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Where do you summer?

The ultimate travel guide for your 2009 summer vacation

By Priyanka Bhandari
On April 28, 2009

  • Kids have breakfast in classroom. Alejandro Cartagena
  • Kids have breakfast in classroom. Alejandro Cartagena
  • Kids have breakfast in classroom. Alejandro Cartagena

By this time of the year, most students are craving the kind of adventure that doesn't come from an organic chemistry book, the type of water that rushes over a white, sandy shore and not from out of a metal water fountain and the sort of relaxation that always seems short lived after having only five hours of sleep.
 Once the dreaded word "exam" shoots out from a student's head, typically another finds its way in: "vacation."
The weather is hot, everyone's tired and travel deals are too great to pass up.  All you need to do is gather some willing friends, save a couple of paychecks and pick the ultimate destination.

Endless Excitement  


Las Vegas is really hot right now, and it doesn't have anything to do with the desert climate. 
If you're looking for a package deal, check out southwestvacations.com.  A roundtrip flight plus hotel for three days and two nights starts at around $630.00 and goes up depending on what hotel you wish to stay at. 
The larger, newer casinos are usually more expensive, with their packages beginning somewhere between $750-$900.00.  This includes hotels such as The Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.


If you're sharing a room with a friend or significant other, purchasing separate plane tickets might be a good option for you so that you can split the cost of the hotel room. 
Rooms booked through the hotel (for example, on their Web site) usually aren't much more expensive than booking through a third party.  For example, The Mirage Hotel and Casino–located right on the Vegas Strip–offers the same price for a room on their Web site as they do on many third party Web sites like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com.  The prices tend to change very quickly, so if this is appealing to you, get to a computer quick.
Once you reach Vegas, you want to have a few hundred dollars in spending money for food and activities, especially if you're interested in gambling. 


Vegas offers several ways to make or lose money.  When you're there, you'll find that you either gravitate more towards the slots or the tables (or neither if you can help yourself). Table games include craps, poker, black jack and roulette.  Setting aside a specific amount of money for gambling makes it harder to go overboard with the spending.
Las Vegas shows make great activities; however, tickets should be bought in advance to ensure seat availability. 
Some of Vegas' must-see shows include Cirque du Soleil's "O," Criss Angel's "Believe" and Blue Man Group (vegas.com).  Tickets usually range from $70-100.00 depending on where the seat is located.

When You Want to Relax


When you want everything catered to you without lifting a finger, all-inclusive resorts on white sand beaches with clear water are irresistible. 
All-inclusive resorts provide you with unlimited food and drink throughout your stay. Though they are rare in the United States, you don't have to go far to get the pampering that comes with all-inclusiveness.


Mexico is an excellent choice for students on a budget looking to get away.  Cancun is a popular spot for students mainly because the majority of tourists that go there are between the ages of 18 and 30. 


According to Expedia.com, a package including a round trip flight from San Antonio to Cancun and a room in the Royal Solaris Resort, Marina & Spa is $780.00 for two days and three nights.  This includes the cost of unlimited food and drink during your stay.
Cabo San Lucas is another popular choice for many travelers who are looking for a quieter atmosphere than Cancun; the tourists are typically older in age. 
A four-day trip to Cabo can be anywhere from $700-$1,000.00 depending on when you book and where you stay.  For example, the Riu Palace all-inclusive resort, which has its own stretch of private beach, offers a package including roundtrip tickets from San Antonio to Cabo for $790.00.


The most convenient thing about staying at an all-inclusive resort is the abundance of food and drink.  Tourists can carry small amounts of money and that's only if they wish to shop or try some of the excursions. 


Excursions are activities near the hotel that include jet skiing, parasailing and zip lining and usually range from $40-$60.00. Depending on how many you would like to try, and the amount of shopping you think you'll do, you can bring cash accordingly.
If you're not sure about making a trip to Mexico, what with the recent swine flu outbreak, you might try something closer to home.


Miami, Florida offers clean beaches and active nightlife for anyone looking to relax.  There are several hotels to choose from; however, there are few that offer the perks of all-inclusive resorts. 


Hotel Riu Florida Beach offers an all-inclusive deal for $217.00 per night, which does not include the flight.  Flights to Florida from San Antonio, however, are fairly inexpensive, ranging from $150-220.00. 
Most hotels in the U.S., however, do not have the all-inclusive option.  If you decide to stay in a hotel that is not all-inclusive, then you will need to bring enough money for meals throughout the trip.

A Cultured Vacation


There is so much culture throughout the United States that we fail to notice because it exists within our own country.  Exploring cities near home can be very rewarding when you've never seen them, or paid close attention to what they have to offer.
New York City is a great example.  The difference in the food, night life and pace of the city is enough to make any tourist feel as though they've traveled far and wide.


If you're into theatre, seeing a show on Broadway is a great activity.  Tickets cost around $100-150.00, and there are several shows to choose from.  The top five shows include "Billy Elliot the Musical," "Hair," "Blithe Spirit," "Jersey Boys" and "Mamma Mia!" (nyc.com). 
Manhattan is where you'll see the true hustle and bustle of the city. You can enjoy a day of window shopping for free, or spend under $5.00 if you choose to purchase a slice of traditional New York pizza or a kabob from one of many street vendors.


If you enjoy shopping, Soho is where you need to go.  Small boutiques lined up back to back give you the opportunity to buy original outfits from up and coming designers. 
Traveling in the city is relatively easy; with a Metro card, you can get from where you are to where you need to be for less than $7.00.  If you prefer the comfort of a taxi cab, you will spend around $10-20.00, depending on where you want to go.


Round trip flights from San Antonio to New York City range from $150-200.00 per person.
The Big Apple is only one of several heavily cultured cities in the U.S. The west coast has much to offer in that arena as well.


San Francisco is a great vacation spot for anyone looking for a change in atmosphere.
Direct flights to the Golden Gate City are a bit pricier, starting at $515.00 roundtrip.  However, if you're willing to make a stop or two on the way, you can cut the cost in half.
Fisherman's Wharf is a popular tourist spot where you can check out the Ghirardelli chocolate factory or enjoy some delicious seafood right on Pier 39. This is a great place to take kids and you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a day well spent.


Alcatraz is another intriguing spot for many San Francisco visitors.  A former prison that housed the most notorious inmates, Alcatraz is now strictly a tourist attraction.  You can see Al Capone's prison cell and take a walk through the cafeteria where the inmates ate.  If you want to learn a little history during your trip, this is the right attraction for you.


One of the most popular photo spots in the entire city is at the Golden Gate Bridge.  Overlooking the San Francisco Bay, the bridge stretches 1.7 miles and is a must see if you're in or near the city. 


Planning for a vacation can be stressful, but not if you plan it in advance.  Save some money, split the costs with a friend or two and let loose now that school is almost out. 
If you decide to travel internationally, be with the people you know at all times and know how to get to the U.S. Embassy in case of any emergency. 


Most importantly, take advantage of your trip.  It's not everyday you're away from home, work and school.  There's a reason St. Ambrose began his sentences with, "When in Rome…" 
 


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