How to Plan Road Trips on a Budget: 

September 20, 2021

Perfect for Fall Break or Long Weekends!

The leaves are changing, and the weather is getting cooler. The good news for college students? Fall break is just around the corner.  

From October 9 to 12, Clemson students are free to explore the upstate — the perfect opportunity for a classic college road trip. However, road trips aren’t always as simple as they seem. Between travel, meals and fun, it can turn into a pricey excursion. The good news? There are plenty of ways to plan road trips on a budget. From afternoon escapes and day trips to a full-on weekend in another city, we’ve got your fall break road trips covered, complete with money-saving tips. 

Get Started with our Checklist for Road Trips on a Budget 

First things first — let’s talk budgeting. Whether you’re headed out for a few hours or a couple of days, use this handy-dandy checklist to ensure you’re ready to rock (and save!) 

✔️ Figure out your priorities

Where do you want to go, and what do you want to do when you get there? It’s helpful to start with an overall budget of what you can spend, then price out some of the activities for your trip. Then you can prioritize based on cost and plan on what works! 

If you’re not sure where to go, don’t worry – we’ve got suggestions for day trips and overnighters! Keep reading… 

✔️ Keep your car road-ready

You’ll have to pay for gas (it is a road trip, after all), but there are some tricks to keep your gas consumption lower. Keep your tires inflated, pack light and do your best to explore on foot once you arrive. 

✔️ Don’t forget the snacks!

Those Chick-Fil-A stops add up! Don’t waste your budget on road meals — save it for better dining experiences once you arrive at your destination. Pack some food from home to save money and keep nourished. You could even bring along a small cooler for a couple easy meals like breakfast (yogurt and fruit) or lunch (sandwiches/wraps). 

✔️ Find the free entertainment

Where possible, choose events that don’t cost money. Most cities have plenty of free fun happenings. Think: outdoor fairs or live music, discount/free days at museums, self-guided walking tours, etc. When in doubt, ask if they have a student discount! If you’re going to a city for a specific event that charges a cover fee, just remember to factor that cost into your overall budget. 

Escape for the Afternoon

Are you looking for a quick change of scenery but don’t want to do an overnight trip? Then, we’ve got you covered. These are great morning (or afternoon) road trips on a budget to satisfy your taste for adventure. 

  • Denver Downs: a Clemson staple, Denver Downs Farm is best enjoyed in the autumn. Check out the pumpkin patch, corn maze and a range of fall activities. The best part? It’s less than an hour away from campus. 
  • South Carolina Botanical Gardens: if you’re pressed for time and need to get off campus, look no further than the Botanical Gardens. They’re just a few minutes off-campus and a great way to spend a few hours to get away from it all.
  • Palmetto Distillery or the Victoria Valley Vineyard: wine or whiskey? That’s the only question you should ask if you’re looking for a fun afternoon off-campus for the 21+ crowd. Palmetto Distillery is located in downtown Anderson and is the first micro-distillery to produce Palmetto Moonshine in South Carolina. Victoria Valley Vineyard is located just 45 minutes away from Clemson’s campus and is a great place to enjoy a view (and a glass or two). 🍷 Don’t forget to assign DD duty to a member of your group.

Take a Day Trip

Sometimes you need to get out of Tiger Town for an entire day. When you have days off from class (for either fall break or a future long weekend), it’s the perfect time to take a day trip! These destinations certainly fulfill the ‘road trip on a budget’ criteria:

  • Sky Top Apple Orchard: still too hot to feel like fall? Drive off to Sky Top Apple Orchard. In just an hour and fifteen minutes, you’ll be picking apples in the North Carolina mountains and having the time of your life. Pro tip: don’t sleep on the doughnuts; they’re a must-have!
  • Highway 11 Scenic Route: start in Clemson and head toward the state line for this fantastic driving tour of South Carolina! You’ll see Gaffney’s famous Peachoid, America’s most-renowned roadside produce stand, Strawberry Hill USA and the mysteriously haunted gothic Poinsett Bridge. If you drive straight through, you can complete the tour in just 45 minutes, but we recommend making a day of it and stopping at each attraction. Picnic anyone? 
  • Table Rock State Park: hikers, dust off your boots — Table Rock State Park has some of the best hiking trails in the upstate, and it’s just 40 minutes away! Make a day out of it by packing a lunch to enjoy at a scenic overlook.  

Get Away for the Weekend

The best part about Clemson? It’s very close to some of the most beautiful cities in the South. So if you want to take a real mini-vaca, you’re in an ideal location to do it! Take a look at our recommendations below:

  • Greenville, South Carolina: the ‘Silicon Valley of the South‘ sits just a 45-minute drive from Clemson, and there’s enough to do to fill an entire weekend. So take a walk downtown to explore historic Greenville, and snap a photo of yourself at Falls Park before stopping at one of Greenville’s many delicious restaurants. 
  • Charleston, South Carolina: Charleston is one of the prettiest cities in the South and is undoubtedly worth a visit. Take a look at Travel + Leisure’s Charleston travel guide for tips to see this beautiful city on a budget. 

Here are a few more of our other favorite weekend trips for Clemson students

Pack Up and Head Out!

Planning road trips on a budget might seem impossible, but with a few tips (and plenty of research), you’ll be on the open road in no time. As a bonus, these trips work for fall break or future weekends off — most of these destinations offer year-round fun, so make sure to bookmark this guide. 

🍁 Happy fall break! 🍂