Best Cheap Summer Road Trips for College Students [Inexpensive, Fun Destinations]

For college students, vacation is always an opportunity to explore the world, make memories, and enjoy a period of respite from the hassles that come with studying and attending lectures.

While some students might not able to afford expensive trips to Paris or Rome, road trips are cheaper and better alternatives they can take advantage of. Road trips are not only affordable but also allow for more exploration and exposure.

Thankfully, there are some cheap summer road trips for college students in the USA. Grab your friends and pool resources together to explore the heart of America.  

Best Cheap Summer Road Trips for College Students

  1. Arizona’s Havasu Falls
  2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  3. The Sixth Street, Austin
  4. Daytona Beach, Florida
  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  6. Great River Road (Minnesota to Louisiana)
  7. Route 66
  8. Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia to North Carolina)
  9. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Illinois to Oregon)
  10. South Padre Island, Texas

1. Arizona’s Havasu Falls

There is nothing as mind-blowing as seeing a waterfall in the middle of a desert. But Havasu Falls do exist in the middle of the desert. The Falls is situated somewhere around the Grand Canyon.

You can only assess the Falls through a 10-mile hike. The entry fee is very cheap compared to other national parks in the country. Havasu Falls is one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students in the USA.

2. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Rather than spending a lot of money on a pricey snowboarding trip, you can go for a cheaper option, sandboarding. Great Sand Dunes National Park is situated in Southern Colorado. As a unique tourist destination, Great Sand Dunes National Park provides a wide array of exciting activities.

You can rent sleds, boards, and even skis, all tailor-made for the sand outside the park.

3. The Sixth Street, Austin

Sixth Street is a historic and iconic street located in Austin. From an ever pulsating nightlife and a legion of bars to the art galleries and exciting live music, Sixth Street is a fun-filled, inexpensive destination for road trippers.

Sixth Street is one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students. To have a rich Austin experience at a low cost, try staying at the affordable Firehouse Hostel, which is just a stone’s throw from Sixth Street.

4. Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach is an inexpensive road trip destination for college students. There is so much to enjoy and explore on this gorgeous beach, ranging from concerts and bars to clubs. Good drinks and foods are also available at affordable prices. You can avail yourself of the free party bus for affordable and easy transit.

5. Albuquerque, New Mexico

For as low as $10, you can experience Albuquerque’s annual Balloon Fiesta in full swing. Albuquerque is sure one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students. The Balloon Fiesta offers a large array of stunning sights, sumptuous delicacies, art exhibitions, talent displays, and shopping opportunities. It’s a perfect place for fun, relaxation and for meeting other visitors like you.

If you cannot visit Albuquerque in October when the famous Fiesta occurs, there are many other inexpensive fascinating spots you can explore. From Old Town to Sandia Peak, Albuquerque has something great to offer everyone.

6. Great River Road (Minnesota to Louisiana)

The Great River Road National Scenic Byway stretches through ten states along the Mississippi River, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, you will encounter many attractions ranging from stunning architecture, great landmarks, breath-taking mountains, rivers, and waterfalls.

Make sure you stop at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, visit several beautiful parks, museums, and overlooks, particularly the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, Wisconsin. Typically, travelers spend between 7 to 10 days on the Great River Road.

Read also:  Cheapest Places to Travel for Students

7. Route 66

Driving along the historic Route 66, beginning in Chicago, stretching across several states and cities, and finally ending in Los Angeles County covering a total distance of 2,444 miles (3, 940 km) has been a fun-filled, adventurous road trip for college students. It’s is one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students especially when you undertake it as a group-funded project.

While driving Route 66, you will travel through seven states and cities including Chicago, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois. The beauty of driving along Route 66 is that it allows you to see major monuments, landmarks, and visit several national parks.

So, get your camera, shades, and sunscreens ready and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way. It’s better to take this road trip as a group so you can go camping at some parks or opt for less expensive shared hotel rooms. 

8. Blue Ridge Parkway (Virginia to North Carolina)

The route from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina is so full of amazing waterfalls, stunning architecture, interesting cultural sites, scenic overlooks, mountain views, and many more. Embarking on a road trip via this route gives you a chance to see and explore fun, inexpensive destinations.

The route also happens to be America’s longest linear park, spanning 469 miles over 29 counties. The Blue Ridge Parkway has stopping points like the Linn Cove Viaduct, Linville Gorge, Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and North Carolina.

If you’re traveling as a group, the accommodation rates will go down considerably since hotel rooms can be shared.

Read also: Best Cheap Winter Break Trips for Broke College Students

9. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail (Illinois to Oregon)

Just like the Great River and Route 66 Road, driving along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail will take you a couple of days to cover the expansive distance. However, it augurs well for your road trip adventure.

With over 100 sites and 3,700 miles to cover, there’s an abundance of natural beauty, history, and break-taking architectures along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Along the way, you will get to see scenic rolling hills, Rocky Mountains, thrilling river festivals, open plains, and lots more. 

Other stopping points include Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks. These make the Lewis and Clark Trail one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students.

10. South Padre Island, Texas

Are you looking for an inexpensive road trip idea? South Padre Island in Texas is a place for you. An exciting pleasurable time awaits you on budget. This means you can have a great beach vacation without breaking the bank. Renting a condo is the way to go. The price for a condo can go down drastically if it’s split, making South Padre Island one of the best cheap summer road trips for college students.

Read also: Best Places to Travel in December on a Budget