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May 29 2017
by Nancy Canevari

The Guide to Road-Tripping on a College Budget

By Nancy Canevari - May 29 2017
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Road trips are a great way to spend your summer vacation, especially for college students who don’t have a ton of money to spend on expensive trips. If you don’t budget carefully, however, road trips can drain your wallet far more than you planned for, so planning your expenses and doing your research beforehand are both important. Here are some tips for having a fun and successful road trip on a college budget.

1. Pack food instead of eating out.

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One of the fastest ways to spend a ton of money on vacation without realizing it is to go out to eat for most of your meals. Pack food to bring with you (sandwich ingredients are a great idea, because they’re a cheap way to provide lots of meals), and try to limit the number of times you go out for food. Here is a list of healthy snacks and meals to bring with you on your travels.

2. Consider accommodations wisely.

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Motels may seem like a good idea at first, but for an extended stay they can quickly become extremely expensive. If your road trip is happening over the summer when the weather’s nice, camping is a much cheaper (and sometimes free) option. If the weather won’t be as nice, consider couchsurfing.com, which allows you to find hosts across the country willing to share their couches for free.

3. Avoid traveling on holiday weekends.

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Hotels and tourist attractions get a lot of traffic on holiday weekends throughout the summer, and often raise their rates during these times to make more money. If you can, avoid those days to save as much money as possible. Memorial Day Weekend, the Fourth of July and Labor Day Weekend are the largest holidays in the summer that should be avoided.

4. Conserve gas money as best as possible.

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Gas is usually the biggest money drain on road trips. While there’s no one way to save money on gas, there are some tips to help you get the most bang for your buck. Make sure your tires are properly inflated, because deflated tires can drain your gas and avoid rush hour traffic, because sitting in traffic for hours depletes your gas without you even going anywhere. GasBuddy is also great resource for finding the cheapest gas in your area.

5. Pick an inexpensive route.

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Some road trip routes are more inexpensive than others because of the ample amounts of free and low-cost entertainment around them. Here is a list of some of these routes.

6. Choose low-cost attractions and forms of entertainment.

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Expensive attractions can eat up your funds, but they don’t need to! There are plenty of places to stop on a road trip that are just as entertaining as expensive attractions and won’t drain your wallet. Beaches are a great idea (in most states they’re free), and passes are available for national parks that provide admission for reduced rates. CityPass is also a great resource for finding discounts on attractions in major cities if you’re passing through urban areas.

7. What if you don’t have a car?

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If you don’t have a car, you aren’t out of luck just yet. If you’re only planning on traveling to one destination, ridesharing services are a great way to travel for reduced costs. Erideshare is a good resource for finding people to share a ride with. If you and your friends want to rent a car without breaking the bank, Hotwire and Expedia are good places to look.

8. Parking

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Parking can quickly become a major expense if you don’t do your research. Many Walmarts allow cars and RVs to park in their lots overnight, but some don’t, so here is a list of stores where overnight parking is illegal. In many residential areas parking is also free, but if you’re going to park in a residential area, take care not to block anyone’s driveways. Above all else, CHECK FOR NO PARKING SIGNS. Having your car towed can be a disaster for road-trippers, because not only do you have to pay hefty fees to get your car back, you’re probably carrying most of your supplies around in your car.

9. Wifi

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Wifi is going to be your lifeline while traveling, so making sure your route will have wifi is super important. Wifi Map is a great app that gives free passwords for wifi networks across the country.

Going on a road trip doesn’t have to drain your bank account if you make a budget and stick to it. Here’s to a fun and relaxing summer! 

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Nancy Canevari - Smith College

Nancy is a junior editor for Fresh U. She is a sophomore at Smith College and plans on double majoring in secondary education and English, with a concentration in creative writing. She's originally from New Jersey, a place she views with one part love and one part exasperated disgust. She loves dogs and young adult high fantasy novels a bit too much and spends most of her time drinking tea and yelling about politics. Follow her on Instagram @fearlesslynancelot for some solidly mediocre content.

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