Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guide to a Memorable and Safe College Road Trip

Jason Majewski
Marketing Intern

If you’re a freshman, by now you’re probably starting to feel a little more comfortable living on campus. You’ve met plenty of new people, had your first college exam, found the hot spots on campus and maybe even attended your first football game. Hopefully, most of your college experiences so far have been positive ones, and there are plenty more to look forward to. Something you may or may not be planning on already is the famed college roadtrip. We’ve all seen the Hollywood portrayal a million times, and the truth is, road trips are a great time. But beyond just being a fun experience, you might learn a thing or two about yourself, your friends or the world around you.

There are plenty of good reasons to plan a college road trip. Maybe you’re getting a little sick of that assigned roommate or you need to get out of town and forget about some of the stress that comes with college academics. Maybe you want to catch up with one of your good friends from high school at another college. There could be an away football game or other sporting event you’d like to go to or you might not have a reason at all. The most important thing is that you do it safely and plan a little ahead of time.

When? Where? Who’s coming?

If you’re looking to plan a road trip, the obvious starting point is to figure out when and where you are going. A lot of times the best weekends are those when there isn’t a home football game or major event going on, that way you won’t feel like you’re missing out on your own campus. You should also try to pick a weekend that won’t put you behind in your classwork, it’s never fun to get back from out of town and have to play catch-up. Next, it’s deciding where you’re going to go. This part is completely up to you, just make sure you have a place to crash with someone you know well and trust.
Once you’ve figured out when and where you’re going, you should probably figure out who’s going with you. There’s nothing wrong with going by yourself, but there’s a certain thrill about a road trip with a few of your new college friends. Make sure you feel comfortable and safe with the people you’ll be going with don’t jump in a car with the guy down the hall just because he offered to drive. Once you know who’s going with you, make sure they’re on board with the plans and prepared to leave when you are.

It’s all in the details

Planning ahead is going to go a long way in making sure that your road trip goes smoothly and safely. A few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you prepare for your trip:
  • Look into the parking situation where you’re going and make sure your car won’t be towed over the weekend (I can personally attest to how awful this situation can be).
  •  Check on the route you’ll be taking, the weather forecast and if there are any stops along the way worth checking out.
  • Make sure you take a look at your bank account and have enough money to get you through the weekend. The last thing you want to do is call mom and dad on the side of the road with your gas tank and wallet empty.
  • Speaking of mom and dad, make sure your parents know when and where you’re going. Yeah, you live away from home now and you’re supposed to be “independent” and all, but they should know where you are in case anything goes wrong.
  • Lastly, make sure the car you’re taking is in shape for a road trip. Make sure you have an up-to-date oil change, good tire pressure, working windshield wipers, etc.

Being careless about these things is likely to contribute to a bad experience. When you’re prepared for a road trip, it eliminates a lot of the hassle and worries that might come up and you can focus on just enjoying the trip.

It’s more than a weekend out of town

If you are going to visit a friend at another college, there’s a lot to take away from that experience. It’s always fun to see what other campuses are like, what kind of living situation your friend is in and compare and contrast it to your own school. You might see something that’s way better on another campus, maybe eventually inspiring you to get involved and try to help improve your own university. You might see something that is way worse and it could validate your own college decision. One other consideration if you’re visiting another campus is to be respectful and smart about what you’re doing. The campus you’re visiting probably has different rules, traditions and standards than your own. It’s easy to think “I’m not at my school, anything goes,” but that type of attitude can ruin a trip, and possibly your reputation or future, pretty quickly.

Introducing your new college friends to your old friends is also a unique experience. Your new friends get to see part of your past and where you’ve come from while your old friends get a picture of what your life has been like since you last saw them. Hopefully everyone gets along and you have a good time. If the person you are visiting is truly a good friend, they’ll make an effort to get to know the people that are now a big part of your life.  You might also learn a few things about your new friends just by simply spending a whole weekend with them. You’ll come back to campus with an array of inside jokes, funny stories and hopefully a great lasting college memory.

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