Tampa Bay Spring Break on a Budget
The Bay area can take a lot of abuse for being a retirees’ paradise and little else, but the budget minded spring breaker will find the area, the beaches of Pinellas County especially, to have a steady flow of cheap drinks and plenty of activities to keep them busy during that time of much needed release. While a spring break traveler to the Tampa Bay area shouldn’t be expecting the bikini beach parties and binge drinking of say, Panama City Beach, there are plenty of places to go wild without putting a big dent in your wallet. If you’re considering the area for an upcoming trip, here are some tips that will help make your decision a little easier:
Tip #1: Stay away from large hotel chains and expensive resorts.
It sounds like an obvious statement, but we can all be admittedly lazy at times when booking a vacation. Sure it’s easy to book a room at the Hilton in Clearwater Beach, but for the money you are going to spend on that one room you may be able to afford a weekly rental in one of the thousands of small homes or beach cottages in the area. If a beach house doesn’t sound like your thing or you’re having a hard time finding a private owner willing to rent out his place to a bunch of rowdy college kids, go with a motel. Motel rates in the area can be 40-50% cheaper than the larger hotels and have many of the same amenities. St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Clearwater Beach are overrun with smaller motels directly on the beach that will suit a group of college guys (or gals) just fine.
Tip #2: Just because you aren’t staying at the swanky resort doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the amenities they have to offer.
You’ll discover when you get to the area that there aren’t too many “swanky” hotels or resorts on the beach to begin with. There are however, larger hotels which have great pool bars and beach bars. These hotels have no problem opening up their bars to outside business, in fact, they depend on it, so don’t be afraid to belly up and order an overpriced cocktail. Speaking of overpriced cocktails…
Tip #3: When looking for drinks on the beach, follow one simple rule:
Beachside = expensive, across the street = cheap.
There’s no shame in admitting you’re too cheap to pay $14 for a pina colada when you don’t really like rum and you’ve never particularly cared for coconut. If $2 beers sound more your speed, you should be looking for a bar on the other side of Gulf Blvd. Gulf runs the entire length of the Pinellas Barrier Beaches and the formula for finding cheap drinks is relatively simple: on one side is the Gulf of Mexico and on the other side, cheap drinks. There are literally hundreds of dive bars along Gulf Blvd and almost all of them offer beer or cocktails at college friendly prices. Use common sense when picking your destination however as some of the places might not take too kindly to your Elton John t-shirt and pink feather boa. I’m just sayin’.
Tampa Bay isn’t for everyone when it comes to looking for a wild spring destination. If dancing in overcrowded clubs or foam parties are more your thing, this isn’t the type of spring break you should be considering. If your ideal spring break includes beach relaxation, wave runner rentals, lazy pool days, or even a round of golf at an affordable price, you may want to give Tampa Bay a try.
By Mitch Tobias