5 Cheap Summer Road Trip Ideas That Every College Student Should Try

By Jamie Kravitz

One of the best parts of being in college is the freedom you have during summer break. You haven’t yet entered the “real world,” which means you’re able to travel without any real responsibilities holding you back. Unfortunately, being in school also means that you’re on a tight budget. So while you may have the time to backpack across Europe, you probably don’t have the necessary funds. Skip the cost of airfare and take one of these cheap summer road trip ideas for a spin instead.

These budget-friendly destinations are all perfect to explore with your college boyfriend or girlfriend by your side. In addition to the company, having a road trip partner-in-crime means you only have to do half the driving, but you get to enjoy twice the snacks.

Whether you live on the East Coast, the West Coast, or somewhere in between, there’s at least one viable option for you and your partner on the list below. These destinations may be inexpensive, but they’re far from boring. There’s plenty to do for free or cheap, so you can put your money towards the cost of gas, tolls, and lodging. A road trip with your significant other isa college rite of passage, so why not check it off your bucket list this summer? If you need inspiration, here are five inexpensive road trips you can take with your college boyfriend or girlfriend.

1 If You Both Love To Hike, Check Out Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Skip the pricy Grand Canyon tour and head to Horseshoe Bend instead. Located in Page, Arizona, this “intimate Grand Canyon experience” ends with a gorgeous landscape that will have your Instagram followers practically foaming at the mouth. The best part is that there’s no entry fee, so you can enjoy the hike for free. Head there in the late morning or early afternoon to avoid the river being hidden in shadow or the sun blocking your view.

While you’re in the area, try your luck at The Wave as well. This photographer’s dream is located along the Arizona/Utah border, about 40 miles west of Horseshoe Bend. You have to apply for a permit in advance, as well as pay $5 to enter a lottery. Only 20 people are allowed to hike The Wave per day. Ten are chosen in advance through the lottery, and 10 can score a walk-in permit. If you’re one of the lucky few, though, it only costs $7 per person for an entire day of exploring.

2 If You Two Are All About The ‘Gram, Visit Seven Magic Mountains, Nevada

You may have seen this colorful art installation on your Instagram Explore page. If you’ve added the destination to your list of must-see places, however, time is running out. The two-year public art exhibition went up in 2016, and is only guaranteed to stick around through the end of 2018. Snag your photos this summer and avoid Instagram envy down the road. That way, there’ll be no ‘mo FOMO for you and your boo.

While it’s free to see and photograph, the Seven Magic Mountains are more of a roadside pit stop than a day-long event. While you’re in the area, check out The Pinball Hall of Fame, where you can play on vintage pinball machines for just 10, 25, or 50 cents each. There are only about 22 miles between the two attractions, so you can take your time at each spot.

3 If You’re An Artsy Couple, Head To Nashville, Indiana

No, not that Nashville. This Nashville is a quaint artists’ colony in Indiana that is both romantic and affordable. Once you arrive, take your pick from a number of art galleries and artists’ studios, antique shops, music venues, wineries, and breweries. Or, stay for a few days and try to see them all. There are plenty of adorable inns, charming cottages, and bohemian bed and breakfasts to choose from.

Eat, shop, drink, and stroll hand-in-hand through this small, historic town that looks and feels like it’s straight out of an episode of Gilmore Girls. Grab your Luke or your Lorelai and pack your summer flannels, because a weekend getaway in Nashville, Indiana, is calling your name.

4 If You’re Looking To Party Together, Go To Virginia Beach, Virginia

This popular Beach Week destination attracts college students for a reason. Hit the three mile-long Virginia Beach boardwalk any time during the day or night, and you’re guaranteed to find something fun to do. From three oceanfront stages offering entertainment every evening (including a free summer concert series) in Neptune’s Park, to shops and restaurants all along the street, your options are essentially endless. Neptune’s Park also boasts a giant statue of Neptune that makes for a great photo op.

And if you ever need to escape the boardwalk for a bit, you can always visit a Virginia Beach brewery or distillery. Chesapeake Bay Distillery offers free tours on Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m., as well as $7 tasting events with four samples. Or, go to Funny Bone Comedy Club and see a show with your SO. There are plenty of acts with tickets in the $8 to $15 range.

5 If The Two Of You Are Feeling Nautical, Ship Up To York, Maine

If you’re the kind of pair who loves beach towns with gorgeous views of the coast, then you have to go to York, Maine. For starters, its Nubble Lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in America. Afterwards, stop at the walk-up counter of Dunne’s Ice Cream for a delicious and inexpensive summer treat.

Then there’s York’s Wild Kingdom, which is both an amusement park and a zoo. If you only want to visit the zoo, adult tickets are a mere $14.75. There’s a huge butterfly exhibit and a White Bengal tiger named Rewa (in separate parts of the park, obviously). York also has a number of historic houses and museums. And, of course, while you’re there you have to hit the beach.

No matter where your passions lie, there’s a cheap summer road trip destination that’s just waiting for you and your partner to visit.

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