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Turn a College Tour into a Family Vacation

by Susan Finch

Jan 8, 2018

Pattanaphong Khuankaew | Dreamstime.com

Age Specific / Teens

Despite having a panic attack every time you had to travel with your toddler, you probably long for those simpler days when your teens are getting ready for college. Suddenly your vacation woes aren’t about screaming on airplanes and ear trouble, but how many college campus visits you can squeeze into a single summer.


Although your teen can explore some nearby colleges on their own, you can turn an upcoming visit to a less familiar school into a family vacation. Your teen might temporarily be mortified at the thought of everyone tagging along and snapping selfies to commemorate the experience, but you can give them some autonomy to attend the official college tour while exploring the campus and surrounding area as a family.


Once your teen warms up to the idea, here’s how to turn your next college tour into a memorable family vacation.


Hop on a Train

If your teen’s college of choice isn’t too far away or too close, hop on a train and enjoy a buy one, get one 50 percent off with a campus visit. Families must first register at Amtrak’s Campus Visit website before booking the fare, but it’s a unique way to see the country while hitting your next campus tour. Use the time for a little family togetherness. Or while your teen is glued to their devices, take the time to chart out your college-friendly itinerary and enjoy the scenery on the way.


Hit the Hot Spots

Give your teen an introduction to their potential college by hitting up some of the local hot spots. From the best sandwich shops to places to shop, go on a tour of the campus as if your teen was one of the students. It’s a fun and insightful way for everyone in your family to imagine a day in the life of a college student. The experience will also give your college-bound teen a chance to shed those first day jitters by getting to know the campus in advance.


Go on a Hike

There’s more for college-bound kids to see than just the campus, food and entertainment. When your teen is tired of college life, roommates,and exams over the next few years, think about where they can go and decompress. Find a nearby state park or trails and go on a family hike to see the softer side of campus life. Then when your teen calls to complain about being stressed-out by college, you can tell them to go take a hike and get in some much needed relaxation and TLC.

hiking family

Photo: Everst | Dreamstime.com


People Watch

People watching is generally pretty fascinating on any vacation, but is especially captivating when you’re watching college students in their native habitat. Grab some coffee and sit in the quad or a popular campus spot and watch the students come and go, chat with each other and greet friends. It will likely motivate your teen to see themselves being part of the group and making fast friends.


Take in a Sporting Event

Campuses are ripe for top-talent sporting events. Some colleges are devoted to football and basketball more than others, but even small colleges usually have a solid team from tennis to swimming. Take in a sporting event and spend some time rooting on your new favorite players. But if you come up empty, ask around and find out where the students play intramural sports and pick-up games and stop by to admire their footwork on the field or the court.


By the time your college tour is over, your whole family will have an intimate understanding and appreciation for where your teen is headed off to college. And when your child is living away from home for perhaps the first time, you’ll be able to visualize exactly what they’re doing and seeing. Hopefully they’ll squeeze in a little studying time, too.


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