Cost hampers spring travel

Ah, spring break: a magical time for students everywhere that usually involves beach parties or intense snowboarding. But what is this? It seems that a majority of students are staying within Anchorage for the break, and an even larger number aren’t leaving Alaska at all.
With the economy in the supposedly worst downturn since the great depression, many students can no longer afford their vacations due to rising plane ticket prices among other such money factors. Instead of putting that nice bonus toward a trip to the Caribbean, it’s going straight to paying for rent, tuition and perhaps some sustenance to live off of. But really, who needs to eat healthy when there’s 50 cent ramen?
A recent survey conducted by The Northern Light estimated that 60 percent of all students will be staying in Anchorage, and 84 percent of students will not even leave Alaska. Most students in this last category will be going to stay with parents who live outside of the city.
So what is the other 16 percent of the student body doing? Well, six percent will be heading out of the country. Don’t get excited. This means they are typically driving to Canada, or maybe heading to Mexico. And then there’s the occasional exchange student going back to their home country, but that’s as eccentric as it’s getting.
Another eight percent of students are heading down to the lower 48 states. And guess what? Most of them are traveling with and staying with family. Then there’s the last two percent who will be heading off to Hawaii for some real fun.
“My parents are buying a trip to Southern California for me,” UAA student Jessica Phipps-Graham said. “I think a lot of students are going to stay here (in Anchorage) instead of go anywhere because they don’t have any money.”
What happened to the typical American spring break? Only a meager portion of students are going to end up on sandy beaches partying their hearts out. Now it really is not anything to cry over, but there has to be a source to this drop in students leaving on vacation.
The answer? Plane ticket prices. The cost to travel by air has been rising dramatically for quite some time now, and the effects are taking a toll.
“Yeah, it’s really affecting [travel],” UAA student Candice Tucker said, “because I could have afforded my plane ticket if prices had not doubled while I was in school.”
So now students are confined to Alaska with nowhere to go. One option is a road trip down to Girdwood or somewhere even further down on the Kenai Peninsula. Of course, there is skiing and snowboarding at the famous Alyeska, but there are cheaper ways to spend a day.
Down in Seward, there is the SeaLife Center, and although the idea sounds tacky, watching fish swim around in giant tanks is not as boring as some might think, and admission is only $15 for students. Plus, for the whole week of spring break, even all the way through April, the center is running a special on all its sea life encounters: buy one, get one free. Play with the octopus! Walk around with the puffins! Take a friend and split the cost. It will be a great way to spend the day, but make sure to wake up early for the drive. The center is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There is also Portage Glacier for a nature hike right on the drive to or from the SeaLife Center. It is one thing to consider if one is looking for a full day or two away from Anchorage.
If you’re the college student that’s not into sea creatures though, maybe a train ride through Alaska will help you escape from the trap of the ordinary. The Alaska Railroad is offering a one-night retreat called the Talkeetna Getaway for $199 per person. Yes, it is a little pricey, but it is still cheaper than a plane ticket out to most places beyond Alaska. The trip involves a stay in Talkeetna, where Mt. McKinley is highly visible and many activities are available from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing. The trip begins in Anchorage on a Saturday and ends with a return trip late Sunday.
Beyond in-state travel, there are many options available to students who cannot afford to leave the state. There are always concerts, movies, outdoor activity, and many other things to entertain the days with besides catching up on homework. So do not grieve over being trapped at home for spring break-celebrate.