We know you’re all students and funds may be limited, but that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on Spring Break all together! Here’s your chance to travel on a shoestring budget. Head out West and check out the National Society Collegiate Scholars’ list of the top 5 destinations for Spring Break 2012.

This post is part of a spring break series. Be sure to check out our posts about Southern destinations and East Coast/Midwest destinations.

Whistler (Blackcomb), British Columbia, Canada

Nestled in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Whistler is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. Whatever your winter sport of choice may be, a two-hour sea to sky drive north of Vancouver leads to the award-winning ski town of Whistler. You won’t be disappointed by British Columbia’s north(western) ski town – picturesque scenery and a mild winter climate provide the backdrop for big mountain skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing and cat-skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, as well as backcountry and Nordic trails.

From novice to expert, experience an immensely diverse terrain, encompassing everything from black-diamond steeps and chutes, to wide-open terrain and tree lines. The Blackcomb Mountains, each with a peak reaching elevations of more than 7,000 feet, provide this prime ski destination with perfect fresh powder. In 2010, Whistler was home to Alpine skiing and sliding events for the XXI Olympic Winter Games. And, In 2011, Whistler was named number one in Terrain Variety, Après\Nightlife, Off-Hill Activities by SKI Magazine. In 2011, Whistler was named number one in Nightlife and Terrain by TransWorld SNOWboarding so, why not pick-up Whistler Club Crawl Tickets, which include: Appy dinner, 5 drinks, 5 bars/clubs, line bypass for just 60 dollars (http://www.whistler.com/nightlife/). Will Whistler be your travel destination for Spring Break in 2012?

Check out Whistler 2012 Stay & Ski Packages for your Spring Break adventure!

Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Tulum, lies 1.5 hours south of Playa del Carmen, faces the crystal clear aquamarine Caribbean sea and is backed by vibrant, tropical jungle. It’s population is roughly 10,000 and the city is divided into three separate sections – the Mayan ruins, hotel zone and pueblo. While staying in Tulum, you can easily bike around town for everything you need. And, for the places you can’t bike to, grab a taxi, kick back and enjoy the breathtaking views!

Explore ancient Mayan ruins, some of the best preserved in the Yucatan, which are perched on cliffs along the coast and framed by a backdrop of lush green palms and clear aquamarine Caribbean waters. After what some may consider a short, hot hike to the top of these ruins, take a moment to hang out with the local iguanas and head down the path for a swim in the tranquil Caribbean. Snorkel and say ‘hello’ to spider monkeys who inhabit the Cenote Dos Ojos (underground rivers). Swim, dive, snorkel and even cliff jump at Gran Cenote.

For the fainter of heart, book a tour with a tour guide like Edventure Tour, where you can zip line, swim with sea turtles, snorkel cenotes… and best of all, you get to kick back and just enjoy the ride!

San Francisco, California

Who wouldn’t want to visit San Francisco? This Spring Break, take a break – get lost in the city wandering unfamiliar streets, meeting unfamiliar faces. Basically, San Francisco is your chance to forget about deadlines, schoolwork and stress. It’s your chance to just let it all go and live in the moment. After all, what can’t you do in San Fran?

If you feel the 1960s calling, wander Haight & Ashbury, which was famous for it’s hippie culture in the 60’s. Here you’ll find nostalgia of those roots with such sights as Amoeba Music, and independent and vintage clothing stores. Haight & Ashbury’s coffee shops and restaurants are a prime location to enjoy good food at a decent price, all while taking in a day of “hippie-watching.” The Castro district offers not only eclectic vibes and colorful scenery, but a trek up the steep streets to Noe Valley will present you with the opportunity to take in pristine views over San Francisco. Hitch a ride on a streetcar, for just a $2 ride on the F Line, and you can travel from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Castro District with excellent views. The Mission District is the oldest part of San Francisco and it’s also where you’ll get a peek into colorful Mexican culture and cuisine. What does this mean? Excellent food for very little money and excellent street art. The restaurant El Farolito serves up some of “the best tacos in town” for less than a cab ride. The Mission District is the quintessential place to get lost in street art and murals, which cover entire buildings and alleyways. A tour is suggested to discover the more hidden spaces, but really, the basic foundation of street art is spontaneity.

Why not take in a little art, San Francisco MOMA offers half-price Thursday evenings (6:00 p.m. – 8:45 p.m, $9.00)?

Portland, Oregon

Known for it’s bike culture, youthful energy, forwarding-thinking creativity and environmental friendliness, Portland, Oregon is a must-see city. Downtown
Portland is a bustling city, without the hurried sidewalk feelings of NYC. Located within fareless square limits, it’s simple to take the MAX and head over to Pioneer Square, where you can grab a bite to eat from one of the plethora of food carts offered. “Food carts” provide quick, cheap meals (everything from Indian to French) when you’re in a hurry and on the go. If you’re thirsty, try a drink at Tugboat and after, relax in the South Park Block or walk along Waterfront Park. The Hawthorne District offers varying degrees of bars, pubs and food. You’ll also find movie theaters, tattoo parlors, vintage clothing, record stores, grocery stores, book stores and coffee shops lining the streets of the District. Baghdad Theater is a local favorite pub-theater, and not only offers excellent people watching, but also dinner and a movie… at the same time! It’s in the Alberta Arts District where you’ll find vegetarian restaurants, vintage clothing outlets, art galleries and (more) coffee shops. “Last Thursdays” are a popular event in the District, which means on the last Thursday of each month all galleries open at night. The restaurant, La Sirenita is very popular and an inexpensive Mexican. Vita Cafe is a mostly vegetarian restaurants considered a favorite among locals. BarFly Magazine’s bar search page is a great tool – you can find bars based on location and characteristics. Check it out here.

Ace Hotel – This two-year-old hotel will not only offer comfortable amenities at a reasonable price, but also tons of amazing freebies. Feel free to catch up on current events by reading the free magazines, Jorg & Olif bikes are available to hotel guests, and the coffee shop just across the street offers French press brews free on Mondays.

Bozeman, Montana

Locals have referred to their daily lives in Bozeman, Montana as scenes right out of Out Cold (if you’re not already familiar with this film, familiarize yourself). Bozeman is home to Montana State University (MSU), making it an eclectic college town. With Yellowstone National Park located 90 miles away, and Bridger Bowl just 16 miles, the town of Bozeman serves as a gateway community encompassing restaurants, nightclubs, shops, and locals that are sure to entertain. What makes Bozeman worth the trip? Besides Bridger Bowl, everything in town is an affordable price.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t been to Bridger Bowl, Montana then you’ve be missing the big picture. Bridger Bowl is considered a gem with it’s short lines, fresh powder, inexpensive lift tickets and next to no commercialization (think the opposite of Aspen, CO).With 350″ average seasonal snowfall, over 2,000 acres and 2.600 vertical feet, there is plenty of terrain for every skill level. In addition, Bridger Bowl serves as a private non-profit community ski area and ranks among many top 20 ski/snowboard lists. With a 16 mile beautifully easy scenic drive that will take you from Bozeman to Bridger Bowl, what are you waiting for?

The best lodging can be found at the Gallatin River Lodge. Though not the most inexpensive place to stay, it is the most memorable. Gorgeous mountain views and a warm staff will greet you after a short drive from the airport. Even locals take time out to stay and enjoy the Lodge’s experience. Some favorite local spots include: The Baxter, Plonk, The Zebra Cocktail Lounge and Wild Joe’s.

Bianca Williams graduated from the University of Arizona where she spent 4 years as a DJ and PA for KAMP Student Radio, as well as interning for a local record/concert promotion company. She possess a love for all things New Media, traveling, languages, film, radio, photography, vintage bikes, snowboarding… everything! and is in pursuit of a career in freelance writing. All of her musical tastes and influences come from her world travels and the amazing people who have shared their lives with her along the way. Bianca is a member of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars and works as an NSCS Social Media Ambassador. Follow her on Twitter @biancadene.