You're knee deep in studying for the bar. In fact, you should probably be studying right now instead of reading this post, but everyone needs the occasional break. And you desperately need something to look forward to if you're going to dive back into a four-hour lecture on torts.
Your friends with rich parents and no student loans might be able to jump online and book a vacation in the south of France, but you need a trip that rewards you for all these miserable hours without destroying your bank account.
Tips for planning a budget bar trip
Before you even think about where you might go, make sure you're taking advantage of all the low-cost vacation-planning options out there.
Check out vacation discount sites
Most people don't make their vacation plans through travel agents anymore, but checking in on sites like Travelzoo can help you find great deals on vacation packages. You will have to sign up for their emails to get access to the bargains, but it could be worth it.
On their Weekly Top 20, you could find anything from a 4-night stay in Puerto Rico plus airfare for less than $600 to a 6-night vacation in Peru (plus airfare) for under $2000.
My wife and I used Travelzoo to spend a week at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta after we took the bar in 2010. Neither of us had ever been to an all-inclusive resort, but we loved that there was nothing to stress about once we got there. All our meals and drinks were already paid for, and our only job was to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.
Unless you truly didn't raise your head from your books for the last several years, you've probably used AirBnB already. But if you haven't, now's the time.
One of my favorite things to do on AirBnB is search with a nightly price range without specifying a location. Then scroll around the map and see where you could stay for, say, $50 a night. Perhaps you've never thought of vacationing in Budapest, but this rooftop apartment might be what gets you there.
And for those of you looking for something extra special after the agony of bar studying, AirBnB also provides thousands of experiences, from walking tours to surf lessons.
Grab a group
When your budget is tight, spreading the cost across many bank accounts can make a trip more manageable. Ask your friends whether they'd be interested in splitting a vacation home.
With pooled funds, you may even be able to find something that verges on luxury.
Ditch the flight
For many vacations, the priciest part of the trip is airfare. Cut that expense out entirely and put some miles on the roads less traveled—either near or far.
Stock up on your favorite music, close your laptop, and enjoy the freedom of the open road.
Low-cost bar trip destinations
If what you're looking for is a week of total relaxation, then you don't need to go far. And you don't have to spend a ton of money.
State and national parks have cabins (or campsites, if that's your thing) for as little as $10 a night. You'll have access to trails and beautiful natural areas—perhaps even a beach or a lake. And spending less on accommodations may provide you extra dough to use toward spectacular meals or fun experiences.
While I don't feel like I've gone on vacation unless I've been essentially comatose for at least four days, I know lots of people who want to go-go-go when they're out of town. If that sounds like you, then our nation's capital could be a great bar trip location.
You can spend every day learning and exploring for almost nothing. The entire network of Smithsonian museums is completely free—as are many monuments. Plus, the city's public transportation is easy to use and relatively inexpensive.
If being in the same time zone as your bar study books is making you queasy, then get far, far away. Enter Nicaragua.
You may have to do some careful research to find inexpensive airfare, but once you're in Nicaragua, the country is filled with beautiful beaches, interesting history, and nature-filled adventures—all at a fraction of the cost of more traditional tropical vacation spots like Costa Rica.
Students at your former high school are still talking about your wild antics during spring break week, and you expect your bar trip to deliver the same high-volume excitement. Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you can't get your party on.
Croatia has some of the best beaches in Europe and a party scene that makes South Beach look like your grandma's retirement party. Plus, though the prices are going up, it's still less expensive than places like the Italian coast.
Almost everyone I know has recently traveled to Iceland—not necessarily because it's a beautiful country (though it is), but because the airfare is so inexpensive. And seeing the Northern Lights is just the thing to remind you that there's a huge world out there beyond your Barbri books.
If you have the time, there's no reason a limited bank account—or the desire to stay within a budget—should keep you from living it up after the bar. And if you want to make sure you're well positioned for future vacations, now is the time to refinance your student loans.