers pose as a group for a photo.

An article containing a list of cheap flights to popular tourist cities can be found on Travel + Leisure’s website, a New York City-based travel magazine that has been circulating since 1937. A quick visit to the Airbnb website, the famous online lodging marketplace commonly used by tourists, can warrant a wide selection of affordable lodging options with great customer reviews.

Flights from the Midwest to Boston, Massachusetts, cost an average $147, according to the Travel + Leisure article. Entire Airbnb houses, apartments and condominiums located in the city can house up to 12 guests and cost $90 to $130 per night. When this is split up among the amount of potential guests, the cost can be as low as $15 to $20 per person per night. For things to do, Boston is home to the SoWa art & design district, which has over 200 galleries, restaurants and markets for art-loving tourists to enjoy.

For snow sport lovers, Travel + Leisure lists the average cost of a flight to Salt Lake City, Utah, as $172. Airbnbs here are similar to those in Boston — entire houses and apartments that hold 12 guests and go for as low as $15 per person per night. Other than skiing resorts, visitors of Salt Lake City can see botanical gardens, lakeside marinas, go on bike tours of the city and see the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Trips to Jacksonville, Florida, are within reach as well. Flights from the midwest cost $189 on average, and Airbnb offers houses for five to eight guests that can be as low as $20 per person per night. For things to do, Travel + Leisure magazine states Jacksonville has 20 miles of uncrowded beaches and a variety of natural parks.

Lastly, the average cost of a flight to Austin, Texas, runs for around $200. Airbnb offers houses and condos close to the downtown area that hold six to eight guests and range from $20 to $40 per person per night. One of the best deals available here is a house for sixteen or more guests that can cost lower than $30 per person per night. This house is not the only deal like it. Travel + Leisure recommends Austin to music lovers, as it has over 250 live music venues. There is also Zilker Park, where tourists can hike, bike the trails and canoe on Lady Bird Lake.

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