Fun on a budget: 5 trip ideas for this summer

by Sofia Pacheco

Summer break is once again around the corner, and while most of us are just trying to get through the remaining school year, it’s nice to have a trip to look forward to. But trips that are memorable and fulfilling can be tough to plan, especially with limited college budgets. Not to worry, though — here are a few affordable, local trips to consider for this and future breaks.

Train ride along the West Coast

The West Coast is known for its scenic ocean, forest and mountain views — what better way to enjoy them than sitting back and relaxing in a train? One of the most convenient options for this is Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route, which connects San Diego to San Luis Obispo over five hours and 45 minutes of riding. Per Amtrak’s website, tickets go for as low as $65 during the summer, allowing you to calmly enjoy the scenery and explore new towns —maybe even spend the night.

Similar options are the San Joaquins route passing near national parks or Pacific Surfliner’s pricier cousin, the Coast Starlight, passing along the entire West Coast.

Bonus: Amtrak offers discounts for students and groups of three or more.

Stay-cation at a fancy hotel

Sometimes, all we need to relax is a new environment, but it doesn’t have to be far from home. Consider spending a night or two in a nice hotel, such as Los Angeles’s InterContinental, which offers modern amenities, proximity to downtown and a 70-story view of the city for around $400 per night.

If you’d like to get out of the city, another great option is the picturesque Temecula Creek Inn, situated on 300 acres of farmland and close to adventures like hot air balloon rides. These rooms fluctuate from around $160 to $300 per night. For a coastal, upscale option, consider Casa Loma Beach Hotel in Laguna Beach, around $300-450 per night.

Small town day trip

Although California is known for its huge cities, it’s also home to hundreds of small towns. Many of these are just a few hours away, offering a total change of scenery, historic vibes and unique attractions. For example, Julian, nestled in the Cuyamaca Mountains, has a vibrant arts community, orchards and stargazing events, all ready to be explored. San Juan Capistrano, about an hour away, has a historic old town, fresh fruit picking and thematic restaurants and hotels. Or, Solana Beach makes a great coastal getaway with hiking trails and boutique shops.

Ferry ride and hotel stay at Catalina Island

Just 22 miles off the California coast, Catalina Island boasts wildlife trails, botanical gardens, ocean activities and quaint shops. If you choose to travel with one of their boat and hotel packages, you can conveniently plan a round-trip ferry ride plus a hotel stay. While prices vary depending on the package you choose and trip duration, traveling with friends and splitting the costs make this trip very affordable. For something shorter, Catalina can also make for a great day trip.

Visit a national park

The US has a total of 63 national parks, but if you’re looking to stay local, California is conveniently home to nine of them. Whether it’s a popular destination like Yosemite or somewhere smaller, each has unique landscapes and wildlife that will surely amaze you. Many also have free entry, and those that charge typically range from $15 to $30 per person. Factoring in transportation and accommodations, they’re worth the price! Check this map for a full breakdown of admission fees.

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As college students, it can be tough to balance school and trips, but you can still make the most of your summer on a budget. Mix and match to find a plan that works for you, coordinate with friends and don’t forget to plan ahead for the best deals! Happy travels!

Featured Illustration via Adobe Stock

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