Skip to content
Alternative Break participants in Chicago

What Are Alternative Breaks?

Alternative break trips provide a fun and educational opportunity for UT students to experience something unique. Both Alternative Fall Break (AFB) and Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips are available. They provide an affordable option for students who are interested in giving back to the national or global community through meaningful and collaborative community service. Each trip is centered on a theme that addresses a specific social issue unique to the community being served.

Our trips are centered around Break Away’s Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break: strong direct service, orientation, training, education, reflection, reorientation, diversity, and alcohol- and other-drug-free. We have also added a ninth component, simple living. We believe these components help provide participants the most holistic and meaningful experience.

A new component to the AB program is that of a blog! Each trip maintains a blog with pictures and journal entries of the daily adventures. Read about past (and current!) trips!

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the selection process work for student trip participants?

Applications are available the first two weeks of the fall and spring semester. The application requires students to write a few essays about their interest in alternative breaks as well as provide some demographic and general information. Students are notified via e-mail of their application status approximately two weeks after the application period closes—mid-September for AFB trips and late January for ASB trips.

What does a typical day look like on an alternative break trip?

Each day of an alternative break trip revolves around service, and that service usually takes place between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Trip leaders work hard to coordinate unique service opportunities that meet the need of the community, align with the service theme of the trip, and are meaningful for participants. After service for the day is complete, the group typically returns to their housing site to prepare dinner as a group and engage in reflection to help process the day. There will be some early mornings and late nights throughout the trip, but groups return to Knoxville with a strong bond and many amazing memories. Some time on the trip may be spent exploring cultural and sightseeing options of the destination, but the main focus is service.

I turn twenty-one on the trip. Can I buy an alcoholic drink at our final dinner?

That’s so exciting that you are spending your birthday with us, but all alternative break trips are free of alcohol and other drugs! The trips are service immersion experiences, so we seek to create an inclusive environment in which all can participate and enjoy. Whether you are seventeen or seventy-one, all participants are required to follow the alcohol- and other-drug-free nature of our trips. Familiarize yourself with our policies and expectations.

A group of four photos with studentsI’m gluten-free/kosher/low-carb/vegeterian…

Cool! First, make sure you note that on your AB application so your alternative break leaders can plan accordingly when shopping for food. With that said, please know that we will make every accommodation possible, but we also stick to simple living standards, which means only six dollars a day for food is budgeted for each participant. This usually means we eat a lot of spaghetti, sandwiches, granola bars, etc. No one goes hungry, but we try to live simply so we can better serve those around us. This also helps us keep our trip costs so low—we have some of the lowest-cost alternative break trips in the country! If your food accomodations require more expensive items, you may be asked to supply some of those.

How much do alternative break trips cost?

We strive to keep the cost of our trips affordable for students. The baseline price, per participant is, $125 for AFB trips and $250 for ASB trips. The AB program reserves the right to increase fees based on unforeseen trip expenses, but will make every effort to publicize this before accepting applications.

Is fundraising available to help with trip fees?

Each group of trip leaders prepares fundraising opportunities for student participants to help lower the cost of trip fees. Participation in fundraising is not mandatory but is available for interested students. In the past, dedicated students have been able to significantly reduce the cost of their trip. Friends and family can give to support a specific participant at

What important dates should I be aware of if I am selected as a participant?

  • First team meeting: Participants are required to attend a first team meeting. You will be notified of this date during the application process.
  • Pre-trip meeting: Each team will meet before the trip to help participants get to know each other and participate in pre-trip education and training opportunities. Dates and times will be set by each team individually.
  • Post-trip meeting: All trips will meet once more following their trip to reconnect and share experiences.
  • Pre- or post-trip service experience: Participants have the opportunity to participate in an additional service experience with their team. This experience will take place following AFB trips and before ASB trips. Experiences are approximately three hours with a similar theme as the trip.
  • Departure: AFB trips typically depart Thursday morning of fall break and return that Sunday afternoon; ASB trips typically depart the first Sunday morning of spring break and return the following Saturday afternoon. Check the trip descriptions for specific dates.

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for or if you wish to discuss alternative breaks in person, contact Natalie Frankel at or call 865-974-1039.

“Thank you for allowing me to step out of my comfort zone and experience something I never would have otherwise” —2014 participant

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.