A guide on traveling as a UT student

by Mallory Culhane

At some point, everyone experiences a feeling of wanderlust: the overwhelming feeling to travel. Though, traveling as a college student is stressful. Balancing life in college is hard enough that many aren’t focused on devoting time to travel. Many assume that pushing off traveling to later in life is best; that way, they’re able to afford bigger and better vacations. However, a great trip doesn’t mean it has to be in a five-star hotel dining on caviar.

“Travel is an important part of anyone’s life,” said Sarah Kaupp, content manager for Florida Travel & Lifestyles. “It takes you out of your own little world and puts you somewhere entirely new and different; the change in perspective is good for the soul, as it is both enlivening and enlightening.”

I have combed through dozens of travel-booking websites, town tourism e-brochures, and hundreds of Airbnb searches. Below, I’ve compiled a guide on destinations from California to North Carolina that offer everything from skiing to laying on a Pacific coast beach and still stay within a University of Tampa student budget. 

Athens, Georgia
Athens is the college town of the University of Georgia (UGA). By car, Athens is around a seven-hour drive from Tampa. To fly into Athens, you can find roundtrip flights from Tampa International Airport (TPA) to Atlanta International Airport (ATL) for around $60 on a budget airline such as Frontier. Delta offers flights for about $150. From ATL, it’s best to take public transportation, as Athens is about an hour and a half from the airport. With Athens being a huge college town, there are several bus routes available. Greyhound has routes that start at around $13, which is much better than the substantial Uber cost it would be otherwise.

If you miss the thrill of football games, head to a UGA game at Sanford Stadium. Tickets generally start around $40 depending on the matchup according to SeatGeek. Although, if you’re not into football, there’s still lots to do for a college student here.

The live music scene of Athens is insane; some nationally-recognized groups such as R.E.M. and the B-52s were born here. The Georgia Theatre hosts local and nationally prominent artists almost every day. The theatre also has a rooftop where artists also perform, which is complete with a full bar and patio seating.

“In Georgia, Athens is a favorite of mine whether you’re a football fan or not,” said Caroline Eubanks, a blogger and editor of This Is My South. “There are dozens of amazing restaurants and shops as well as museums like the Georgia Museum of Art.”

The Georgia Museum of Art has free admission and displays thousands of works from around the world, but has a focus on American art. Hours vary each day, so check out the museum’s website for the most up to date information. 

There’s also plenty of local food and shops in downtown. YouTuber Danielle Marie Carolan raves about boutique stores like The Indigo Child and local restaurants such as Pauley’s in her vlogs. Carolan, a Tampa native and UGA student, posts videos that include the best Athens has to offer. Her perspective as a college student makes a great reference for cheaper locations and the best nightlife spots – such as the 40 Watt Club. 

Airbnbs in Athens range greatly, though a majority are very cheap. There’s options starting at $40 a night for an entire condo or cottage in early March located in the heart of town on Broad St. 

Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is located along the Blue Ridge Mountains and sits on the French Broad River and is a great destination for the fall or spring time. The city is small and secluded by surrounding mountains and forests. The city is very walkable, so needing a car isn’t necessary. If you do have a car, however, you can take a drive on the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. Rolling mountains engulfed in towering trees make a beautiful sight, especially in fall during the leaves’ peak color time. If you’re into hiking, there are dozens of trails throughout the parkway in varying difficulties. One of the most popular trails leads to the top of Mount Pisgah. This hike is about 2.4 miles roundtrip and is described as an intermediate level trail.  

If you’re over 21, Asheville is a great location for beer lovers. Nicknamed “Beer City USA,” Asheville has dozens of beer festivals throughout the year and fantastic local breweries. There are several festivals in October such as Brewgrass and CiderFest. In February, the Brew Horizons Beer Fest is held in downtown and the following month in March, the North Carolina Small Batch Festival occurs. Many festivals highlight local breweries such as Hi-Wire Brewing and Burial Beer Co. Depending on the size of the event, tickets and drink prices can vary. The best resource if planning to attend a festival or scope out which brewery to visit is Asheville’s website at http://www.exploreasheville.com. 

Asheville is home to delicious local food as well. Sasha Savinov from the Goats on the Road blog, recommends the Home Grown restaurant. It’s owned by locals and serves comfort and American food from locally sourced ingredients. Dishes are cheap, too. The most expensive entrée, a fried catfish plate with a choice of two sides, is only $11.75. Home Grown is open for brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner throughout the week. 

Art lovers: you should hit up the River Arts District. The area is filled with industrial buildings that are now coated in graffiti surrounded by several galleries. Here, dozens of local artists live to produce and display their artwork. On the second Saturday of each month, there are art workshops, live music, and wine tastings.

To get to Asheville, airfare from TPA to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) starts around $150 in early November with American Airlines. Hostels start around $40 a night and Airbnbs have an average cost that ranges from about $100 to $160 a night.  

Monterey, California
Much of California is expensive. Just hear me out on this one. TPA to Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is only around $350 roundtrip with United Airlines in early March; just in time for spring break.  Located on the central coast of California, Monterey is home to beautiful beaches, lively nature preserves, and dozens of hiking trails through the rocky terrain of the state.

Point Lobos, roughly eight miles south of the heart of Monterey, is a nature preserve with dozens of hiking trails. Point Lobos is located along the coastline, and the water is home to seals, migrating whales from December to May, and sea otters. The natural rock formations create coves that you can take a dip in the spring and summer months. Lobos is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m and entry is free.

Monterey is also home to multiple beaches. Del Monte Beach is one of the most secluded and a local favorite. The beach is often very quiet and serene. It sits between Window on the Bay Beach and Houghton M. Roberts Beach. 

Hostels in Monterey average at about $40 a night, according to Hostelworld. Airbnbs can be cheap, though during peak times, like the fourth of July, costs can get up to an average of $400. It’s better to stay in a hostel or book at Airbnb early. Still, there are several that are under $150 a night. Although, if you’re traveling with friends, splitting the cost of housing will offset a higher price.

“One of my main tips for saving money traveling is to earn travel points,” said Amy Gilbride, blogger of The Florida Travel Girl. “You can earn these from being loyal to an airline or hotel brand, but also by getting credit cards.” College students have an average of 5.2 credit cards, as reported in April this year by CNBC. Several credit card companies offer discounts to students, such as Bank of America – they even offer a travel rewards card for students. This way you can earn points staying at hotels, Airbnbs, and flying. You can also just sign up for a rewards account. The hotel chains Hilton and Marriott both have rewards programs and you only need a handful of nights to earn a free one.

Another way to save is to cook during your trip. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb, you’ll likely have access to a kitchen. With food being one of the greatest expenses while traveling, cutting costs here can be substantial. Monterey is a great location to cook because there’s several farmer’s markets in the area with fresh produce and other local-made food. 

Eldora, Colorado
If you’re eager to get away from the sunny 90-degree weather in Tampa, why not take a trip to the snow top mountains of Colorado? Eldora, located just west of Boulder, Colorado, is great in the winter for skiing. The town is described as one of the state’s only secret ski towns.

  To get to Eldora, you’ll fly into Denver International Airport (DIA). Flights can start around $160 on Spirit or around $230 with Delta or American Airlines. From here, Eldora is about an hour and a half drive west of Denver. Eldora is home to a large ski resort, so there are several buses and shuttles that can take you straight from the airport to the ski resort. If you’re staying at an Airbnb in the area, you can always take the shuttle to a resort then hail a cab or Uber from there to avoid a hefty Uber cost all the way from Denver.

The cost of skiing at Eldora can vary depending on what you want to do and for how long. There are full day passes and half-day passes available for the slopes. There are also season passes available and multi-day passes.

Airbnbs average around $160 a night in Eldora. There’s several cozy cabins and cottages that are in the heart of the secluded ski town. There are also some available in the forest, if you’re looking to unplug from the internet for a bit.

Mallory Culhane can be reached at mallory.culhane@theminaretonline.com

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