Here’s how to tour colleges on a budget during your recruiting journey!

Before making any commitment to a school, most recruits will tour a college to check out the athletic facilities, the housing options, and to get a feel for the campus. Official visits, where the school pays transportation, lodging, and per diem, are limited to five per recruit in Division I (other divisions have no limit). However, you can take as many unofficial visits to college as you want. Just remember that, since you and your family are responsible for the expenses of an unofficial visit, taking as many as you want can get expensive fast. 

If you’re making unofficial visits to schools nearby, you can make it a day trip, stay with friends or relatives, and even pack your own meals. But take any visit or visits longer than that and the costs for food, lodging, and transportation can pile up fast. Fortunately, if you want to maximize your unofficial visits while you economize your budget, just follow these tips:

Travel In Groups

If friends, teammates, or siblings are also interested in a given school, bring them along to help spread out the costs for transportation or lodging. While the logistics of meshing several people’s schedules might be tough, the money you can save is worth the time invested.

Add A College Visit To A Family Vacation

It’s basically killing two birds with one stone but, if you’re interested in a college near your family’s vacation destination, add an unofficial visit to the itinerary. While it may not be as exciting as an amusement park for younger siblings, the extra stop can be a vacation value for your parents. 

Check Out Flight Deals

If an unofficial visit requires flying, look for the best deals on airfares. While airlines all tout their fare savings via their own websites, sites such as Google Flights or Hopper allow you to find the best deals on flights and get notifications if a certain flight is discounted further. In addition, check to see if you’re eligible to take advantage of a school’s fly-in program.

Look For Hotel/Motel Deals

Check all the hotels or motels in the area for the best deals. In some cases, you may even call a specific hotel and see if you can get a better rate than what’s quoted on their website. You can save a few bucks by booking a non-refundable room, but, as room rates often drop based on occupancy on a given night, you may see better prices somewhere else if you check back closer to your trip. You can also save money by booking at a hotel or motel that offers free breakfast. 

To save the hassle of looking at several websites check the Hotel Tonight app or book an Airbnb. Finally, check with the university you’re visiting to see if they have discounts for nearby hotels. 

Double Dip On Each Trip

If it makes geographic sense and two or more schools are within the same area, visit more than one school while on each trip. Some extra planning may be needed, but adding a visit or two per trip can help reduce your expenses and make your budget go farther. 

Visit During Off-Peak Periods

While it’s preferable to make an unofficial visit when there are plenty of students on campus, avoid big visitor weekends such as homecoming, Mom’s Day, Dad’s Day, or big games. Most hotels now utilize dynamic pricing and charge higher prices on higher demand weekends. Avoid those weekends and you’ll likely find better accommodation rates. 

Take A College Group Tour

Companies such as Campus Visit Experts and College Visits offer professionally organized group tours that visit several universities in a specific area. As they handle all the details, get group rates, and visit multiple colleges on each tour, a group tour could offer a good bang for your buck. 

Visit Virtually

Before committing to visit a school in person, look to see if you can take a virtual visit. While it shouldn’t replace an in-person visit, a virtual tour could show you enough to help you mark a school off your list. And the money that would save you and your parents is money you could spend visiting another school later on down the road. 

Making unofficial visits can be invaluable when whittling down your list of preferred schools. And, if you follow the tips above, you can score a few values, whittle down your costs, and save some money while you see the campus. 

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