From quick jaunts to spring break getaways to summer-long escapades, these college trips are budget-friendly and unforgettable
Martim Guerra Silva
Written byMandy FerreiraSeptember 17, 2018
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Yusun Chung / EyeEm / Getty Images
1 of10 Yusun Chung / EyeEm / Getty Images
Backpack in Yosemite National Park, CA
Have an adventure of a lifetime in one of the West’s best national parks. While campgrounds can fill up in seconds and the valley floor can be stacked with cars and eager oglers, backpacking can make you feel like you have the park to yourself. There are countless routes to take and miles of wilderness to explore, but beginners will enjoy the mostly flat Pohono Trail, while the route along the John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows is more difficult—and jaw-dropping.
Martim Guerra Silva
2 of10 Martim Guerra Silva
Road-Trip to Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, CA
Come mid-April, classes clear out as everyone makes their way into SoCal’s beautiful desert for the now-iconic festival in Indio. Join the fun and turn the journey into a must-do experience rather than a chore. Craft a killer playlist from headlining acts down to the never-heard-of-them openers, stock up on beloved road snacks, and load up the car with your best mates. On the way, be sure to stop at In-N-Out Burger for a double double and fries, Hadley Fruit Orchards for a refreshing date shake, and Palm Springs to stretch your legs and pick up any last-minute supplies. Can’t make it during the semester? Road-trip to San Francisco in August for Outside Lands to cap off summer instead.
Thomas J. Story
3 of10 Thomas J. Story
Eat & Drink Your Way Through Boise, ID
This hip city is giving its Northwest neighbors something to talk about. Home to Scandi-inspired coffee shops, relaxed microbreweries, craft cocktails that don’t cost an hour’s pay, and local eats worth writing home about, Boise is a hipster hideout you actually want to visit. Even better, this college town is affordable. Take a ‘gram at Freak Alley in Boise’s North End, get your sugar rush at Waffle Me Up or Guru Donuts, and stop by Boise Fry Co. before doing a beer crawl for a taste of the city’s thriving craft brew scene.
Thomas J. Story
4 of10 Thomas J. Story
Play on the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, CA
This easygoing seaside town is ideal for a quick day trip from the Bay Area or an affordable spring break getaway. Ride the Giant Dipper, the iconic 1924 wooden roller coaster, to experience the best of the old-school Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The sand below it is perfect for lazing about or tossing around a frisbee—pick up a wood-fired pizza at Engfer Pizza Works or supplies for a picnic at New Leaf Community Market before staking your spot. The water is a chilly 50-60ºF, but you can rent a surfboard and a wetsuit or opt to stay dry with a kayak or paddle board instead.
Thomas J. Story
5 of10 Thomas J. Story
Stand in Awe at the Grand Canyon, AZ
Life’s worries seem less important at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Ride or walk along the canyon rim for sweeping views that seem to constantly change as the sun moves across the sky. Free shuttle buses take you around the park and offer access to less trafficked trailheads. Feeling daring? Whitewater raft on the Colorado River on a half- to 21-day excursion. Stay at one of the campgrounds in or around the park to stretch your travel budget further—and beat the crowds to the best attractions.
Mengzhonghua Photography / Getty Images
6 of10 Mengzhonghua Photography / Getty Images
Hit the Slopes in Breckenridge, CO
Breck is home to some of the best runs in Colorado. Despite its reputation as a ritzier ski resort, two cozy hostels in the area keep the powder accessible, even on a college student budget. Snuggle up in front of the fire at the Bivvi Hostel (from $79/night) before stretching out for the night in the comfortable dorm room. In the morning, dig into the included hot breakfast before heading out onto the mountain via the free Breckenridge bus that goes right by your digs. At The Fireside Inn (from $60/night), grab a bed in the bunk-free dorm room that overlooks the ski area before warming up in the enclosed hot tub.
Chase Jarvis / Getty Images
7 of10 Chase Jarvis / Getty Images
Get Outside in Bend, OR
Only two and a half hours outside of football-obsessed Eugene, Bend is a quiet getaway surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest and some of the top peaks in the state including Mt. Bachelor and South Sister. This active town is a hiker's, biker's, and skier's paradise, where people know how to play hard in the outdoors before relaxing with a pint at one of the craft breweries that surrounded the Deschutes River—10 Barrel Brewing, Sunriver Brewing Co., and Deschutes Brewery, to name a few.
For the love of photography / Getty Images
8 of10 For the love of photography / Getty Images
Unwind on the Beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Azure waters, fine-sand beaches, affordable accomodations—what more could you want from a spring break getaway? The picturesque beach town of Cabo San Lucas has lively nightlife (try El Squid Roe, Mango Deck, The Nowhere Bar, and The Giggling Marlin for drinks and dancing) and plenty of reasons to go out when the sun is still high. Swim to Los Arcos (pictured) at Land’s End, surf the breaks, or let Cabo Outfitters show you hidden beauty and the best snorkeling spots.
Kyle Sparks / Getty Images
9 of10 Kyle Sparks / Getty Images
Climb in Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Joshua Tree is a bouldering and climbing nirvana tucked away in the desert. More than 8,000 routes and 2,000 boulder problems draw climbers from all over the globe. Grab a climbing guide from a visitor center or local outdoor shop to make it easy to map out the best excursions. Want to climb but don’t have any gear or experience? You can join a guided climb or class in the park. When you’re done for the day you can pitch your tent in the park, but Airbnb has some of the best options for nearby inexpensive yet comfortable digs.
10 of10 David Fenton
Retreat to the Mountains in Tahoe, CA & NV
Tahoe will have you shaking off the stress of midterms or finals with your first breath of mountain air. Go in the winter to ski or snowboard on slopes that overlook the deep blue lake (or camp out by the blazing fire pits in the village with a cup of hot chocolate and a book while you wait for everyone else). In summer, ample trails and adrenaline-filled adventures await. Raft the Truckee River, SUP in Emerald Bay, lounge with a view at Sand Harbor, and hike in the Tahoe National Forest.