Best Things You Never Heard Of: Vacationing on a college budget

Vacationing on a budget may seem difficult at first for those of us on a college budget, but relaxing for a week or two away from home in the summer months can be accomplished even when money seems scarce.

While traveling outside the country is out of the question, there are more domestic options without breaking the piggy bank.

Camping is a classic cheap vacation option.

Pennsylvania and its surrounding states have plenty of local campsites available for an outdoor vacation, including state and national parks.

The Appalachian Trail, perhaps the region’s most famous outdoor landmark, is perfect for a practically cost-free nature experience.

For students heading home to the West Coast or willing to travel, Yosemite National Park is an easily affordable vacation destination.

Famous for its breathtaking scenery and seemingly endless trail systems, Yosemite can be experienced for only $20 – the price of reserving a campsite – not factoring travel.

Hotel expenses can be avoided by packing a tent and spending a few days and nights outdoors.

The beach, another staple of summer relaxation, can be a cheap way to chill out in the heat. Instead of going for a full week, which can be expensive, extended weekends are much more cost-effective.

A few necessary steps to take as listed by the Travel Channel website include discount lodging and purchasing travel packages that include both plane and rental car if necessary.

One of the beaches specifically mentioned as part of a cheap plan to beat the heat is the Florida Panhandle, recently recovered from the damage of BP’s 2010 oil spill.

Another is South County, Rhode Island, mentioned as an antidote to hours of waiting in traffic to visit the more well-known destination of Cape Cod, offering quaint scenery and the New England atmosphere that is the goal of many summer travelers.

Even risking the “Jersey Shore” stigma, beaches like Wildwood, N.J., can allow for some time on the sand under the sun without drowning – in debt.

For those seeking a few days in one of America’s great cities, the options are far more extensive and far less expensive than New York or Los Angeles.

While the city may be home to some Indiana University of Pennsylvania students, Pittsburgh is a quality vacation spot.

PNC Park is one of the most respected and beautiful ballparks in the major leagues; the city offers plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping and artistic events, and yet the city is small enough to remain affordable even for college students. ranks another nearby city, Washington, D.C., among the top two cheap-vacation spots in America. D.C.’s historical value needs no explanation, and the free attractions available in D.C., including the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo, are worth the short travel.

Consider hopping a train straight from Pittsburgh to the nation’s capital.

And when all else fails, sometimes a staycation is in order. Invite friends over for a bonfire or see some of the local sites you miss in your day-to-day travels. While vacations are a luxury, they have no need to be bank-breaking.

A little digging must be done, some extra effort put in, but getaways are by no means impossible on a college student’s budget. Grind through this last week, IUP, and get ready for summer without emptying your pockets.