Does any vacation period have a more salacious reputation than spring break? But you don’t have to “go wild” to enjoy a great—and affordable—getaway…

1. Avoid the students. In 2013, Easter Sunday is March 31, so many schools start their vacation period on March 23, with the vacation ending two weeks later. The second-most popular time will be March 9 to 23.

If you’re not tied to a school’s schedule, you will want to travel either in February (except over President’s Day weekend, when prices are sky-high)…during the first week of March…or after April 6. If you are tied to a school schedule, avoid Cancun (Mexico), Panama City (Florida), Punta Cana (Dominican Republic), South Padre Island (Texas), Nassau (Bahamas) and Las Vegas.

2. Time your airfare purchase. A study by the Airlines Reporting Corporation (the organization that acts as middleman between travel agents and airlines) found that people who purchase airline tickets six weeks before their trips generally pay the least amount of money. Booking on a Tuesday or Wednesday also is a good strategy, as fare sales tend to be announced late in the day on Mondays and matched by the other carriers on Tuesdays.

3. Consider Europe or Central America. Airfares to Europe stay at their winter lows through March, as do hotel prices. Airfares to Central America are decent year-round, and the rate of exchange generally favors the dollar.

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