Spring Break packages deceive students
MEDFORD, Mass. – For students who went to tropical locations for spring break, there could be worse things than a bad sunburn: getting ripped off.
Starting early on in the school year, posters lure students with all-inclusive spring break packages to destinations like Cancun and Acapulco. These seemingly blissful and convenient packages are a college student’s dream – planning a trip without having to do much research. As many students can attest, however, these deals often aren’t exactly what they say they are.
This month, the State Public Interest Research Groups’ Higher Education Project released a report, “Spring Broke: How to Avoid a Spring Break Ripoff,” that examined the deceptive advertising practices of travel companies which target college students. According to the report, which surveyed travel company posters across the country, hidden fees for each trip (usually only mentioned in fine print) totaled on average up to $367 – resulting in a trip price 62 percent higher than advertised.
After a disappointing spring break package to the Bahamas her sophomore year, senior Ani Altoonian opted to use a travel agency to book her spring break to the Dominican Republic this year.
“We just ended up spending a lot more money [last year] than we had anticipated once we got there,” she said about her sophomore spring break.
Altoonian and her friends had found out about Suncoast Vacations’ Bahamas package from posters on campus. The trip promised fun in the sun and free drinks, but Altoonian and friends had to wait in the airport for their charter flight and the free drinks were limited.
“You thought it was [all-inclusive], but it wasn’t…they said something like 20 hours of free drinks or something… [but] it would end up being that the bar that had the free drinks was across the island, you had to take a cab to get there, and once you got there, there was 1000 people there and you get one drink before they ran out.”
For the same reasons, senior Mike Stevenson booked his vacation to Jamaica with a travel agent and not a travel company. “It was all-inclusive,” Stevenson said about his spring break package. “If we had wanted to stay on the resort the whole time, we wouldn’t have had to spend any extra money at all.”
Not all spring break deals are a nightmare, however. Sophomore Sarah Feldberg enjoyed her sunny spring break, which she booked with Student Travel Agency (STA) that uses Student Travel Services (STS) once they arrived in Jamaica. Her $807 package included the flight, airport shuttle, and hotel with additional food and drink options. Her group opted for the $160 drink package, which Feldberg says was worth the extra money.
“It was really nice not having to carry lots of cash or pay cover charges,” Feldberg said. “Looking back it probably would have been worth it to do the food too.”
For students who don’t plan on drinking heavily every night of their week-long trip, however, such drink packages may not be worth the cost. “It was a good deal as long as you are crazy enough to drink that much,” sophomore Jessica Brauser, who also went on Feldberg’s trip, added.
Many services, such as STS, offer additional deals once students have arrived at their spring break destination.
In Jamaica, for example, excursions such as climbing waterfalls and jumping off cliffs or the “booze cruise” are offered and range in price from and extra $25 to $65 extra dollars.
Once on vacation, students are often eager to see and to do as much as possible, giving these services the chance to reel in even more money.