City map on picnic table with push pins route, phone, and notebook

10 Type-A Tips to Plan the Perfect College Tour Road Trip

How often have you made plans and one obstacle derails everything? That won't happen on your college visits if you follow these precise planning tips.

Visiting prospective colleges is a crucial step in choosing where to further your education. You can make the most of your tours by turning your visits into a fun road trip! However, a smooth and productive road trip requires a lot of planning and intention. You need to visit the right colleges, have reliable transportation, make time to explore each city, and plan everything else to a T for the most fulfilling and affordable experience. Here’s exactly what you should do to ensure your college tour road trip is an unforgettable, enlightening experience for you and your family.

1. Research your colleges thoroughly

You should visit schools that are good fits for you rather than just because. Thoroughly do your research in advance, starting with the colleges that interest you most. After that, list schools that aren’t at the top but you’d be happy to visit. Consider a balance of different types of schools, such as public and private institutions, when deciding which colleges to see in person. Once you’ve got your list, detail why you’re drawn to them and what you want to visit most on these campuses.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute

You probably won’t get a spot on an admission tour if you’re calling colleges the day you’re due to arrive on campus. You’ll also have a hard time finding lodging and getting the city experience you want if you wait until the last minute. Plan your visits and the rest of your road trip well in advance: Call your colleges, book your hotels, plan your route, and research your must-see tourist spots!

3. Make a list of questions for each school

This is your opportunity to learn things about campus life that can’t be answered in a Google search—so take advantage of it! Here are some ideas for questions to ask during campus visits:

  • Do financial aid packages change a lot after the first year?
  • What’s the work-study program like?
  • Does my major of interest have a good program here?
  • How often do students meet with academic advisors?
  • How does the college commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What are the most popular campus hangout spots?

Compile as many questions as you need to ensure you’re making an informed decision about which college to attend.

Related: Campus Visits: Places to Go and Questions to Ask

4. Establish a budget for the trip

Establishing a budget for your trip is essential for a seamless experience. Start saving up for your trip well in advance to ensure you have the money you need to enjoy the experience fully.

The last thing you want to do is overspend and worry about the consequences when you get back home. Setting a concrete budget and saving goal ensures this won’t happen, so consider the following:

  • How long is your road trip?
  • What activities are you doing?
  • How much do you need for gas?
  • How much do you need for food, lodging, and other essentials?
  • How much can you set aside for emergencies?

5. Ready your vehicle for the trip

Your vehicle needs to be just as ready as you are for a road trip. Take your car to your local garage or check the following vehicle maintenance components yourself if you’re comfortable:

  • Battery and lights
  • Brakes
  • Tires, including pressure, tread, and traction
  • Levels of all fluids: brakes, coolant, engine oil, power steering, transmission, and windshield wiper

6. Pack light and efficiently

What you need on a road trip depends on how long you’ll be gone and where you’re going. Look up the weather where you’re visiting and think of the activities you’ll be doing to help you determine what to bring as well, like comfortable shoes for walking or portable chargers for long days on the move. 

7. Create an itinerary for each day

You only get a short amount of time to visit each college, so it’s important to pack your days with activities that will help you make an informed decision about where to go to school. Check out the dorms, the bookstore, health and career centers, and the admission office. Eat at the dining hall, meet your financial aid officer, introduce yourself to professors, and visit coaches if you’re an athlete. A well-organized itinerary doesn’t have to account for every hour of the day, but a generally detailed plan with specific activities and time estimates can help keep you on track.

Related: Top 10 Tips for Your College Visit Road Trip

8. Be intentional about your road trip diet

Food can be one of the biggest expenses on a road trip if you default to eating out for every meal. Not only that, but what you eat impacts your mental health and mood. If you eat sugary snacks (as many people do on the road), you’re at risk for blood sugar crashes that cause mood swings. And you don’t want that on a long college tour! Choosing healthy foods to eat on the go can keep you energized and in high spirits every day of your trip. Pack your cooler with healthy snacks to save some money and nurture your holistic health. And if you do eat out, opt for nutritious meals that will fill you up and give you energy. 

9. Leave time to explore each city

You’ll spend a lot of time in the cities your chosen colleges are in, so make sure you leave time during each visit to explore them. Visit popular tourist attractions. Go to a good restaurant that jumps out to you. Explore parks and nearby neighborhoods. Get a feel for what life will be like in the city and how you might spend your time there as a college student.

10. Be engaged on each tour

The whole point of this road trip is to visit potential colleges. Make sure you’re getting everything you can out of the tours you take of each campus. Ask your questions. Meet and chat with the students and faculty who are there. Participate in all the activities your tour guide has planned to make the most of the time you set aside to be on campus. And if there’s time after the tour, explore and observe on your own to get a real feel for the campus environment.

Related: Top 10 College Visit Tips for a Successful Campus Experience

College tours are so influential in helping you decide where to go to college, and a road trip is a classic travel experience. If you plan it thoroughly, it’s sure to be the meaningful, productive experience you want.

Make your road trip even more fun by turning your visits into scavenger hunts. Happy campus searching!

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About Amanda Winstead

Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey or just say hi, you can find her on Twitter.


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