In the words of Alice Cooper, school’s out for summer. If you’re a college student, you’re relieved to be finished with finals, rid of your weird roommates and away from the book-laden world of academia—at least for a while.

For many, that glee translates into a desire to travel. Maybe you’re going backpacking through Europe, or maybe you want to pull a full Jack Kerouac and spend the whole summer traversing the country. It’s far more likely, however, that you’re looking to get your kicks on Route 66 while holding down a summer job or internship, or while taking classes. Meanwhile, you may be strapped for cash.

Don’t the summer months seem to fly by? In the blink of an eye, you’ll be thinking about buying textbooks, iClickers and scantrons, and longing for these months of summertime freedom. Before August sneaks up on you, check out these road trips that are great for students who’ve got a case of wanderlust but who are low on cash. Here are four fantastic places for college students traveling on a shoestring budget.


1. Yellowstone National Park

Aerial view of lower Mammoth residential area; J Schmidt; 1977
If nature’s your thing, consider putting Yellowstone National Park on your places-to-visit list. This national park is spread out over Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, and covers more than 3,000 square miles, so it’s accessible from all directions.

For a one-time fee, you can hang out in Yellowstone for the week and enjoy the majesty of one of the nation’s oldest parks. To save money during your trip, bring your own bedding so you can skip the more expensive park lodging. (You still can use campground amenities like showers, toilets and laundry facilities.) Also, bring your own ­food so you don’t have to shell out cash at a sit-down restaurant.


2. Fort Lauderdale, FL

Nothing says “summer” like a trip to the beach, so skip the summer hotspots to save money and go to Fort Lauderdale. Its white-sand beaches are just as beautiful as any major Florida destination. With 185 miles of canals and waterways, it’s worth a look. If you do want to venture out, West Palm Beach and Miami are less than an hour away from Fort Lauderdale. And the beach—Fort Lauderdale’s best attraction—is free.

3. Asheville, NC

Visit Asheville for spectacular barbecue and practically endless mountain scenery. Explore the local art scene in various artists’ markets, go hiking in the Pigsah National Forest and Blue Ridge Parkway, or scoop up discount tickets to the 8,000-acre Biltmore estate when you stop at the Asheville Visitors Center (and get some handy maps while you’re at it). Additionally, although it doesn’t exactly belong on the “cheap trip” activities list, if you’re a craft beer enthusiast, Asheville boasts some great craft breweries. Spend some time in the local pubs if you want a true taste of Asheville.

4. Monterey Bay, CA

Head to Northern California for some seaside weather and scenery, where you can hike Big Sur or stroll along the beach. (June temperatures around the Monterey Bay are in the mid-60s.) If you’re there on a weekend, explore the Marina Certified Farmers’ Market on Sundays in Monterey, and visit nearby Salinas on the first Friday of the month for the First Fridays Art Walk.


Before You Go

Before you and your friends pile into the car and hit the open road, be smart about leaving your stuff behind.

If you’re going to be between apartments at some point during the summer, taking a trip during that gap might be wise. Stash your stuff in self-storage while you travel, then come back and load everything into your new digs. If you don’t want to deal with moving into a new place and hauling all your furniture from one home to the next, consider furniture rental instead. Whether you want a full room of furniture for a couple of months or individual pieces of furniture for the whole academic year, student furniture rental is a convenient, wallet-friendly solution for temporary furniture.

Images courtesy of National Park Service, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, Biltmore,