Spring break is around the corner, at least a thousand travel-related advertorials, listicles and Flash advertisements have slidden across our phone screens, and we still haven't figured out how some people can afford heading to those good old MTV party destinations yet another year running.
But being responsible enough to pay off student loans, use your money to cover your mortgage or start a business does not mean you need to forego spring break fun.
Hundreds of new experiences are waiting for you right within your state, and just throwing yourself into situations that put you in contact with new people and places can open the door to worlds of fun.
Take a look at these 4 alternative things to do for Spring Break that won't cost a cent:
There are well over 1 million active Geocaches in the USA. In case you haven't a clue what we're talking about, Geocache is a club of sorts which you can join online at no cost.
The goal of geocaching is to locate a small capsule, known as a Geocache, using GPS coordinates or maps combined with a set of clues left by the Geocache's originator. Locations and info are available online or via the app.
Members spare no imagination when hiding Geocaches (as a member, you can hide your own and add clues and coordinates for other hunters). When you find a capsule, you can deposit bits of wisdom or foolishness, or even small personal effects to share with fellow explorers.
This ultimate global treasure hunt game is sure to take you places you never would have gone otherwise, and may just put you in contact with people whom you never would have connected with otherwise.
Hardcore Geocachers can also participate in meet-ups and competitions. There are probably enough capsules tucked around remote corners of your county to keep you exploring right through spring break. Grab your bike or hiking boots, and get hunting.
Whether you want to get out into the great outdoors, or throw yourself into your city's cultures and sub-cultures, volunteering provides a cheap and interesting way to do it.
The US is a country of volunteers and if you're a willing worker, you won't have to look far to find environmental organizations, government organizations, charities, action groups, political associations, religious associations and many more.
Whatever your interest, there's probably a group of people who share your focus and would appreciate your help. Sites like volunteermatch.org make finding volunteer opportunities near you easier than ever.
Volunteering is a cheap (normally free) way to socialize with like-minded people while doing something interesting and active. Get to know volunteer opportunities in your area and pick the ones that most appeal to you.
If putting your energy to good use someplace further from home sounds more interesting, you can check out opportunities with Peace Corps, or check out sites like projects-abroad.org for openings. Just bear in mind that volunteer trips overseas may need to be applied for a year in advance (think next Spring Break).
Learn A Language
You might associate studying a language with monotonous dialogues and long, hard hours of study. Exactly the things you take a spring break to get away from. But exploring other languages doesn't have to be a dead experience.
Most US counties are home to at least a handful of non-English speakers, and many of them have regular hangouts where they meet up and enjoy speaking in their mother tongue. With enough genuine interest and a good dose of friendliness, you shouldn't have too hard a time crashing the party.
You can even find language interest groups in many larger towns and Cities across the US, and these groups often host regular meetups where you can get together with native speakers and develop your linguistic skills.
Another option is to place and ad for, or make the acquaintance of, a non-English speaker who would like to learn or improve their English, and offer to exchange knowledge. This isn't only a free way to learn a new language, it's also a great way to make friends outside of your standard circle.
Don't limit yourself to languages which are widely spoken. Every language opens up a whole new world of thought patterns that are well worth exploring.
Become A Museum Buff
If you've never considered visiting museums to be a very interesting way to spend a Spring Break, you might be surprised.
While museums may be somewhat static, they provide the perfect venue for meeting new people who share your interests. No need to fumble for pickup lines. The museum's artifacts will give you a good place to start.
Aside from de facto museums, many special interest groups host temporary or permanent exhibitions and visiting these can provide insight into ideas that you never knew existed. Before ruling an exhibition out, consider that the more bizzare the subject matter, the more likely you are to encounter people that you otherwise would not.
Then there's the travel involved in getting to museums and exhibitions. Getting around to all the museums and exhibitions in your city will likely take you to places you've never been. If you get serious about museum crashing, your journey may take you to both the most rural locations and the most happening urban areas.
Should your Spring Break fall on the first full weekend of the month (this year that would be April 2nd and 3rd), and you happen to use a Bank of America credit card, it may surprise you to know that a number of major museums in cities throughout the US offer free entry to Bank of America and Merrill Lynch credit and debit card holders (first full weekend of the month).
Many museums have free entry, at least on certain days of the month or week, and some only ask for a donation.
Make a map of all exhibitions in your area, grab your bike or get in your car and begin your journey into interesting times.