Spring break that won’t break the bank

Four years ago, two UW-Madison students wanted to do what many college students do to celebrate a full year of grueling exams, late nights studying and the culmination of a college year under their belt — relax and unwind in the hot sun and sugar-white sand of Panama City Beach on the Florida gulf.


Known to spring breakers as PCB, the beach offers a break from harsh Midwest winters and the biggest party of the year.


This spawned the company Ballin’ on a Budget, which this year provides 2,500 PCB spring break trips to 17 Midwest universities including transportation, hotel stay, club passes and more for about the cost of a single plane ticket.


“Not every (student) has the experience of going on a spring break trip,” promotion manager Brandon Shaw said. “We want to allow people that option at least one time before they graduate.”


The company works with bus companies and hotels to buy thousands of rooms for a discounted price. That’s how they afford to sell such discounted trips and give up to 350 away for free, Shaw said.


The PCB trip starts at $499. This includes round-trip coach bus transportation and five nights of lodging at either The Boardwalk Beach Resort or Paradise Palms Inn. Some packages include a Panamaniac card which grants free access to clubs walking distance from the hotels and food specials at restaurants.


The experience also includes foam parties and a stage on the beach with a DJ. Shaw said last year the Travel Channel filmed a documentary of the rowdiness which comes out this year.


BOAB is run by just a handful of college students and graduates in their 20s, some of whom aren’t even marketing majors. But Vice President Nathan Straub said the company has generated $700,000 in revenue.


Straub said making money isn’t a concern and is not why the company started. He said BOAB really didn’t become a functioning, organized company until two years ago, but it already more than doubled the amount of trips sold from a year ago. Straub said this year he expects the company to start making profit.


While Shaw is a UW-Whitewater senior, he holds promotions on Eau Claire’s campus and in bars, and does the same for universities in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa.


There are a few promoters at each campus who don’t receive paychecks, but are paid in merchandise to spread the word.


Shaw said the reps also get incentives to sell trips. If one sells 20 trips, they earn a free trip for themselves. If one sells 50 trips, they earn the “night with no budget” package, where the rep gets a VIP night out in a city of their choice — all expenses paid.


“We don’t want our reps to think it’s a job, because it shouldn’t be a job,” Shaw said.


Cody Sanoy, team leader of promoters at UW-Eau Claire, said BOAB held a raffle weeks ago at The Pickle for a free PCB trip. For every drink someone bought, they received one ticket that went into the raffle.


Stacey Anderson, a UWEC junior, won the trip without even buying a drink.


She said the bucket with all the ticket stubs got knocked over and she helped pick them up. An employee at The Pickle gave her three raffle tickets for helping out, and at the end of the night her number was picked.


“I didn’t expect it at all,” Anderson said.


She said her roommates and friends are going as well and they plan on getting a six-person hotel room. “Give one away, get five paying tag-alongs” is another marketing strategy BOAB uses to afford these free giveaways, Shaw said.


For those wanting to put their mid-term-melted minds at ease and simply get a nice tan on spring break, PCB offers 27 miles of shorefront to get away from the buzz happening on the other side.


“It is absolutely for anybody,” Shaw said. “If you want to have a calm, collected time you’re free to do that.”