Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Alternative Travel Options for College Students

Going to college far from home is an easy way to rack up high travel costs. Traveling back and forth for vacations, family events, and any unexpected situation can get very expensive. If you’re looking ahead to college and wondering how you’re going to cover growing travel costs, remember that there are always alternatives to flying.

If you are like me and the thought of an makes you break out in a cold sweat, the prospect of flying back and forth can be rather daunting. Even if you don’t suffer from a fear of flying, rising prices, baggage fees, long lines, and travel delays can all make traveling a stressful and unpleasant experience. Below are several travel alternatives to consider.


After several anxiety-inducing flying experiences, I had had enough of traveling back and forth between Albany, NY, where I went to school, and Minneapolis, MN, where I was originally from. After looking into my options, I decided to try my luck with the train. I ended up making the trip back and forth twice by train when I was living in New York, once for spring break and then once again for the summer.

Like anything, there are definite trade-offs to choosing this travel alternative, namely the length of travel. Taking a twenty-hour train ride might seem insane to some, but you also have to consider the benefits. For one, ticket prices are often much cheaper. The cost saves often increases with the distance traveled. Amtrak is also much better about refunding or switching your ticket with no penalties. Other benefits of taking the train include no baggage fees, shorter lines, less stringent security, and a relaxed atmosphere. During the train trip itself you are allowed to walk freely through the train, grab dinner in the dining car, or watch the scenery from the lounge car. The train is a great option if you are a nervous flyer or at the beginning of long breaks, when lengthened travel times are not a deterrent. Amtrak also offers student advantage discount cards that save users 15% on rail fare.


Moving from New York to Chicago brought me closer to home, but I was still faced with a long commute home for holidays and family events. Because I was still wary of flying and ticket prices were often prohibitively high, I decided to check into other travel alternatives. A friend let me know about the Megabus, which offers low-cost bus fare between major Midwestern and East Coast cities. The bus is even less of a hassle than the train, tickets can often be purchased the day before your travel date, though the sooner you buy your tickets, the cheaper they are. The bus is definitely one of the cheapest options available; I have been able to travel back and forth from Chicago and Minneapolis for as little as thirty dollars. The bus does have its drawbacks however; passengers are only allowed to bring one bag each, and this rule is strictly enforced. For this reason, the bus is often the best option when traveling for the weekend or short breaks. Megabus does not offer service to any major Western cities, but the Greyhound is also a viable option.


Ride-shares are a great way to save money on travel costs. Many universities and colleges have rideshare programs that connect you with other students traveling to the same destination. Rideshares are a great way to save money on gas. This is also a much more flexible way to travel, as you can personally coordinate with the person or persons you are traveling with. Rideshares are a great way to meet people at your school, but remember to take the proper safety precautions. Some colleges require rideshare participants to register with the administration. If not, make sure to meet the person you are traveling with beforehand and use your best judgment. If you are unsure if your school offers rideshare programs, check with the office of student involvement.

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Brianna Low

Brianna Low

Brianna Low is a rising senior at DePaul University pursuing a double major in English and Spanish. Brianna enjoys reading, writing, and traveling. She currently works for DePaul's Art Department as a receptionist and hopes to one day work in a library. Brianna is happiest when surrounded by books.
Brianna Low

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