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No Expensive Trips Needed for Spring Break to Be a Time to Refresh and Renew

by on March 06, 2018 8:20 AM

What usually comes to mind when we think of spring break? For a lot of people it might be warm-weather locations like Cancun, Nassau, Daytona Beach, South Padre Island, Jamaica or Aruba, or maybe a fun cruise. If winter sports are your thing, it might be a ski trip to Vermont, upstate New York, Colorado, Utah or California.

Sounds like fun! Also sounds expensive.

For those of us living in a college town, we may take spring break for granted and assume everyone has the luxury of this respite from the winter doldrums, and can afford time away from work. While most kids and college students get some sort of annual break, the same isn’t true for all parents. We also shouldn’t assume it’s a given right to go on a spring trip, especially if you are in college and already saddled with serious student loan debt.

For some families with young school children who get a spring break, it can be a burden, as they must now must arrange for some form of childcare. Parents either have to shell out additional money or take time off of work, but many can’t really afford to take a fancy vacation.  

There I go again preaching a common sense approach that may include delayed gratification.  Well, the reality is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to make spring break (assuming you get one) a great experience.

For students, it’s a great time to catch up with friends at home, maybe help your parents with a spring cleaning project, read a book for fun, or even get ahead on a school project. Yes, I really did just suggest those rather simple and seemingly mundane options, but consider the fact that you could save money, be productive, do something nice for others and still get to relax a little.

For some families, it’s a great time to have a game night, or to try a fun cooking project that everyone can pitch in with, or take a short trip to visit friends or family. Do what’s within your budget and make the most of the time to renew and refresh to help get through the last few weeks of winter.

We are actually just finishing a short family spring break trip that took us to Washington D.C. and to Raleigh, N.C. We managed to get out of State College before the snow hit and avoided the falling trees from that nasty Nor’easter storm “Riley.”  We spent an evening in Virginia visiting with former Icer player and assistant coach Dr. Mark Konchar, his wife, Jennifer, and their kids. It was great to catch up with them and learn about the kids activities. Unfortunately, the storm created quite a mess early the next morning and a few trees were downed in the Konchar yard. At least Mark looked at the bright side as he said, “That will make good firewood!”

I attended a couple of morning meetings in downtown D.C., while my wife, Heidi, and son Ryan went on a sightseeing tour of the nation’s capital. However, due to the high winds from the storm,  all schools, government buildings, and tourist destinations were closed. So for the second time in five weeks, Heidi and Ryan were shutout of an opportunity to visit a number of government run tourist attractions and National Parks.  The last one occurred during the temporary government shutdown in January. Mom and son braved the wind to venture over to the Jefferson Memorial and walk around the Washington monument, but alas, the Smithsonian Museums were closed.

We then drove down Interstate 95 to Raleigh, N.C. to visit good friends Paul and Sarah Cohen for five days. Paul was faculty advisor for the Penn State hockey team for 26 years and was affectionately known as "The Godfather" of Icers hockey. We enjoyed an amazing learning experience at the Carolina Tiger Reserve where we saw impressive animals rescued from locations throughout the country and the world. My favorite was a 600-pound tiger named Caprichio.

Later that evening we caught the N.C. State basketball team win over ACC rival Louisville. The tremendous atmosphere and energy in the PNC center with almost 20,000 fans was a real advantage for the Wolfpack. I think I enjoyed the game more than my son even though he is a bigger basketball fan than me. The fan engagement, the professional arena staff, the videos, even the senior ceremony were all first class. Most impressive to me was their traffic control. It was a quick in and a quick out despite the huge crowd. 

Ryan toured N.C. State’s campus and the industrial and systems engineering facilities where Doc Cohen is a distinguished professor. That night we enjoyed a dinner and movie experience like no other at the Cinebistro. If you ever get the chance, it’s a must do.

I also got a chance to grab lunch with former Jacksonville Jaguar Marques Ogden in historic downtown Apex. Marques is a professional speaker and author, who I worked with at the recently completed National Athletic and Professional Success Academy Intensive Experience that was held at Innovation Park February 19-23 at University Park.  We have become fast friends as a result. Check out his website at

The weather was sunny and almost 60 degrees, warm enough to enjoy a little golf with my son at Lochmere Golf Club. Let’s just say the course record was never in jeopardy. Our final evening in Raleigh concluded with a fun dinner where we were all joined by former Icer hockey teammate Greg Warren. Greg and I have been friends since we were high school rivals before becoming college teammates. The hockey stories never get old when you bring old friends like Greg, Paul and I together. We decided to pose for a shot to send former Icer Coach Jon Shellington, whom I am quite sure got a good chuckle when he received the unexpected photo from us.

We planned to get on the road bright and early to make our way back home Tuesday morning. Heidi told Ryan to get to bed early because, “You know your father will want to stop at some Civil War historical site on the way home.”  She’s right, of course. Well, the price is right and I will get my Fitbit steps in. Besides, I now have an ally in Ryan who is taking AP U.S. history and has become a student of the Civil War himself. 

Heidi, Ryan, and I enjoyed a good time with great friends. Heidi got to catch up with her “sister Sarah” and I got to spend time with the Godfather himself. Ryan got a college campus visit and some time to study for the SATs, and we snuck in some golf. I managed to get in a few work meetings, some R&R, and believe it or not, I am almost finished with my book manuscript. Famous last words!

So while we didn’t hit any of the exotic locations mentioned earlier, we had a pretty awesome start in our quest to renew and refresh. Oh yeah, we will get back early enough to tackle a few spring cleaning projects as well, and of course, we get to go home to Barkley the Dog.


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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