Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
College students parading in promiscuous shorts, the smell of tanning oil in the air and lingering regrets from St. Patrick’s Day on Facebook can only mean one thing ... It’s vacation season!
While in most parts of the country March is reserved as almost spring, here in the South, it marks the beginning of a make-shift summer. From now until August, students’ GPA’s will be dropping, flips will be flopping and people everywhere will be vacationing.
If your financial situation is anything like mine, a summer vacation means little more than a trip to Walmart for pool noodles and a cool Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s (oh yeah, it’s back).
However, like the good-news fairy that I am, I’m here to tell you that a vacation doesn’t have to be an elitist ritual carried out by the rich and the bearers of HOPE Scholarship excess. You, too, can get out of town without bringing your bank balance down! Take a look at some of these Brittany-approved pre-planned trips.
This little tid bit is for the kids and the young at heart. While Disney World remains a corporate nightmare of overpriced rodent paraphernalia, there is a way to afford it without sneaking in. While you won’t be able to visit every park, you will be able to spend a day at the Magic Kingdom (the only park worth attending in my opinion). Your biggest expense will be the one day/one park pass which is currently situated at a steep $90.53 for ages 10 and older and $84.14 for ages 3-9. Aside from gas, that could be the only money you spend all day.
Disney World allows people to bring in food and drink, so you can bring your own snacks from home and even pack a nice picnic to eat in any fantasy land of your choice. If you don’t want to lug around a day’s worth of food, you can rent a locker in the park that you may visit at will. If you’re leaving from Valdosta and depart at 6 a.m., you will arrive at about 10 a.m. (this includes time for bathroom breaks). You can stay all day and when you’re done enjoying your day, just pack up and drive home. While the drive back is a little miserable, it’s not anything a 5-Hour Energy Shot can’t fix.
A trip not too suitable for children, St. Augustine, Fla., is a great one-day getaway for adults. A two-and-a-half-hour drive from Valdosta is not too shabby considering all you have to enjoy once you get there. My favorite stop is the San Sebastian Winery. Complimentary winery tours and wine tasting are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Another great and free aspect of St. Augustine is the historic town. Even if it’s not in your budget to shop, splurging on some ice cream and walking the town makes for a perfect day.
St. Augustine is also home to some great restaurants. If your wallet will allow, Columbia Restaurant which is Florida’s oldest restaurant is worth every cent. It’s not too pricey; you can expect to spend about $40 for two people and that could be dwindled down if you share an entree which is more than enough for two people.
A small beach in Franklin County, Fla., Alligator Point is the perfect destination for a last-minute beach day. From Valdosta, the drive is about two hours and 20 minutes and is probably the cheapest vacation on this list. Aside from gas, you can get away with paying absolutely nothing. Pack a lunch, take a towel and some sunblock and you’re ready to lay lazy on the beach all day long without a care in the world because nothing is better than a near-free vacation.
While you may not have the funds to travel to Cancun or even spend a weekend in Daytona, Fla., that doesn’t mean you should spend these beautiful, sunny days barely showered in sweats and watching re-runs of Shark Week. No longer will you be jealous of that girl with the tan line at Target. You can sport a tan of your own and I can almost guarantee that while your tan story might not sport as colorful of a story as that other girl’s, it will have certainly cost you less ... in terms of money and sense of self-worth.
Let me know what you think or even suggest a tactic for me to try. Email me at brittany.mcclure@gaflnews. com. Also, visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brittany’sbudgetdiary and join the “budgeteer” revolution!
Brittany D. McClure is The Valdosta Daily Times business reporter.
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