5 Tips for Budgeting for College Tours

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When deciding what college your student is going to apply for, it can be important to see them first. But it gets expensive. The colleges may be scattered all over the country, and you may want to travel with your student. 


To save money on campus tours and travel, try these tips:


Start with virtual tours.


Start with virtual tours first. With interactive maps of campuses, students can check out everything from the student union to the building their department in 3D detail. Students can find colleges through a tool on the site or look for virtual tours on the college’s site. 


While virtual tours are helpful, they are just a supplement to visiting the college. You can’t tell what the social and academic atmosphere is, and you won’t chat with students that you couldn’t just call from home.


Cut family travel costs.


Lodging and traveling to the college, unless it’s within 100 miles or so, is generally the largest expense in college visits.


The first choice for reducing costs should always be the student calling the admissions office and asking about fly-in programs that cover airline costs, hotel discounts, or free meals in dining halls for perspective first-year students. Fly-in programs may be based on financial need, talents, or academic performance.


When traveling as a family, look for travel specials such as Hot Rate deals on discount travel site Hotwire or renting an airbnb near campus. Book airline tickets as soon as you know dates. Always try to visit colleges on your students list that are in the same regions on the same trip to save on airfare.


Book your student on an organized college tour.


College Visits offer trips for students to visit several schools in various regions of the country in well-organized trips of multiple colleges. The bonus to organized college tours are the organizers have more knowledge about what questions students should ask various departments than you have as parents. 


Your student will get lists of questions and share information with other students on the same trip. This allows for easier college comparisons when students have similar experiences at the same colleges. 


Consider the environmental footprint when traveling. 


Thinking about sustainability when traveling can help add dollars back to your pocket. When it comes to car trips, sustainability means taking the quickest routes, renting the smallest car, getting the cheapest vehicle that fit your family, and walking versus driving as much as possible. It also means picking hotels close to campus, which will help reduce gas costs and environmental impact.


When flying, sustainability generally means seeing multiple campuses on each trip and taking public transit after arriving. Also, take public transit instead of driving once you arrive.                                          


Work in a family vacation.


Also, consider planning your own vacations and outings around college tours. A few fabulous websites for learning about cheap attractions in various parts of the country are Groupon, Living on the Cheap, and restaurant.com


Groupon is great for restaurants, spa visits, and attractions. Just make sure you list the neighborhoods you are looking for. Living on the Cheap has city specific sites that you can access from the main site. Restaurant.com has restaurant gift certificates for as low as $2. Always search for promotion codes first to save additional money.


5 Takeaways

  • Perspective schools may pay for the student’s whole flight or other parts of the visit such as meals in the dorm dining halls. Always call the admissions office to find out about any help the school may provide to reduce travel costs.
  • Work in family vacations by seeing local sites and finding interesting restaurants.
  • Use discount sites for everything from restaurants to hotel rooms to save money. You should ask the school if local hotels offer discounts for prospective students. 
  • While considering sustainability, think of "Earth balance" and "cost balance." Plan trips in a way to minimize gas expenses or unnecessary air travel.
  • Virtual campus tours can help narrow down which colleges your family really wants to visit. However, they aren’t a substitute for full college tours of the student’s top choices.

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