In the average year at Lawrence University, there are all sorts of breaks — reading periods, winter and spring breaks and national holidays that create three-day weekends. During my four-year tenure at Lawrence, I have learned the importance of taking a break outside the Lawrence bubble. I have also learned to remember that there is a world of people who are not analyzing Plato or constructing their daily routine based on when the Mudd and the dining hall open and close.
While I am fortunate to have family close by who allow me to get away during the peaks of each Lawrence term, other are not as fortunate. So, instead of buying that weekly pizza, or going out for drinks every weekend, put a little extra in the kitty and spend it on a weekend trip.
I’m not saying that you have to give up your normal stress-busting activities — just do them less often. Is it really necessary to go to the VR on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday? Do you need to get the works on that pizza, or would two toppings be acceptable? Buying consumable thrills less frequently or finding cheaper alternatives make saving for something big possible.
Need a little more help planning a college-student affordable vacation? Here are some tips:
1. Check out visitor’s bureau Web sites for the city or area that you plan to visit. Most of them have online listings of deals and packages for the area as well as calendars of events and advice on the best places to eat, stay and go.
2. Go cheap on the accommodations. Everyone likes staying in a nice fancy hotel room with all the perks and privileges, but let’s face it: If the vacation is good, you won’t be spending much time in the hotel room. So why spend a lot of money on it? I’m not saying that you have to stay in the off-name motel on the edge of town. Stick to the basics! The right number of beds and a convenient location are more worthwhile than a fireplace, which isn’t likely to be real, anyway.
2a. Call around and ask about student rates, group rates, current promotions or other deals. If you don’t ask about deals, there’s no chance of getting one. Many hotels even have special coupons for area attractions that are included just for lodging in a particular hotel, but if you don’t do the research, you won’t know.
2b. Save money on dining by finding a place with continental breakfast included. You can load up on breakfast — the most important meal of the day — snack during the afternoon and be able to spend more on dinner without breaking your budget.
3. Budget! Really, make sure you have a budget. Don’t let the “card declined” statement on the credit card machine be your clue that you’ve spent too much money. Have a budget for sleeping, eating, shopping and activities.
4. Get an area map. Don’t rely on friendly locals to direct you from place to place unless you want to spend most of your vacation lost.
5. Travel in groups. Two, three or 20 people — it doesn’t matter. Traveling in groups makes everything more fun, and a lot more affordable. Did you know that at most hotels it is cheaper per person to get a single room that holds six people than it is to get three separate two-person rooms? And, many times, these rooms are those fancy rooms that weren’t affordable when you were going by yourself.
6. Speaking of groups, find out what your student organizations are up to. Tie together a fun trip and a meaningful SORG experience and you’ve got a way to get a large group of people together (and potentially a group discount on many attractions and accommodations).
7. Be innovative! Get creative with your trip. Be a tourist. Do things you normally wouldn’t do — still keep it legal — and be sure to bring a camera! Take a walking tour of the city, have a picnic in the park, go to a local little league game and cheer for the team with the best name — the point is to have fun.In my efforts to encourage students to break free, if only for a weekend, I have assembled a list of great getaway spots. The best part about them is that they are all packed with a variety of great things to do and are within a three-hour drive of your current location in Appleton. They can also be accessed by bus.
1. Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells is an amazing place to visit — not only in the summer, but also year-round. Since many hotels and motels offer combination packages with local attractions, creating an affordable weekend getaway is definitely possible. Below are lists of places in the Dells that are a must.
Food: Take a look at Howie’s Restaurant. Breakfast is not just affordable at Howie’s, it’s delicious, too! Open for breakfast and lunch, Howie’s offers a great variety of menu options and specials with portions that are sure to fill you up! On the Web, visit http://www.howiesrestaurant.com.
When the weather is nice, stop in at the River Moon Cafe overlooking the water. This deli and ice cream parlor scoops up huge portions at a great price. Stop in and enjoy your treats on the patio, in the café or looking out at the water. At night, you can see the lights of the rides and attractions nearby. Call 608-254-4141.
Thrills: Try Dells Raceway Park. Located a few miles off the main drag of Wisconsin Dells, this is the ultimate thrill for anyone who is looking for a 100-mph adventure. At Dells Raceway Park, you can get behind the wheel of an actual stock car and drive on a one-third-mile track that has launched many professionals from Wisconsin into the pros. Whether you’re a fan of racing or not, this really is a great time. With the Dells Raceway Park “Drive or be Driven” experience, you can drive a car or be driven by a professional driver. Not up for the thrill but still want in on the action? Catch a Saturday night race from the stands. Check out the Web site at http://www.dellsracewaypark.com for more information.
Indoor fun: Stop at Kalahari Indoor Water Park or Indoor Theme Park for an indoor attraction experience. Laser tag, a movie theater, bowling, mini-golf, a ropes course, go-carts, arcade games, a climbing wall, a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-wheel and a swing — there’s something for everyone at Kalahari. Best of all, you can choose to enjoy individual attractions á la carte or to buy an all-day wristband. Visit http://www.kalahariresorts.com/ for more information.
Outdoor fun: During warmer weather there are loads of things to do outside — try a Dells Boat Tour of the scenic upper or lower dells, or a Jet Boat Tour if you’d like a little more action with your sightseeing. Or, challenge yourself to all 91 holes at Pirates Cove Adventure Golf and Family Fun Center. There are five courses wrapped between trees, up a hill and around a waterfall. See http://www.piratescovewisdells.com for more information.
There are so many outdoor water and theme parks in Wisconsin Dells — they don’t call it the water park capital of the world for nothing — that it’s hard to pick one. So, do some research and find a park with the most of the types of rides that you like — then find a hotel that gives you free passes with your stay!
Something strange: Have you ever wondered what the White House would look like if it were picked up by a tornado, torn in two and dropped upside down? Well, look no further than Top Secret. It looks really cool from the outside and it involves passageways and a tour with detours-that’s all I can say. On the Web, visit http://www.dellstopsecret.com.
Milwaukee, home of brats and beer! A straight shot south of Appleton, it’s easy to navigate your way to a weekend of fun. Here are a few places you might want to stop and see.
Food: Since the 1950s, Kopp’s Frozen Custard has been serving up custard and jumbo burgers to the metropolitan Milwaukee area. If you’ve never experienced the wonders of a jumbo cheeseburger from Kopp’s you don’t know what you’ve been missing. They aren’t kidding when they say jumbo burger. Make the trip over to Kopp’s on your first day — don’t forget to add fries and a chocola
te custard shake –and you won’t be hungry for the rest of the weekend. The downfall is that you’ll be craving Kopp’s custard long after you’ve left. Fear not — visit the Web site at http://www.kopps.com to order 10-packs that can be delivered any time you need a reminder of how fantastic it really is.
Sports fans: Take your pick of basketball or baseball. Depending on the time of year, you can catch a professional sports game for not a lot of money. Pay attention to Web sites for schedules of college specials and giveaway nights. Nothing says “Happy Birthday, Roomie!” like a free bobble-head.
Drinkers: Can you say “Brew City”? Milwaukee’s heritage for breweries makes for a great weekend for brewery tours. There are microbreweries and large label beers to be found all over the city. For a small fee, you get a history lesson, a tour and samples. Best of all — if you’re not quite 21, you can still join in the fun and sample sodas instead. Sprecher offers a great selection of specialty sodas that will leave you Googling for the nearest store that sells them. Visit http://www.sprecherbrewery.com.
There’s no better late-night experience than a round around the stump in the back of the Old German Beer Hall. Buy your nails — and a beer — at the bar and take turns hitting them into the giant tree stump near the alley entrance. The last person to tap in a nail buys the next round. Go to http://www.oldgermanbeerhall.com.
3. Green Bay and Door County
If you haven’t been there yet, at some point in your Lawrence career you must make a trip up to our fantastic “northern campus” up in Door County. However, Bjrklunden counts as part of the bubble that you need to get away from during breaks. When you need to get away, but there isn’t much time, spend a day up in Green Bay or Door County.
Gambling: Head on up to the casino and splurge — just make sure that you’ve got a full stomach and a full tank of gas to get home on before you head in. This may not be a money-saving adventure, but with a pre-set spending limit you and your friends can still have a lot of fun.
Wine: Make an early trip up to the Door Peninsula Winery. Go for a tour in the morning, and then tour all the flavors at the sampling bar. My favorite is the Primavito Ice Wine, but, with almost 30 varieties, there’s a wine with your name on it. Take the opportunity to try all of the varieties and find out what your favorite style is. Visit http://www.dcwine.com.
Tourism: Take a trip over to Lambeau Field and experience the place where cheese heads are born. You may not be a Packer fan. In fact, you may be a Vikings fan or not a fan of football at all. That’s fine, but haven’t you ever wondered what makes so many people around the country act so ridiculous during football season? Feed your curiosity and check it out. Get a preview at http://www.lambeaufield.com.
Shopping: State Street is the place to be for a great shopping experience. You can go shopping all day and only have to find a parking spot once. Plus, you’ll get in a great workout from walking the entire strip.
Ice cream: UW-Madison’s Babcock Hall is famous for its ice cream. You can sample all the different flavors — including exotic concoctions such as blueberry pomegranate — at the Daily Scoop, located within the Memorial Union on the UW campus. On the Web, vist http://www.union.wisc.edu/food/dailyscoop.html.
Special thanks to the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau, Dells Raceway Park, Copa Cabana Resort and the Milwaukee Visitor Bureau.