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AAA World | Life | Road Trip
Acing Your College Road Trip

From timing to itineraries, we offer tips on planning a successful trip

As colleges across the country once again swing open their doors to students for in-person campus visits, the college road trip is back. Before you hit the road with your short list of dream schools, do some homework to ace your college tour.
Qualitiy time    

The time of year you visit campus can significantly impact your impression of the school. While summer typically affords more time for exploration, a pivotal part of the campus is missing: the community. It can be difficult to get a feel for a college when most of its students and teachers aren’t there.

Spring is often better for visits, but avoid the weeks when school is out for spring break. Fall—particularly September or October—is considered the best window for campus visits—as long as you don’t tour during college breaks.
Register for guided tours early since tour spots can fill up fast.

Winging a college road trip would be like, say, showing up for your AP history final without studying. So, develop an itinerary, especially if you’re visiting multiple schools, just as you would for a vacation road trip.

Map the route and mileages (simplify the process with a free AAA TripTik travel planner). Plan stops for food and gas. Book hotels; some colleges even have hotels and inns—owned by them or hotel partners—smack-dab on campus, and area lodgings may offer a discounted “university rate” or AAA discount.
Packing the car     

Have a technician perform a comprehensive vehicle checkup. Also, pack safety essentials—everything from a first aid kit and warm blanket, to jumper cables and a tool kit, to plenty of water and nonperishable food. Paper maps can come in handy in case cell service is spotty.

You’ve come this far; stay for a while. The feel of a campus community also relies on the vibrancy of the surrounding town, so check out the local restaurants and attractions. Take notes (it’s good practice for college classes, too) and photos. After all, this is the one time you’ll get to grade the college, instead of the other way around.


You and your family are about to invest big bucks to attend college, so spend the time and effort worthy of that investment. Also, keep in mind that some colleges consider “demonstrated interest”—that is, your sincere interest to attend a school, demonstrated by a campus visit (among other measures)—in their application process.

But even if they don’t, the memories that you create with your traveling companions along the way are priceless. Just think: The next time you visit campus may be student move-in day. Cherish the moments. It all goes so fast.