Where NOT to Go for Spring Break

Amanda Topinka Avatar
crowded Ocean City MD beach

When you’re in college, spring break is a non-stop party. But, when traveling with kids, you’re looking for some rest and relaxation during your vacation. Here’s a look at three of the most popular spring break destinations, why they’re great vacation spots, EXCEPT when the college kids are in town, and alternatives to consider.

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 spring break destinations (during this one time of year).

Don’t get me wrong, the spring break destinations I list below to avoid are awesome during other times 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 alternative spring break locations.

Panama City, Florida

Pier Park Sky Wheel at Sunset
The Sky Wheel offers a beautiful view of Panama City Beach. Photo: Visit PCB

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, if you’re traveling with your kids. 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-age 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.

Spring Break Alternative: Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island is 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 airport, 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, Mexico

Parents don’t have to miss out on spending time with young children or the whole family in the swimming pool Grand Residences Riviera Cancun. Photo credit: Grand Residences Riviera Cancun

Cancun is beautiful and large enough that you can still have a great vacation. However, it’s crowded during spring break. And the idea of walking the street markets with a toddler and a bunch of hungover college kids, isn’t something I’d classify as 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. But, for families traveling with toddlers, it’s not the best spring break match.

Cancun is extremely busy during spring break and by 3pm, it is not uncommon to see the college kiddos walking around, drink in-hand, 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!

Spring Break Alternative: Riviera Maya

Romantic travel deal to Playa del Carmen in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Photo credit: Diana Rowe

Riviera Maya, with its postcard perfect waters, 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.

Read More: Best Beaches in Mexico for Families

South Padre Island, Texas

The shallow bay makes South Padre Island great for fishing all year round. There are lots of places to rent boats or hire a fishing guide. Photo credit: Jill Robbins

The area is basically a non-stop party during spring break. 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, the island sports an impressive array of nightclubs and bars.

During the other 10 months of the year, South Padre is a peaceful, relaxing, family-friendly destination. From fishing to surfing to shopping to sand-castle building, South Padre Island has warm weather and attractions to keep the kids entertained – as long as it’s not in March or April.

Spring Break Alternative: Galveston, Texas

Visit the overwater amusement park, the Pleasure Pier. Photo credit: Galveston CVB

Beautiful resorts, an aquarium, discovery museum, paddle wheelers and rainforest (with bat cave and two-toed sloths). Moody Gardens in Galveston offers spring Adventures Education programs with various themes, 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 Texas 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 littles to a spring break hot spot and be embarrassed by the antics of wild college kids 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.

Here are some more spring break ideas:

Luxury Spring Break Destinations for Families

Educational Spring Break Ideas

Spring Break Getaways for Active Families

Spring Break with a Baby

Tips for a Better Stepfamily Spring Break

If you need more spring break ideas, join the SheBuysTravel Facebook Community and post your questions there!

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.

Amanda Topinka is a Kansas mom of two boys and wife to a man with ADD. She’s a self-proclaimed “Disnerd” and occasionally writes about Disney as a way of keeping the magic alive. She’s blog creator of The ProcrastinatingMommy where she often blogs about her wild brood of boys. She’s a boisterous traveler who strongly feels that no destination is ever too close to home in order to create lasting memories. Amanda and her family have a serious case of wanderlust and enjoy scratching the travel itch as soon as it hits. She knows that spontaneous travel can be frustrating, miserable, crazy, and challenging – sometimes all on just one trip. But she wouldn’t trade the memories they make for anything.
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