Though I’m out of school with a work schedule free from the standard academic cycle, I flip the calendar to March each year with one thought: spring break.
It’s hard to shake the anticipation of seasonal breaks — Christmas vacation, spring break, summer holiday. No matter where or when you are in life, there’s nothing like a vacation for resetting at the tail end of winter. The best part? You don’t need to leave the county for a great trip. Each of these destinations is a passport-free flight away for U.S. residents:
1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
If you’re longing for warm, blue Caribbean waters and a getaway outside the 50 states, Puerto Rico will welcome you without an American passport. Though several hotels and resorts are still in the rebuilding stages after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, tourism officials have assured capital city, San Juan (and much of the rest of the island), is “open for business.”
From boutique hotels to beachside Airbnbs, San Juan includes plenty of accommodations for a wide budget range. You’ll deal with more crowds in the historic Old San Juan district, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the cobblestone streets, Spanish-style restaurants, and cafes during early mornings and late nights when other tourists have left the neighborhood. If you have the time and money for a longer flight this spring break, I can’t think of a better long-distance destination with the same layers of history, beach, and culture as Puerto Rico.
2. Sedona, Arizona
No matter how many places I go, there’s nothing quite like Sedona. Fly into Phoenix, stay a night or two, and then head straight to red rock country. Driving North from Phoenix into Arizona’s high desert wonderland is a treat in itself. As you leave behind the heat of the city, towering saguaro cacti give way to low desert scrub, then finally reveal a dramatic landscape of red rock cliffs.
If you’re hoping for a breath of fresh air this spring break, I can’t recommend Sedona enough. Every year, throngs of visitors flock to the red landscape for relaxation and wellness (it’s a haven for artists, healers, and yogis). But Jeep tours, ATV rentals, and hiking means there’s room for adventurers, too.
3. South Padre Island, Texas
Spring break doesn’t have to be synonymous with a beach vacation, but there’s nothing wrong if it is, right? South Padre Island might be for you if you’re looking for beach parties, nightlife, and that classic spring break vibe. The subtropical island in the Gulf of Mexico comes alive with concerts, happy hours, and college crowds every March and April. This is your passport-free ticket to a wild week that feels like splashing down in Cancun or the Bahamas.
4. San Diego, California
Everyone I met in San Diego told me it was the perfect temperature every day, and they’re not wrong. Daily high temperatures hover between 65 and 75 degrees all year long. Mornings and evenings can get chilly, but if you’re the type who enjoys an itinerary that includes more than lounging on the beach for a week, it’s hard to imagine San Diego disappointing. You’ll see the white sand beaches, but you can also get lost for hours in the city’s giant green lungs: Balboa Park. The nearly 1,200-acre stretch encompasses several museums, spaces for open-air concerts, and enough walking trails to keep you active for days. With SeaWorld, farmers markets, and a buzzy city center packed with bars and restaurants, it’s hard to imagine getting bored.
5. Asheville, North Carolina
While it might not be sizzling enough to lay out by the pool, springtime in Asheville will offer you moments surrounded by sunshine and wildflowers on mountain trails. When you’ve had your fill of exploring city streets and trails, head to the Biltmore Estate. The sprawling historic grounds include shopping, restaurants, a winery, and gardens to tour. Though Asheville might not seem like a standard spring break vacation, it’s a perfect getaway if you prefer wine and waterfalls to sand and sun.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Jazz, bourbon, picnics in the park, crawfish boils — that’s springtime in New Orleans. NOLA is known as a walkable city, so consider staying close to the heart of things — and don’t worry about a car. If you want to soak up the sunshine, most restaurants have seating that spills into the courtyard and out on the sidewalk; or you can take it to-go, grab a bottle of your favorite wine, and settle into a shady corner of a park. Warm March and April weather are also perfect for a slow walk through the city — whether you prefer a path along the bayou or a stroll through the French Quarter.
BRB, PACKING OUR BAGS