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How To Plan A College Tour Road Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Georgia Klassen



Embarking on a college tour road trip can be an exciting and memorable experience. It provides an opportunity for prospective students to explore different campuses, get a feel for the college environment, and make informed decisions about their future education. Planning a successful college tour road trip requires careful consideration and organization. From choosing the destinations to scheduling campus tours and arranging accommodations, there are several crucial steps to follow.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of planning a college tour road trip. Whether you’re a high school student exploring your options or a parent helping your child navigate the college search, these steps will help you make the most of your journey.


Before diving into the details, it’s important to mention that a college tour road trip can be a fun and educational experience, so be sure to approach it with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Now, let’s get started on planning your unforgettable college tour road trip!


Step 1: Determine a Destination

The first step in planning a college tour road trip is to determine the destinations you want to visit. Research colleges and universities that align with your academic and career interests, and make a list of the ones you would like to explore further.


Consider factors such as location, program offerings, campus size, and extracurricular activities when selecting your destinations. Think about whether you prefer a bustling city campus or a more serene suburban setting. Take into account the climate and geographical features of the area, as well as your personal preferences.


It’s important to strike a balance between the number of destinations you choose and the amount of time you have available. It can be tempting to squeeze in as many schools as possible, but remember that you want to have enough time to thoroughly explore each campus and engage with the atmosphere.


Once you have a list of potential destinations, narrow it down based on practical considerations such as distance and logistics. Are the schools located within a manageable driving distance? Will you need to fly to some destinations? Taking these factors into account will help you create a realistic itinerary.


Additionally, consider if there are any specific schools that are a “must-visit” for you. These could be dream schools or institutions that have a strong reputation in your chosen field of study. Prioritize these schools and make sure to include them in your final list of destinations.


Remember that the purpose of a college tour road trip is to explore various options, so try to include a mix of reach schools, safety schools, and schools that fall somewhere in between. This will give you a well-rounded perspective and help you make a more informed decision.


Once you have determined the destinations, it’s time to move on to the next step of planning your college tour road trip: mapping out your route.


Step 2: Plan the Route

Planning the route for your college tour road trip is essential to ensure a smooth and efficient journey. Consider the geographical locations of the campuses you want to visit and map out the most logical and efficient route.


Start by plotting all your chosen destinations on a map. Take into account the distance between each location and the time it will take to travel between them. Consider traffic patterns, potential road closures, and any other factors that may impact your travel time.


It’s important to be realistic about how much you can cover in a day. While it may be tempting to squeeze in as many visits as possible, remember that you’ll want to have enough time to explore each campus thoroughly. Aim for a balance between travel time and time spent on each campus.


In addition to the campuses, think about including other points of interest along your route. This could be landmarks, national parks, or other attractions that you and your travel companions would like to visit. Adding these stops can make your road trip more enjoyable and give you a chance to relax and have fun outside of the college visits.


Once you have mapped out the route, consider the best mode of transportation for your trip. If the campuses are relatively close together, driving in a car or renting an RV may be the most convenient option. However, if the schools are spread out across different states or regions, you may want to consider flying to certain destinations and renting a car for local transportation.


When planning the route, it’s a good idea to have backup options in case of unforeseen circumstances. Have alternate routes in mind in case of roadblocks or traffic congestion. Additionally, consider booking accommodations that offer flexibility in terms of cancellation policies, in case your itinerary needs to be adjusted.


Finally, remember to consult with your travel companions and get their input on the route planning. This will ensure that everyone’s preferences and needs are taken into account, making for a more enjoyable and inclusive experience.


With the route planned, it’s time to move on to the next step: researching colleges and universities.


Step 3: Research Colleges and Universities

Before visiting colleges and universities on your road trip, it is crucial to conduct thorough research about each institution. This step will help you gather essential information about the schools, their programs, campus culture, and more.


Start by visiting the official websites of the colleges and universities on your list. Explore their academic departments, majors, and minors to see if they offer programs aligned with your interests and career goals. Look for any unique programs, research opportunities, or internship options that stand out to you.


Take the time to read about the faculty members in your intended field of study. Look for their areas of expertise, publications, and any honors or accolades they have received. This will give you an idea of the caliber of faculty you may be interacting with if you choose to attend that institution.


While on the websites, also take note of any admission requirements, deadlines, and financial aid opportunities. Pay attention to any special scholarships or grants the school offers and check if you meet the eligibility criteria.


Expand your research beyond the official websites by exploring online forums, social media channels, and student review websites. These platforms can provide valuable insights into student experiences, campus life, and the overall atmosphere of the institution.


Consider reaching out to current students or alumni of the schools you are interested in. They can offer firsthand perspectives and answer any questions you may have about student life, academics, extracurricular activities, and more.


Don’t forget to make a note of any specific features or amenities that are important to you, such as student housing options, campus facilities, clubs, and organizations. This will help you assess whether the institution can provide the college experience you desire.


As you navigate through your research, keep track of key information about each school, such as the majors they offer, admission requirements and deadlines, and any standout features that appeal to you. Organize this information in a way that allows for easy reference during your road trip.


By conducting thorough research, you will have a solid foundation of knowledge about each college or university you plan to visit. This will not only help you make informed decisions but also allow you to ask thoughtful questions during campus tours and information sessions.


Now that you have researched the colleges and universities, it’s time to move on to the next step: scheduling campus tours.


Step 4: Schedule Campus Tours

Scheduling campus tours is a crucial step in planning your college tour road trip. It allows you to experience the campuses firsthand, interact with current students and faculty, and get a feel for the overall atmosphere of the institutions you are considering.


Start by visiting the websites of each college or university you plan to visit. Look for the “Visit” or “Admissions” section, where you will find information about campus tour options. Most schools offer guided tours led by current students or admissions staff.


Check the availability and schedule for campus tours. Some schools require advance registration, so it’s important to plan accordingly. Consider the time and day of the week that works best for you. Weekdays may offer a more comprehensive experience as you will have the opportunity to see the campus while it’s bustling with students attending classes and participating in activities.


Take note of any special events or open house dates that coincide with your planned visit. Open house events often include additional activities and opportunities to meet with faculty, attend information sessions, and explore campus facilities. Participating in these events can provide a more immersive experience.


If a guided tour is not available or doesn’t align with your schedule, reach out to the admissions office to inquire about alternative options. Some schools may offer self-guided tours with maps or virtual tours that you can explore online.


When scheduling campus tours, make sure to allow for enough time between visits. Rushing from one tour to another can be stressful and may not leave you with ample time to fully explore each campus. Aim for at least a few hours on each campus to have enough time to sit in on a class, visit specific departments, and get a general sense of the campus vibe.


While scheduling your campus tours, consider additional activities you would like to include during your visit. This could be attending an admissions information session, meeting with faculty or admissions representatives, or exploring specific areas of interest such as research facilities, libraries, or athletic facilities.


Make a detailed itinerary of your campus visits, noting the date, time, and any additional activities or appointments. Keep all the necessary contact information handy, such as the admissions office phone number or the email address of your designated tour guide.


Remember that campus tours are an opportunity for you to gather valuable insights and ask questions. Prepare a list of questions beforehand that cover various aspects of college life, academics, and campus resources. This will ensure that you get the most out of each visit.


With your campus tours scheduled, it’s time to move on to the next step: arranging accommodations for your road trip.


Step 5: Arrange Accommodations

Arranging accommodations for your college tour road trip is an important aspect of ensuring a comfortable and convenient journey. It’s essential to find suitable places to stay that are located near the campuses you plan to visit.


Start by researching accommodation options in each destination. Look for hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, or even vacation rentals that are in close proximity to the colleges or universities you will be touring. Consider factors such as price, amenities, and reviews to make an informed choice.


When selecting accommodations, take into account your budget and any specific preferences or requirements you may have. Are you looking for a budget-friendly option, or are you willing to splurge on a more luxurious stay? Do you prefer a private room or are you open to shared dorm-style accommodations?


If you prefer a more immersive experience, consider staying at a hotel or inn located on or near the college campus. This can give you a feel for the student life and atmosphere in the area. It’s also a great opportunity to interact with current students and gain valuable insights.


Check for any special discounts or offers available for visiting students or their families. Many hotels near college campuses have partnerships or special rates for visitors, so be sure to inquire about these options when making reservations.


As you arrange accommodations, make sure to keep your travel itinerary in mind. Ensure that the check-in and check-out times align with your schedule, and leave enough time to travel between your lodging and the campus for tours and other activities.


Consider the amenities you may require during your stay. If you’ll need Wi-Fi, parking, or access to a fitness center, make sure the accommodations you choose offer these facilities.


It’s important to book your accommodations well in advance, especially if you are traveling during peak college visit times or during popular events in the area. This will help ensure you have a place to stay and avoid any last-minute stress.


If you have a flexible itinerary or want to explore multiple campuses in a single area, consider planning your accommodations accordingly. Staying in one location for a few days and making day trips to different campuses can be a convenient and cost-effective option.


Once you have arranged your accommodations, make a note of the details including the address, phone number, and confirmation number. This way, you can easily access the information during your road trip.


With your accommodations sorted out, it’s time to move on to the next step: creating a budget for your college tour road trip.


Step 6: Create a Budget

Creating a budget for your college tour road trip is a crucial step to ensure you can cover all your expenses and make the most of your journey without breaking the bank. It’s important to plan and allocate your funds wisely to accommodate transportation, accommodations, meals, and other expenses.


Start by determining how much you have available to spend on your road trip. Take into account your personal savings, any contributions from parents or guardians, and any financial aid or scholarships that may cover some of the costs.


Next, outline the major expenses you will incur during your trip. These typically include transportation (such as fuel costs, airfare, or rental car fees), accommodations, meals, campus tour fees, and any additional activities or attractions you plan to visit along the way.


Research and gather information on the costs associated with each expense. Look for discounts or special offers that may be available for students or families visiting colleges. Consider the duration of your road trip and the number of campuses you plan to visit to estimate the overall cost.


As you create your budget, be sure to allocate funds for unexpected expenses or emergencies that may arise during your trip. It’s always a good idea to have a cushion of extra money available to cover any unforeseen circumstances.


Consider ways to save money during your road trip. Look for affordable accommodations, consider sharing accommodations with other travelers, and explore options for budget-friendly dining, such as packing meals or opting for local food trucks or cafes.


Be mindful of any additional costs that may arise during your campus visits, such as purchasing college merchandise or attending events or performances on campus. While these expenses may enhance your overall experience, it’s important to factor them into your budget to avoid overspending.


As you track your expenses during the trip, keep all receipts and make note of any unexpected costs or areas where you may need to adjust your budget. This will help you stay organized and evaluate your spending once you return.


Throughout the planning process, remember to be realistic and prioritize your financial well-being. It’s important to have a memorable college tour road trip, but it’s equally important to stay within your means.


By creating a budget and sticking to it, you can ensure that your road trip remains enjoyable and financially manageable. With your budget in place, it’s time to move on to the next step: packing the essentials for your college tour road trip.


Step 7: Pack Essentials

Packing the essentials for your college tour road trip is crucial to ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable and successful journey. It’s important to be prepared for a variety of situations and consider the specific needs of the trip.


Start by creating a packing checklist. This will help you stay organized and ensure you don’t forget any important items. Include essentials such as clothing, toiletries, electronics, and any necessary documents.


When it comes to clothing, pack versatile pieces that can be easily mixed and matched. Consider the weather and climate of the areas you’ll be visiting, and make sure to bring appropriate outerwear, comfortable walking shoes, and any specific attire required for campus tours or special events.


Don’t forget to pack toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and any other personal care items you use on a daily basis. It’s also a good idea to pack a first-aid kit with essentials like band-aids, pain relievers, and any necessary medications.


Bring along any necessary electronics, such as your phone, laptop, or tablet, along with their chargers. Consider bringing a portable charger to ensure you have a backup power source during long days of touring.


Don’t forget essential documents such as your ID, driver’s license, health insurance card, and any necessary travel documents like your road trip itinerary or hotel reservations. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your list of scheduled campus tours and contact information in case you need to reference it quickly.


Remember to pack any equipment or materials you may need for specific activities or hobbies, such as a camera for capturing memories or a notebook for jotting down notes during campus tours.


Consider any specific items that would enhance your road trip experience, such as a travel pillow or blanket for comfort during long drives, a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, or a backpack or tote bag for carrying essentials while exploring campuses.


As you pack, be mindful of any size or weight restrictions imposed by airlines if you are planning on flying to a destination and renting a car. It’s important to stay within the limitations to avoid any additional fees.


Lastly, try to pack light and only bring what you truly need. Laundry facilities are often available at hotels or other accommodations along your road trip, so you can plan to do laundry to minimize the amount of clothing you need to bring.


By packing the essentials and being prepared, you can ensure a comfortable and stress-free college tour road trip. With your bags packed, it’s time to move on to the next step: following a flexible itinerary.


Step 8: Follow a Flexible Itinerary

Following a flexible itinerary is essential during your college tour road trip. While it’s important to have a general plan and schedule in place, flexibility allows for unexpected opportunities and adjustments to make the most out of your journey.


Start by creating a basic itinerary that outlines the dates, destinations, and scheduled campus tours for each day of your road trip. This will serve as a framework to keep you on track and ensure you have enough time to visit each college or university.


However, keep in mind that unexpected events or circumstances may arise during your trip. Allow for flexibility in your schedule to account for detours, traffic delays, or changes in weather conditions. This will prevent you from feeling rushed or stressed if you encounter any unexpected obstacles.


Take advantage of any spontaneous opportunities that may come up during your road trip. If you come across a local event, attraction, or landmark that piques your interest, consider adjusting your itinerary to include it. These unplanned experiences can often turn out to be the most memorable and enjoyable aspects of your trip.


During your campus tours, allow yourself to explore beyond the planned activities. Take the time to walk around the campus, visit different departments, and interact with current students or faculty members. This will give you a more comprehensive understanding of each institution and help you make an informed decision.


Be open to adjusting your list of college campuses to visit if you discover new schools along your journey. Stay open-minded and consider exploring schools that may not have been on your original list but pique your interest during the trip.


Take breaks in between campus visits to rest and recharge. Explore the local area, try out local cuisine, and take time for self-reflection. Use these breaks to reflect on your impressions of each campus and gather your thoughts before moving on to the next one.


Use technology to your advantage by utilizing GPS navigation and travel apps. They can help you navigate between campuses and find nearby attractions, restaurants, and lodging options. Embrace the convenience and flexibility these tools offer.


Remember, the purpose of a college tour road trip is to explore different options and gather information. Stay flexible and adaptable throughout the journey to make the most informed decision about your future education.


With a flexible itinerary in place, you’re ready to move on to the next step: taking notes and photos during your campus visits.


Step 9: Take Notes and Photos

Taking notes and photos during your campus visits is an essential step in documenting your college tour road trip and keeping track of important details. It helps you capture the highlights of each campus, compare your impressions, and make informed decisions.


During the campus tours, bring a notebook or use a note-taking app on your phone to jot down key points, interesting facts, and your overall impressions of the campus. Take notes on the tour guide’s insights, campus facilities, and any specific details that stand out to you.


Focus on capturing details about the academic departments and programs that interest you. Note down any information about faculty members, internship or research opportunities, and resources that are relevant to your field of study.


If possible, attend information sessions specific to your major or intended program. Take notes on the curriculum, requirements, and potential career paths related to the program.


Don’t forget to document your overall impressions of the campus atmosphere and culture. Note the vibe you get from the students and the general energy of the campus. Also, pay attention to the surroundings, nearby facilities, and the overall ambiance of the area.


Photography is another great way to remember your campus visits. Take pictures of iconic landmarks, campus buildings, classrooms, laboratories, dormitories, and any spots that resonate with you. Capture the essence of each campus through your lens.


While taking pictures, remember to be respectful and follow any photography guidelines or restrictions set by the colleges or universities. Ask for permission if you wish to photograph specific areas or individuals, and respect any areas that are off-limits.


Take group photos with your travel companions or new friends you meet during the campus tours. These photos will serve as mementos of your shared experiences and the connections you make along the way.


Throughout your road trip, organize your notes and photos in a way that allows for easy reference and comparison when you’re evaluating your options later on. Create a digital or physical folder for each campus visit and label them accordingly.


Review your notes and photos after each campus visit to refresh your memory and reflect on your impressions. This will help you make meaningful comparisons and assessments when you’re making your final college decisions.


Remember that the purpose of taking notes and photos is to provide you with a comprehensive record of your college tour road trip. Stay observant, be present during the campus tours, and capture the essence of each institution through both your written notes and visual images.


With your notes and photos in hand, it’s time to move on to the final step: reflecting and evaluating your college tour road trip.


Step 10: Reflect and Evaluate

After completing your college tour road trip, it’s important to take the time to reflect and evaluate your experiences. This final step allows you to gather your thoughts, compare your impressions, and ultimately make informed decisions about your future education.


Start by revisiting your notes and reviewing the photos you took during the campus visits. Take this opportunity to refresh your memory and immerse yourself in the impressions you had at each institution.


Reflect on the overall campus atmosphere, the interactions you had with students and faculty, and the general vibe you felt during the tours. Consider which campuses resonated the most with you and align with your academic and personal aspirations.


Compare your initial expectations with the reality of each campus visit. Were there any schools that surpassed your expectations or fell short? Reflect on why these differences may have occurred and what impact they have on your decision-making process.


Consider the academic offerings and resources available at each institution. Reflect on the programs, departmental strengths, and research opportunities that align with your interests and goals. Evaluate how each school can support your personal and professional growth.


Assess the campus facilities, residential life, and extracurricular activities available at each institution. Consider how these aspects align with your preferences and the kind of college experience you envision for yourself.


Factor in the financial aspects of attending each school, such as tuition costs, scholarships, and financial aid packages. Reflect on the affordability and potential return on investment for each institution.


Include discussions with your travel companions if you traveled with family or friends. Share your impressions, compare notes, and consider their perspectives. They may have noticed aspects that you overlooked and can offer valuable insights.


Lastly, trust your intuition. Reflect on how each campus made you feel and whether you can envision yourself thriving in that environment. Consider which institution provides the best overall fit for you academically, socially, and personally.


Remember that the college tour road trip is designed to help you make an informed decision about your future education. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate your experiences, prioritize your goals and aspirations, and trust yourself to make the right choice.


Once you have reflected and evaluated your college tour road trip, you will be ready to make your final decisions, submit your applications, and embark on an exciting new chapter in your educational journey.


Congratulations on completing the steps of planning a college tour road trip, and best of luck in your college decision-making process!



Embarking on a college tour road trip is an exciting adventure that allows you to explore various campuses, gain valuable insights, and make informed decisions about your future education. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can plan a well-organized and memorable trip.


From determining your destinations and mapping out your route to researching colleges and scheduling campus tours, each step is crucial in ensuring a successful and enriching experience. By being flexible and open-minded, you allow yourself to embrace unexpected opportunities and make the most of each campus visit.


Remember to take detailed notes and capture photos during your campus tours, as they will serve as valuable references when reflecting and evaluating your experiences later on. Consider all aspects of each institution, including academic programs, campus culture, and financial considerations.


Throughout the planning process, it’s important to prioritize your goals, preferences, and financial well-being. By creating a budget, packing the essentials, and following a flexible itinerary, you can make the most of your road trip while staying within your means.


Finally, reflect on your experiences and evaluate each institution based on your impressions, interactions, and academic or personal aspirations. Trust your intuition and make the decision that feels right for you.


Remember that a college tour road trip is not just about visiting campuses. It’s an opportunity for personal growth, self-discovery, and embracing the excitement of the college search process. Enjoy the journey, absorb the knowledge, and trust that you will find the perfect institution that aligns with your goals and aspirations.


Good luck on your college tour road trip, and may this experience guide you towards a bright and successful future!