5 Ways to Turn Visiting a College Into an Inexpensive Mini-vacation

If your college-bound kid will be moving into a dormitory or an apartment near campus this fall, accompanying them as they make their big move is an essential trip — and expense. But the trip doesn’t have to be all business: It can also be a great, budget-friendly opportunity for getting away.

Here are some budget-friendly ways you can turn visiting a college from a move-in session into a mini-vacation.

Travel by Car or Train
If your schedule permits it, consider traveling by car or train. This will give you some extra time to do some sightseeing and check out points of interest off the beaten path. Not only will the leisurely pace better allow you to enjoy your trip, but it will also give you the opportunity to spend some quality time with your child before they start the busy school year.

It also gives you better options for low-cost accommodations. If you travel by train, you may even be able to sleep on board. And instead of competing with other families to book a hotel in a college town, scour comparison sites like Hotels.com to find cheaper places to stay — usually a little farther out from campuses or near airports. You can also see if your child’s college offers accommodations for visitors and whether there’s a discounted rate for families of students.

Visit Friends and Relatives
If you have friends or relatives who live near your child’s school, kill two birds with one stone by spending a few days with them during your trip. Of course, this also saves you some money. But remember proper social etiquette: Ask your relatives well in advance and make sure it’s a convenient time to visit.

Do Your Research
Take your time to check out what attractions can be found in the area surrounding campus. For help, try daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social. And take full advantage of student discounts offered by nearby restaurants and cultural institutions. Many colleges and universities offer student discounts for local attractions, movie tickets and sporting events. Your child will most likely just need to flash their student ID card at the campus ticket office.

Travel During the Week

Although you may have to take some days off, traveling during the week could save a lot of hassle and time. Plane and train tickets are usually less expensive on weekdays. If you plan to drive, you won’t have to needlessly burn through fuel while idling a college town’s weekend traffic.

Visiting a college to help your child move in may be an expense you can’t avoid, but you can have some fun by turning it into a mini-vacation. To make the most of your trip and keep it budget friendly, give yourself plenty of time to do your homework in advance.

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