So, you’re planning a college road trip this summer, but you don’t have a lot of spending cash? You’re already saving a lot of money by taking to the road instead of the friendly skies, so give yourself a high-five. Here are some helpful tips for exploring all the universities you’ve been accepted to without breaking the piggy bank.
1- Get a checkup.
The first day of your college road trip is not the best time to suddenly discover that you need a tune-up, so visit your car doctor a week before your trip. Your checkup list should include tires, transmission, fluids, and brakes. Don’t forget to pack a spare tire!
2- Figure on gas.
Calculate gas costs by using this miles per gallon calculator. Map out all the colleges you plan on visiting, and decide how much time you want to spend at each stop. Always fill up on cheap gas when it’s available.
3- Prepare to rough it out.
This is no time to be picky about your lodgings. If you’re going to explore all the colleges that are out there on a limited budget…and limited time schedule, then prepare to take frugal living to the max. Have a competition between your road trip buddies to see who can out-cheap the other. Sleep in your car, freshen up at rest stops, and just enjoy the freedom of the open road.
4- Lighten the load.
Save trunk space and avoid annoying your buddies by packing the bare minimum in your duffle bag. Make a packing list, and then slash it in half. You don’t need to pack a complete makeup collection or every decent pair of blue jeans you own just to tour a few colleges. It’s one or two weeks out of your life that will seem much longer if you have to sit squeezed between miscellaneous sports gear and other nonessentials, so pack light.
5- Go with the flow.
Having a sensible budget and schedule will keep things running smoothly…except for when they don’t. Because no matter how well you plan your road trip ahead of time, things don’t always go as planned. Try to take things on a day-to-day basis, and keep things flexible. You may decide that a college you thought was a no-go is starting to look pretty good, and include it in your route. Or, you may find that college road-tripping isn’t everything you hoped it would be, and may want to cut out some of your stops.
6- Sleep around.
Plan to sleep cheap or free. Check out local youth hostels, camping sites, or connect with friends who live in the area. Check in with Couchsurfing for hosts willing to lend out a room for friendly college students touring the area.
7- Pass the can.
Everybody should chip in for basic necessary expenses like gas, food, and lodging. Pool together spending money, and don’t be tempted to use it for souvenirs or luxury items.
8- Don’t buy junk.
Speaking of luxury items, just don’t buy them. The real point of the trip is to tour colleges and make a decision for the fall, not to add to your novelty spoon collection. Souvenir items are always overpriced- if you need a memento to treasure the moment, collect sea shells, rocks, or pinecones.
9- Sight-see for free.
If you really want to get a feel for the area, skip the costly sightseeing tours. Find out what other college students of the area do for fun, and follow their lead. Go for a hike, check out the best beaches for surfing, or take a walk through town.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please leave your comments below.
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Image courtesy of Zach Dischner