Cancun, you’re still the one. This little piece of Mexico is pure craziness during March and April: margarita madness and a massive influx of students doing the spring thing on drop-dead gorgeous beaches and in late-late-late night clubs. Hop the ferry to Cozumel or the bus to Playa del Carmen for slower-paced sandy paradises. Xel-Ha is fun for snorkeling, and Tulum is worth a visit (90 miles south; go early a.m.) — great beach and unba ruins, but don’t expect nightlife (the quiet nights – generator-powered lights out by 10 – are part of the charm). Don’t forget to get a passport for this perennially popular paradise on Mexico’s Caribbean!
2. Panama City, Florida
Panama City and Panama City Beach (PCB) have Florida’s spring break top dog billing yet again in 2012, though Miami, especially South Beach, will once more offer some serious competition. mtvU was all about Panama City in 2009 (this year’s mtv blowout is in Las Vegas: what is up with that? We’re guessing mtv got an offer they couldn’t refuse), showing the planet that Panama City’s a sure bet for the kind of fantastic fun that makes a break memorable for the rest of your life. Take some time, too, to see Panama City’s 27 miles of sugary sweet sand on the Gulf of Mexico (west coast of Florida, where it can be blessedly cool at night).
3. Miami and South Beach, Florida
Getty Images / Alexander TamargoWelcome to prime time, South Beach and Miami Beach! Just east of Miami, South Beach is bordered by Biscayne Bay on one side and the Atlantic on the other (which is where you’ll find the beaches you’ll like). South Beach is a tres cool club scene (is your attitude really ready?). Just up the sand is Miami Beach — bit cheaper and less of dress-with-the-best thing. Get the skinny:
Amsterdam, London and Paris will be the cities in which you’ll see the most American students, followed by Rome, Florence, Madrid, and Berlin. All chilly cities this time of year, so the social scene will be indoors (your hostel’s always the best bet for finding the party place), but sights will be free of summer’s mobs: great time to be in Europe, and way more US students will be there this year than last. Learn more:
5. Puerto Vallarta
Friendly folks, awesome nightlife, beautiful beaches, great all-inclusive hotel deals — and all the action’s not just at the beach, either: parasail or mountain bike, for instance. Hasta pronto!
Acapulco’s murderously messy drug-related mayhem has little to do with you — mind your Mexico manners and consider student travel safety tips, and you should be as safe as you would in any US city.
7. Bahamas and Jamaica
The blue, blue water and white, white sand of extremely accessible Nassau, Bahamas will bring boatloads of breakers to its balmy beaches in 2012 (even though Nassau’s sometimes not so friendly). Rent a scooter or hit the Straw Market; gambling’s on nearby Paradise Island. Bahamas spring break packages are uber cheap, and you can choose a cruise.
8. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island, where vacations are biiiig Texas style, is more popular than ever this year as an easy (easy to get to, not too expensive) and easygoing US beach town …and with recent hurricane damage to South Padre, neighboring Corpus Christi will see its share of folks looking for the action, too. If you go, know that the sandy spit near Corpus Christi is windblown but sunny, and Padre Island proper has hundreds of miles of beach. The gang’s all at South Padre, though, where you can find fresh shellfish and every conceivable kind of water sport, along with events galore. Surf’s sometimes a little rough. Scooters are a great way to get around the whole island.
9. Baja (Rosarito Beach, Cabo), DR, Puerto Rico
You need no passport to drive back from Mexico if you have a PASS card, and Rosarito Beach in North Baja will get some last minute driving traffic through San Diego (you need a passport to fly home from Mexico). Cabo in South Baja, Mexico, will have the usual hot weather and cool clubs (fly, don’t drive to South Baja). And learn whether Mexico is safe for spring break!
10. North American Ski Resorts
Unlike current economic conditions, snow conditions are awesome and ski resorts are still on the list of cool spring break hot spots for 2012. Though there will be smaller numbers of ’em this year than last (just tooo spendy), you’ll find plenty of fellow partiers boarding the days away and doing the apres-thing at North America’s best ski resorts for spring break 2012, though. These are the slopes welcoming you in Colorado, Jackson Hole, Heavenly, Canada’s wild Whistler, a few quieter spots, and some places you may want to give a pass. I live in Rocky Mountain high country now, and have done all but one of these top ten ski resorts — and I promise it’s all good. Get the whole skinny on how to get there, and where to stay and party.