College Q&A: How do I get around?
A few weeks ago, Annemarie wrote about some tips for visiting colleges during the summer. After you’ve decided where you go to school, figuring out how to get there and get around becomes much more of an issue. Transportation is an inevitable cost in college – whether it’s the cost of getting to and from college every semester, or the cost of getting to and from classes, it can all add up pretty quickly. There are smarter ways to travel that will put a lighter load on your bank account, as well as the environment!
Planning is the name of the game – getting your trips on the calendar now will put you in a better position to reduce your transportation costs. University academic calendars are key! (They’re usually accessible through a link on the school’s homepage).
A travel budget will include expected costs of flights, gas and other transportation, like subways and buses. Book travel as soon as possible to avoid any surprises.
As you may have experienced, paying for flights at the last minute is the worst thing you can do. Keep in mind that transportation from the airport can be costly. Find out how much taxis and shuttles cost to and from your lodging. College towns tend to offer shuttle services that will drive you from the airport to your dorm room - find these! Here are some sites to check out for resources: Kayak.com, Hipmunk.com and STA Travel.
If you live close enough to drive, you may have friends who also plan to check out the college. Carpooling makes a lot of sense! If you’re moving to campus this fall, consider sharing a giant U-Haul for your stuff. And your carpool buddy doesn’t have to be someone you were great friends with in high school – college marks a new beginning, and this is a great way to start meeting new people. Before I had a car at college, I often reached out to people I went to high school with for ride shares, especially when I was going home during short breaks like Thanksgiving when I didn’t really have anything to bring home. One ride sharing etiquette tip – ALWAYS offer to pitch in for gas, or you probably won’t be sharing rides with that person anymore.
Trains are a less common form of transportation these days, but at the right price point, taking the train can make a lot of sense. If you’re traveling home and have a lot of studying, the train is a great place to get that done so you can spend more time at home hanging out with friends and family. Like with flying, you can find some very reasonable train fares if you book tickets well ahead of time.
This is one of the cheapest and least convenient ways to travel – it is definitely worth a look if you’re exploring all of your options. Busses are most often used for getting around campus, but they’re also an option for getting to and from home (find your way to the nearest Greyhound station and you can get just about anywhere). It may or may not be cost-effective to buy a monthly bus pass, and many large campuses provide free busses that loop around campus, so you’ll likely be able to count on that for local travel.
These are just a few tips for making transportation easier on you – as with most financial aspects of college, planning is key! Know what you’re going to be spending and organize your travel plans as early as possible and you’ll find yourself with more spending money at the end of the year than if you procrastinated. Happy travels!