The Cost of Travel for Students & Parents

TravelFor the Roberts family, the big day has finally arrived: Ralphie Roberts is moving into his dorm room! Ronald, Regina and little sister Rachel are feeling bittersweet about the experience. On one hand, they will miss Ralphie tremendously but on the other, they are thrilled that he is about to begin a new, crucial chapter in his life. After the move-in is done, the family returns to their van for a tearful 6-hour drive back home. Sure they are crying about how much they are going to miss Ralphie but Ronald and Regina are also crying about the upcoming visit to the gas station. “These costs keep piling up dear; we may need to get Rachel a job!” Rachel, 9, is not amused by her fathers joke.

The previous example is fictional but the situation is relate-able for many families. In this day and age, transportation costs are yet another expense that must be considered when travelling to and from college. As nice as it is for many families to send their kids to nearby colleges, this is not the reality for many students.

What if college is out of state and isn’t in reasonable driving distance? The fictional Roberts family is unlikely to drive every time they wish to visit Ralphie so that means three round trip plane tickets which can easily surpass $1,000 in travel expenses.

Buses are a possible alternative but even bus tickets can be expensive and provide minimal convenience for the busy family trying to work hard just to cover tuition alone.

Backing up for a moment, it is rare for a student to only visit one college while in high school so family trips to simply select the right school can also be classified as a college expense.

Four years, a degree, new friends and experiences, as well as social growth are the result of a successful college experience. But to avoid the added cost of lost credits due to a transfer, the high percentage of families will plan visits to multiple schools, sometimes during one extended trip.

Safety is a key component in the right decision as well and it’s hard to feel confident in the area without physically seeing the prospective colleges.

Although we’ve focused thus far on the expenses for the parents, it is important to also remember the travel costs that students themselves will incur.

Ralphie isn’t going to stay in his dorm room over Thanksgiving and the December holiday’s. As a freshman, Ralphie isn’t likely to take a spring break trip so he needs to come home again as well. These expenses start to really add up and can skyrocket later on in college.

Freshman and many sophomores often do not have access to a car but upperclassmen are a different story. This means gas costs, parking costs and regular vehicle maintenance costs in addition to the student’s desire to eat out more and explore new areas off-campus.

While a majority of students work, according to numerous studies such as this one conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, it’s hard to earn good money while also needing to attend and prepare for a full course load.

While it is true that transportation is a relatively minor expense in comparison to tuition and room and board, it still must be taken in account and certainly isn’t cheap for most families.

Both parents and students share in these expenses and the longer the travel time, the more expensive the cost. Even those families that live within a reasonable proximity of the college could need lodging during an overnight stay, so add this to the list perhaps.

Each family is different and know two families take the exact same approach, thus careful, customized planning is necessary to keep costs in line. Or at least to keep costs just out of line enough to survive!

Sorry about that line, we’re guessing much like Rachel that you’re not amused.