Student Budget Trip: Tampa

Tampa, Florida, continuously tops the lists for incredible student getaways and spring break trips for its fun attractions and endless warm weather. This doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune enjoying the city, though! Have a blast with your friends on vacation or graduation celebration and revel in the beauty and excitement of Tampa!


In the city center and on the beach, you're more likely to find high priced, luxury hotels. However, nearer to the airport, convention centers, and Busch Gardens, there are more reasonably priced hotels under $100. Also, if you're willing to travel a little further out of town to the neighboring cities like Clearwater and Brandon, you'll find more options. Though you may not be able to afford spectacular luxury hotels in Tampa, you can find comfortable and clean places to rest your head and not break the bank. You can also get a double room and split the bill with up to three more people to cut down on your own personal bill.


As always, we advise budget-conscious groups to use public transportation. Lucky for you, Tampa has a pretty good system set up called HART. For a nominal fee, you can get a day pass with unlimited rides on their bus, MetroRapid, van, and streetcar routes. These routes criss-cross over the most popular sites in town, allowing you to get there without worrying about parking, navigating, and car rentals. Also, if you don't want to hop on the bus, check out the bike rentals throughout town and ride. When all else fails, walking is always an option. We generally don't advise rental cars or taxis as they are budget killers and more of a hassle than you need on vacation. Nothing drains a budget faster than taxis.

Attractions Charging Admission: 

There's so much to do in Tampa that, obviously, most of them charge admission. A great deal of them, the following included, are fantastic and worth seeing. However, if you're on a student budget, we recommend that you only choose a couple of admission-charging attractions to add to your itinerary and save money for the rest of the trip by enjoying free and cheap attractions.

  • Busch Gardens Tampa ($$$$) - A wonderful opportunity, and wonderfully expensive, Busch Gardens combines wildlife and theme park into a thrilling attraction. Ride roller coasters, water rides, and more then head over and see the big cats exhibit or the parrots fly around their own enclosure.
  • Safari Wilderness Ranch ($$$) - Hop on a safari viewing van, on camelback, or even in a kayak and explore the African savanna right in the heart of Florida. The various experiences range in price with additional animal encounters as added fees. However, it's an incredible opportunity for animal lovers.
  • Bok Tower Gardens ($$) - A historic tower set in a woodland garden alongside a beautiful mansion, Bok Tower Gardens is a stunning attraction for visitors of all ages.
  • Florida Aquarium ($$) - One of the best and largest aquariums in the state, the Florida Aquarium is home to over 20,000 plants and animals including sharks, rays, dolphins, and more!
  • Henry B. Plant Museum ($) - Built originally as the Tampa Bay Hotel in the 19th century, today the Henry B. Plant Museum is an iconic Moorish Revival museum showcasing Gilded Age history. Full of history, art, and architecture, you'll not want to miss out on this!
  • American Victory Ship Mariners Museum ($) - A Victory ship which saw action in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, SS American Victory is now open as an enlightening museum.

Free Attractions: 

  • Manatee Viewing Center
  • J.C. Newman Cigar Company
  • Ybor City
  • Tampa Firefighters Museum
  • Tampa Museum of Art
  • Tampa Riverwalk
  • Lettuce Lake Park
  • Hyde Park