Spring break ends this weekend, while a miserably cold winter drones on in Kansas. All of us are looking for a way out, but we’re also broke. Just so broke.
With that in mind, we put together a few low-budget trip suggestions for your only days of freedom this side of summer. Go. Escape. Be free.
For the Kansas resident
According to 2018 data, more than 60 percent of University of Kansas students are Kansas residents. Those spending their collegiate years in-state might be starving for a change of scenery — at minimal cost. Our suggestion? A day-trip with friends to Omaha, Nebraska.
On the surface, a trip farther north during a cold spell doesn’t sound enticing. But this trip will at least put you in a different environment without breaking the bank. Omaha is only 200 miles from Lawrence, so a round-trip by car, with an extra 50 miles factored in for exploring, will cost you about $33 in gas. And you can always split the bill with willing friends.
Once in the city, forget your midterm failures with a visit to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. In 2014, TripAdvisor named it the best zoo in the world based on customer reviews, so for just $19 per person, you and your friends can enjoy the world’s best something.
After an afternoon at the zoo, grab a slice at Orsi’s Italian Bakery and Pizzeria. With nearly unanimous five-star ratings across review platforms, the 100-year-old business is a local favorite. You can fall asleep back in your own bed for under $50 each. Not bad.
For the out-of-stater
The University isn't just made up of born and bred Kansans: 40 percent of students are out-of-staters. Regardless of where they call home, there is a strong chance he or she hasn’t explored much outside of Lawrence and the Kansas City area during their collegiate career. For this reason, you, dear stranger, will go on the Tour de Kansas.
Despite Kansas’ reputation of being an uneventful state, a surprising amount of discoveries await the eager explorer. Within one afternoon, you can make the short drive to Topeka to visit the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. This free museum is dedicated to the court case that legally ended segregation of schools in the United States. It’s highly rated on TripAdvisor, and can be a culturally informative place to explore near Lawrence. After a short stay in the capital, drive another hour west to Manhattan to visit the city home to our rivals: the Kansas State Wildcats.
This leg of the Kansas exploration journey will gift you with the natural beauty of the rolling Flint Hills. The state of Kansas, known for its flatness, is actually home to hundreds of miles of lush hills that span from the Manhattan area south to the Oklahoma border. The Konza Prairie Biological Station south of Manhattan is a lesser-known hiking trail that takes explorers through the hills and to a scenic overlook of Manhattan and the surrounding farmland. Afterward, wind down with a bite to eat in historic Aggieville for a Mass Street-like dining experience.
For as little as $40 in food and gas, an out-of-stater can learn about civil rights history, enjoy nature with a Flint Hills hike and spy on our rivals when they least suspect it.
For the risk taker
In the previous two examples, our sample students enjoyed satisfying day trips to nearby destinations for less than $50. But for some, a day trip isn’t long enough. It’s been a relentless winter, with 40 days of snowfall. The risk-taker won’t tolerate staying in the Midwest until summer, but he or she also doesn’t want to their life savings on plane tickets during peak season. Our risk-taker can bask in coastal weather for a few days, so long as they can afford to miss classes for a couple of days.
Depart on Saturday, March 30, and return on Tuesday, April 2, for a cheap-as-hell weekend in San Diego at just $178 for a round-trip ticket on Southwest Airlines, according to its low-fare calendar. For accommodation, there are several Airbnb locations available during these dates close to the renowned San Diego zoo and popular nightlife spots for as low as $31 per night.
Once there, the city is yours. It’s up to you what to do, but between visiting the beach, hitting up bars and clubs, restaurants, a potential zoo visit and Uber fares, this weekend trip can cost anywhere from $400 to $550, depending on how frugal or adventurous you’re feeling. The base price of the flights and Airbnb is just $293 with taxes and fees, so every dollar spent above that will be at your discretion. So, if you have the savings, crave warmer weather and have friends who can take some notes for you, this getaway could be just what the doctor ordered.