While an all-inclusive trip to a tropical island for spring break may be a college student’s dream, for most it just isn’t in the budget. A student’s financial situation is often limited, and with the economic recovery dragging and few jobs available, many students are becoming more creative when it comes to planning spring break trips.

One way to have an exciting spring break on a budget is to give back. Shelley Marie Redmond, executive director and CEO of College Lifestyles, says there has been an increase in students opting for volunteer vacations and alternative spring breaks. During the day, students partner with a charity like Habitat for Humanity to offer help in a city and at night they experience the local culture.

“During the day you work, and at night you play,” Redmond says. “This is becoming more popular…on many trips your stay is covered and you are left to pay for your transportation.”

Habitat for Humanity offers service trips for between $500 and $700, according to Redmond.

Some students are turning a week at home or at school into a vacation in itself, known as a “staycation,” Redmond says. Getting a group of friends together for a theme party or renting out a hall to have an event for those who also didn’t get to getaway takes students out of the norm and gives them a special gathering to look forward to.

CEO and blogger forBargainBabe.com Julia Scott says students across the country are feeling the economic crunch, and it is affecting how they spend their breaks from school.

“The economy is still a big pressure, and students are in the poorer segment of the population. They still want to have fun, but there is not as much leeway with their budget.”

While it’s tempting to escape to warm or tropical destinations, trips to colder cities during this popular travel time are often discounted, Scott explains. In places like Chicago, New York City or Atlanta, travelers can stay in five-star hotels for under $200 a night, because demand is so low.

“You are still a tourist in a new city. A lot of times you can visit these cities 10 times and there are still new things to do.”

Taking a road trip to a nearby city is also a budget-friendly idea sure to create lasting memories. With hotel rates between $140 to $160 per night, a group of students can get away and explore a new city without breaking the bank. Redmond estimates such a trip can be done for under $700.

Scott says road-tripping students are cutting out the cost of a hotel by couch surfing, or staying with host homes who are willing to have guests stay with them for free while experiencing a new city. Such trips can be planned online at www.couchsurfing.org.

“Sometimes a local may give you tips on where to hang out or what to do,” she says. “It gives you that cultural element. It’s really about getting into a mindset of having new experiences, so book activities that are out of the box for you.”

Scott estimates such a trip can be done on a budget as low as $300, if travelers are very conscious of their spending. Finding discounts on coupon sites like Groupon.com prior to traveling to a new city allow students to still experience the area, but save cash at the same time.

Whether traveling to a new city, or staying home and relaxing, what is most important to college students today is that they spend their breaks with friends and family, Redmond said.

“I think they try to bond with friends,” she says. “Many look at this as a last time to bond with college friends or family when we go home. You still want to have fun, but it has more of a sentimental value.”

Follow Kate Rogers on Twitter at @KateRogersNews