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A little ice with your tropical drink?

Spring break destinations range from sunny to the polar opposite

Halong Bay, Vietnam (GlobalPost/Louise Ward)

Finally, spring break has arrived, meaning it's time to find someplace where spring has arrived.

Or maybe not.

While luxury cruises and beach resorts were once popular choices, the down economy has put a damper on many vacation plans. Students, already on tight vacation budgets, are particularly struggling.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
(GlobalPost/Louise Ward)

But a shortage of cash doesn’t have to mean being stuck in your dorm room watching reruns of MTV's "Spring Break" all week. It just takes a little effort to find budget travel options that still provide all the comforts of a luxury vacation.

If the beach is your destination of choice, just look off the beaten path! Roam through Costa Rica, go shopping in Playa del Carmen, enjoy the white beaches of Anguilla or go clubbing in Miami.

If baking in the sun isn’t your thing, here are a few unorthodox possibilities to explore. Those not looking for oceanside lounge chairs can try dog sledding in Iceland, marvel at Sweden's ice hotel or wander the streets of historic Montreal. Here are a few tips for how to enjoy your time in the sun or in the snow, all while sticking to a budget.


For a spring break that’s the polar opposite, why not try Iceland?

A spring getaway doesn't have to take you somewhere warm and sunny. Expand your horizons and head north to score a great deal.

Dog-sledding in Iceland. Very cool. (Icelandic Tourist Board)

Following Iceland’s unfortunate bankruptcy in 2008, one of the most expensive cities in the world, Reykjavik, became a whole lot cheaper. Just recently, Icelandair extended a deal starting at $499 per person, including airfare from New York City or Boston, two nights lodging in Reykjavik and two full breakfasts. Or you can pay for the flight and book hostels across the country for as little as $20 per night.

Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is a must-see destination known for its nightlife and cafe scene, as well as its brightly painted houses.

After hitting up the city, take a spin through the countryside. See Geysir, the original spouting hot spring that lends its name to every other water spout, walk the black sand beaches at Vik I Myrdal, take a gander at the volcanoes and fjords and hike up to the Gullfoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

If you’re looking for adventure, try your hand at dog sledding. Dog sledding Iceland is the only company legally allowed to book these tours, and advanced booking is highly recommended. After a hard day of dog sledding — it's not as easy as it looks — take a plunge in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s largest geothermal pool. Lean back, look up at the pitch-black sky, and try to find the sometimes-elusive Northern Lights.

The best way to get around outside the capital is by renting a car. All U.S. and European driver’s licenses are accepted, though the minimum age is 21.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Cancun might be a typical spring break destination for crazy parties and marathon drinking, but smarter travelers might want to try Playa del Carmen, 45 minutes outside of Cancun, for a less-traveled alternative.

Playa, as the locals call it, is a smaller version of Cancun. It has great restaurants, nightlife