5 Things I Learned Road Tripping through Florida on Spring Break

Spring Break Florida 2013

The chance to follow the Florida spring break trail last week – from St. Pete Beach all the way to South Beach – was an education for Terry Ward. Here are the top five things she learned from the experience.

It's not just U.S. college kids coming to be part of this All-American spectacle. Everywhere from Orlando to South Beach, I met Saudi Arabians, two Hungarian girls visiting from England - "I will catch (an American boy) and take him back to Europe with me if I find a nice one," Ivett from Budapest told me in Miami - a South African, Brits and other international spring breakers.

Particularly in Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and, I'd bet serious money, Panama City Beach (the latter spring break destination wasn't on my itinerary). In the former cities, "woo hoo" was the battle cry for not only boys looking for girls but vice versa. And when contestants were called upon from the crowd for lap dance contests and other "activities" that looked, at times, more like something from a porn film, there was never a shortage of takers. As one New Jersey boy, Rob, at the Clevelander in South Beach told me, "We're like caged animals, we're ready to get loose right now."

The images being used to promote the movie Spring Breakers (to be released in theaters nationwide on arch 22), with actresses like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez in a sea of other bikini-clad girls on a long hotel balcony somewhere in Florida? I never saw such an extreme scene. Yes, things were wild. But balconies with scores of hot bodies waving to admirers on the beach? Not so much. Lots of the spring breakers I met seemed content just to be chilling somewhere warm with friends. "We're kind of over getting really drunk and crazy but we still like getting that buzz and going out," said a girl I met in Fort Lauderdale from the University of Northern Illinois. And even at Bike Week, a guy named PJ said that things were more about friendship than anything else: "We're not on a woman hunt, a dirt bag hunt, a beer drinking hunt," PJ told me. "We're just looking for a way to get away, spent some time together, talk a little business."

It was the case back when I was in college on spring break in Daytona and it still stands today: Florida's best oysters are still found at the legendary Oyster Pub in Daytona Beach. Sometimes the bivalves are from Apalachicola in Florida and sometimes they hail from out of state, but they're always delicious, fresh and shucked right in front of you at the bar (not to mention bargain priced at just $9.99 per dozen).

Unless you've got somewhere cheap to stay with friends, Miami is a very, very expensive option for spring breakers. I heard it from people I chatted with in Fort Lauderdale, several of whom had moved north from Miami after being dismayed at paying upwards of $40 for club entry and the same for parking. "It's $45 no matter what you do (in Miami)," Daniel, a Mississippi State University student told me, "As college kids we don't have that much money." He and his friends had moved their fun to Fort Lauderdale where, they said, most clubs cost about $15 to enter and included free drinks as part of the draw. And when things are expensive for a dressed-to-kill Saudi Arabian, you know it's serious. Said Omar, from Riyadh: "It's so expensive here, especially for students."

For more, check out the entire Florida Spring Break 2013 road trip.
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