The American Spring Break Tradition
Leah Walker February 1, 2012

The spring break tradition is as quintessentially American as black Friday sales, Superbowl Sunday, and Fourth of July fireworks. Except way better.

Starting in January, students and teachers alike have their eyes on the calendar counting down the days until March and their spring breaks roll around. A full week away from school, this is the first real time off since Christmas. It also signals the home stretch to summer.

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American spring break conjures up visions of sun, beaches, skiing, and road trips. Thanks to movies like The Real Cancun and MTV specials, spring break is also synonymous with wild parties fueled by keg stands, bong hits, and Jello shots. I must say, that’s somewhat of an accurate account with a bit of Hollywood hyperbole thrown in for good measure.

I’ve had about 30 spring breaks in my lifetime—ten as a teacher. While I freely admit that the week-long holiday was one of the perks of teaching, it isn’t enough of an incentive to ever go back into the classroom. I do remember the elation and instant relief that came over me as both a teacher and a student when the Friday bell rang signaling absolute freedom for nine glorious days. The only feeling that rivaled the start of spring break was the start of summer.

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As a little kid, spring break meant skiing. Both of my parents were educators, so it was easy for all of us to hop in the car and head north to the mountains. Once I got to high school, spring break meant going to Austin and Houston. Once I got to college, I did what every other college kid in the state of Texas did; I went to South Padre Island down on the Texas-Mexico border.

For most people, a pilgrimage in search of sun and sand is the priority. Florida has for decades drawn people to gorgeous coastline. Daytona Beach used to be the spring break destination in the Sunshine State, but now places like South Beach in Miami, Panama City Beach, and the Keys have budget conscious students looking for a great time and warm weather.

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Another massively popular spring break destination is Mexico with Cancun arguably being the number one spot. With it’s giant hotels, blue water, and white sand, this resort town on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula draws spring breakers in like moths to flames. Normally a popular place for weddings, Puerto Vallarta instead turns into a place to party during the month of March. Once a place for Elizabeth Taylor and other Hollywood A-listers, Acapulco is overrun with students fueled by booze and warm Mexican sun.

Perhaps the destination that conjures up thoughts of spring break more than any other place for me is South Padre Island in Texas. This southern most tip of Texas is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. Most of the year it’s a popular family-friendly destination, but during March spring breakers from around the world descend on this tropical slice of Texas. Spring break is taken so seriously here that the tourism board has its own Website dedicated to providing information to those flooding South Padre.

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Although I no longer have a spring break, I’m still intrigued by the tradition of it all. I look back fondly on my weeks in Acapulco, the mountains of Colorado, and South Padre Island. I miss that feeling of hearing the school bell signaling my freedom. There’s really nothing else like it.

What’s your favorite spring break destination?

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Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

10 Comments

  1. A tradition that dates back before you were born! Ha. We always went to the coast when I was in high school and were able to purchase beer since we didn’t shave and had thick beards. College brought Steamboat and Copper Mountain skiing. Something about Tequila shots is all I remember!!! Great times, but I will never tell all!!!

    1. Wasn’t legal drinking age back then 18? Gosh, I’d imagine that if you had a full beard that it would be easy to pass for that age. Tequila shots on the slopes, that sounds just about right.

  2. my spring break tradition is called MIAMI with my girlfriends every March. we swear every year that it’ll be our last and then somehow we are all lulled right back in to going again. i’ve just booked our cabana day at Delano. YES…i sure know how to “grown up” spring break 😉

  3. Yes, I’ve made a few of those trips to Panama City Beach back during the MTV Spring Break years. Those were pretty fun times. Always wanted to make it to Padre but being in the South PCB always made more sense. I never made it on spring break trips in high school. Competing in track always meant practice and a track meet that week. They always seemed to find ways to keep us from partying. Having a son in kindergarten who will get his first spring break next week, I guess that means we need to start thinking about trips for him. I think I’d rather spend a week in Europe or a U.S. national park than at an American beach that week.

    1. Damn those coaches and their practices during spring break! I know, I used to coach track, too. I agree with you on the week in Europe or a national park. The beach and all its craziness during spring break has long passed me by.

    1. I’d like to think when I was younger I’d like to do a spring break with you. Now I think it would simply kill me.

  4. It’s not one of my favourite American traditions, I must say! I did go to Cancun bang on Spring Break (by mistake), and vowed to never go back to mexico as a result. I may need to change that, but shall check dates!! 🙂 I like the idea of your spring break in Catalonia 🙂

    1. Oh, Ana. I would have killed to see you watching all that madness. But, yes, spring break in Catalonia is a much better idea for me.

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