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Slather on the sunscreen, suck in the belly and order another round of margaritas—this is spring break! But catching rays while hunting for baes doesn’t come cheap, so do yourself a favor and ditch the crowds and save some bucks at these seven cheaper and lower key spring break alternatives.

RELATED: 8 perfect spring break destinations for beach haters

Phoenix vs Las Vegas

Wet Deck at W Scottsdale

Sin City isn’t the only desert hangout with a pool party scene (just ask Maya Day & Nightclub, Wet Deck at the W Scottsdale and Liquid Sunshine at the Hotel Adeline). And it’s certainly not the only town with glitzy casinos (visit Scottsdale’s Talking Stick Resort and Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, and nearby Lone Butte Casino for gaming action). What Phoenix does boast that Vegas does not is a hikeable mountain smack in the middle of the city (Camelback), a new age mecca a stone’s throw away (Sedona) and hundreds of hotels that don’t charge pesky resort fees.

White Sands National Park vs white sand beaches

White Sands National Park

Spring breakers love to flock to the Florida panhandle for its famous white sand beaches. But if it’s sinking your toes into powdery goodness you seek, newly minted White Sands National Park in New Mexico boasts 250 square miles of crystalline white gypsum sand dunes. Rent a sled at the visitors center and ride the dunes for a day of fun or do as most tourists do and simply Instagram the heck out of the place. Afterward, head to kooky Truth or Consequences and soak in a natural hot springs right on the Rio Grande!

Puerto Rico vs The Bahamas

Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Bahamas, and by that we mean Nassau, has turned into a full-on spring break hangout in recent years, but we think this island nation is better experienced sans crowds. Instead, barnstorm San Juan for spring break tomfoolery at affordable oceanfront resorts in Condado, barhopping in Old Town and day trips to El Yunque Rainforest for zip line adventures and ATV tours. Pull yourself away from the lively capital long enough to ride a wave at Rincon, eat and drink your way along the seafront boardwalk in Ponce and ditch the crowds with a day at Flamenco Beach on sleepy Culebra island.

Nashville vs New Orleans

Dive Motel and Swim Club

Unstoppable Nashville has become the it party city (just ask every bachelor and bachelorette). This spring break, trade Bourbon Street for Broadway, jazz bars for honky-tonks and muffulettas for hot chicken. If it’s boozy vibes you’re seeking, it’s always beer o’clock at no-worries tropical hangout the Margaritaville Resort, while the disco-infused Dive Motel and Swim Club offers a groovy retro retreat for plugged-in Millennials. Keep the party going at 6th and Peabody, a hybrid brewery, distillery and adult playground a stone’s throw from the trendy Gulch. In April, temps hover in the 70s.

Joshua Tree vs Palm Springs, CA

Joshua Tree National Park

As the Coachella crowd jacks up hotel prices in Palm Springs to sky-high rates, do yourself a favor and beat a laid-back retreat to the communities just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Beyond the park’s prickly desert landscapes, there’s much to see and do. Head to Pioneertown for cowboy vibes and drinks at Wild West honky-tonk Pappy and Harriet’s, snap selfies in front of the world’s largest freestanding boulder, take a “sound bath” at the out-of-this-world Integratron, have fancy bites at roadside eatery La Copine, and hang with Jupiter and Saturn at outdoor observatory Sky’s the Limit. Budget hotels abound in nearby Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley.

Merida vs Cancun

Celestun

For starters, the cultural capital of Mexico’s Yucantan Peninsula is ranked the second safest city in North America. Merida is also the world’s hacienda capital so book one one that’s been turned into a small hotel for poolside relaxation. Pristine beaches are a short bus ride away in Progresso. Meanwhile, coastal Celestún offers secluded sands, plus swarms of pink flamingoes, UNESCO World Heritage Site Campeche boasts more rainbow-swirled buildings than a pack of Starburst, and Edzna offers the same wondrous Mayan ruins as Chichen Itza, but sans crowds—and for a mere $3.

Tampa/St. Pete vs Miami Beach

St. Pete Beach

From a price standpoint, this one’s a no brainer. On weekends, Tampa‘s funky Ybor City, a former cigar manufacturing neighborhood, resembles Bourbon Street (sans the beads) and offers late-night tomfoolery as far as the feet can stumble. In Seminole Heights, you’ll find crazy fun bars like the Independent, a watering hole located within a converted gas station. Cross the bay and make a beeline for St. Pete Beach, a needle-thin strip of sand, fronted by beachfront and rooftop bars, cheap seafood shacks and colorful resorts and motels anchored by the legendary Don CeSar.

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Tagged: Beach, California, Caribbean, Destinations, Events, Florida, Holidays

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