Young, dumb and broke high school kids plan a day trip to Santa Cruz

September 11, 2019 — by Megan Chen and Jayne Zhou

As broke and busy high school juniors, we have trouble finding time to relax, let alone plan trips. In the midst of tests, essays and projects, we decided that it would be reasonable to take four hours out of our weekend to hang out in Santa Cruz, with a limit of $30 each.

With the music and air conditioning on full blast, we left the high school with high hopes and thin wallets. Not even 15 minutes after entering the highway, we realized that we had left with barely enough gas to make it to Santa Cruz. For a second, the stress from our ACT and AP tests melted away, replaced by the panic of not having enough money to even return home. 

Luckily, the closest gas station was just off the next exit, and one of us had remembered to bring a credit card. Even by using the cheapest gas, we spent over $70 to fill up the tank, surpassing our planned budget by $10 even before reaching Santa Cruz. Despite the detour, the surprisingly light traffic made our drive about 50 minutes long.

Although we had already passed our budget, we decided that it was fair to limit ourselves to $15 each because of the unforeseen circumstances.

Arriving at around 2 p.m., we chose to spend the day at the Boardwalk, because we knew the area well and could limit ourselves to the activities we knew were worth spending our money on. 

After going to the Boardwalk three or four times previously, we knew that the Giant Dipper was the only ride worth spending what little money we had left on. The ride was $7 each, costing us almost half of our new budget. 

As the most popular ride on the Boardwalk, the Giant Dipper had by far the longest line, and we waited outside the building for a good half an hour. Between breaks in our conversations, we admired the scenic view of the beach, filled with families and groups of students despite the cool weather. 

The line inside the building took another 15 minutes, but we entertained ourselves with the latest gossip and our plans for prom.

The ride, although inferior to those at theme parks like Great America, was the highlight of our trip. After spending $84 and 45 minutes in line to get to this ride, its dips and windy turns were extremely refreshing, and it captured a hilariously unflattering picture of the two of us.

After strolling a little further down the Boardwalk, we pondered over whether we should spend the rest of our money of indoor mini golf, attempt to win giant stuffed animals from the rigged games or save the money for food. We weren’t that hungry; in fact, we still had food babies from lunch, but we wanted to save our money for potato twists, a treat neither of us had ever left the Boardwalk without. 

While waiting for our food babies to subside, we headed to the beach, but the cold weather kept us from staying long. 

After less than an hour, we were very ready to leave, so we grabbed a tater twist for $7.50 each and shared a $3 drink, going $2 over our budget. Overall, the Boardwalk itself was a nice, relaxing, albeit, short break from school, and we both enjoyed the afternoon.

If we had more time and money, we both agreed that it would have been more enjoyable to play mini golf in the arcade, and to head over to Davenport Beach instead of the overly crowded Boardwalk beach. However, the trip was a successful, mostly budget-friendly break, and we were ultimately happy with how we divided our time and money. For those looking to plan a quick trip to Santa Cruz, we recommend the places we went and the food we ate but would warn them to plan ahead for nice weather and double check for a full tank.

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