Still undecided on spring break? You're likely to have trouble finding a good airfare for a trip to Mexico or ski country.
Consider the Texas coast. In general, you can get a pretty good deal if you do your spring break Monday through Thursday and leave Friday. On weekends, room rates can double. Two popular choices:
The Corpus Christi/Port Aransas area draws a mixed crowd for spring break. Port A attracts some collegians who want to avoid the masses on South Padre Island. Families gravitate to the condos of Mustang Island and the smaller beaches of Corpus Christi, which are close to restaurants and attractions.
Mustang Island State Park, at the southern end of Mustang Island, is my recommendation for a family day at the beach because you don't risk getting run over by a car there. (Driving is allowed on the rest of Port Aransas/Mustang Island's beachfront.)
And don't forget Padre Island National Seashore, just to the south - a big, pristine beach great for finding shells. There are good waters for swimming, surfing and fishing.
In Corpus Christi, the Texas State Aquarium ( www.texas stateaquarium.org ) is always a good bet for kids, and a new Swamp Tales exhibit will be open. It features a 10-foot alligator named Bo. Next door, the USS Lexington ( www.uss lexington.com) has launched new interactive battle stations that let you take off, land and shoot enemy aircraft.
A good booking site is www.visitcorpuschristi.org, which has plenty of rooms available in Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Mustang Island and North Padre Island starting at $60, though most are in the $119-$139 range.
South Padre Island
The island's ready for the big party. With the exception of the Bahia Mar (it's still under reconstruction), the hotels and motels have recovered from 2008's Hurricane Dolly - though a few have new names, notably the Radisson. A year ago, it turned into the Isla Grand ( www.islagrand.com).
It matters, because the big beach party is always behind this hotel. Although the dunes are a bit smaller, the beaches look great. As always, alcohol is allowed on the beaches, but glass and underage drinking are likely to land you in court.
It could be a huge party this year: About 125 colleges and universities nationwide have their spring break this week, including the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Oklahoma. As a result, room rates are high. A few mid-island motels have some rooms available starting at $132 midweek, but many are up around $300.
"In 17 years, I've never seen it so bad," says Chad Hart of Inertia Tours, which specializes in student packages.
If you're trying to do the trip on the cheap, Inertia is offering a $250 package that gives you four nights (Sunday through Thursday) in a hotel off the beach (but within walking distance) and two meals a day, along with all taxes and fees and a $50 gas card. That's with four people per room. Details: www.inertiatours.com/low costtrips .
The biggest difference for this island's spring break in recent years is that crossing the border into Matamoros, Mexico, is no longer a good idea. It's not safe. South Padre Island, however, is half an hour from the border and across a bridge.
College spring breakers typically limit their activities to eating, sleeping, partying and hanging out on the beach. But if you're up for something new, try the Black Dragon Cruise (pirate-theme boat ride, www.blackdragoncruises.com, with beer on board) or Sea Life Safari (eco-themed boat ride that includes dolphin-watching, www.ospreycruises.com).