Your family is growing up! There comes a point your vacation budget may start to become your college tuition budget. But that doesn't mean that your vacations and getaways have to come to a screeching halt. When your child approaches their junior or senior year in high school, you'll need to start contemplating the next stage. If they are considering attending a college or university, take this time to discover new destinations and make the most of your college tour travel.
Come along for our college tour and learn some tips and tricks along the way.
Take the first step. You'll want to explore College Board to narrow down your college search. They have detailed information dedicated to finding schools that meet your criteria, hints for taking standardized tests, as well as a portal for financial aid and other forms. Their college search tool is easy to use and will assist in finding a college that best matches your student's academic achievements and desires. The result is a list you can filter by location, size, and more. They also have a terrific section on what to look for during your college visit. Check out their Campus Visit Checklist before you head out the door.
My son already has a specific major in mind and we discovered Richmond, Virginia has a number of colleges and universities that match his criteria. It's within our three hour driving requirement and we also have family there so we are familiar with the drive. But we've typically only visited for family occasions in the past and I was very excited to explore what Richmond has to offer as a tourist.
Where to Stay?
Most colleges and universities have a section pertaining to visits on their website. This is a good start to find recommended hotels close to the school. Also, if you are visiting a number of schools and destinations, this is the time to use those rewards points you have accumulated. This is exactly what we did and decided on a stay at the Richmond Marriott Short Pump.
Located in Glen Allen, Virginia, it's convenient to numerous colleges and universities in the Richmond area and close to many major roads and highways. Plus, it was renovated only two years ago and still has that fresh new feel.
Since we were traveling as a family, I reserved two rooms ahead of time both with two queen beds. If we needed just one room, I may have selected a new Stay Well room. The Richmond Marriott Short Pump location is one of the few designated properties that offer these special rooms with air purification, aromatherapy, upgraded mattress, mood lighting and more. I would love to experience this in the future! But for our visit, the spacious traditional guest rooms were well-appointed and perfect for our family.
The breakfast selection is plentiful. You can lounge on a comfortable sofa or sit at a table to enjoy a served breakfast (think eggs benedict and corned beef hash) or an easy breakfast buffet with numerous choices. If you are staying the night prior to an early morning college tour, take advantage of the breakfast buffet for only $14 per person before you head out. It's already waiting with hot and cold items.
I love having access to a high-tech fitness facility right in the hotel. It's a great way to justify the great meals I'm enjoying. Here, they not only have a fantastic fitness center at the hotel but a refreshing indoor pool. This is a great way to make the most of your visit.
Virtual Tip: Treat the staff well! If this is the destination your child ends up choosing, you might just become regular guests. Build a relationship with the hotel and you'll feel like you are returning home every time.
Where to Eat?
The ideal way to experience the college or university is to visit the dining hall while you are on campus. Typically it's available to guests for a very reasonable fee. It's a great way to sample the food, see the layout, and feel the school's vibe.
However, if you are planning your visit over a weekend, the dining hall may not be open or have limited hours. I recommend finding a local restaurant not too far from the campus. This will give your potential student an idea of what's available to do, when they are not studying of course.
Richmond, Virginia is quickly becoming one of America's top food cities. Condé Nast Traveler named Richmond, VA “The Southern Food Destination You Need to Know About” in 2015 and it's been booming ever since.
Close to a few schools we were visiting, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Mosaic, which came highly recommended. With sandwiches, burgers, salads and entrees, their menu had something for everyone. Plus, we were thrilled to find our favorite Southern style sweet tea. It's addicting!
When visiting a new region, definitely try some of the local specialties. If you visit Richmond, Virginia, along with the sweet tea don't miss trying local peanuts. Virginia is the home to numerous peanut farms and they are deliciously fresh. They offer a warm spicy variety for a light snack at the Richmond Marriott Short Pump.
Another perk! If there is a restaurant chain that's not available in your area, this is your chance to try it. We've always wanted to get to Texas de Brazil and when I saw that it was close to our hotel, I made reservations right away for the evening.
Texas de Brazil is located in Short Pump Town Center, a fantastic outdoor shopping mall with many upscale stores and restaurants. It definitely made me feel comfortable that anything my potential college student needs is within easy reach.
The traditional Brazilian cocktail is the Caipirinha. It's made of Cachaça, sugar, and fresh limes and is truly refreshing after a long day of touring.
A classic Brazilian churrascaria, Texas de Brazil features an expansive salad bar with appetizers, salads, soups, charcuterie and more. Trust me, it's a meal in itself.
But save room for the all-you-can-eat grilled meat circulated by servers who hand carve you a serving of meat tableside. They rotate their offerings, but we sampled:
And there is more to save room for! The mouth-watering dessert selection tastes as good as it looks.
Virtual Tip: Find a local resident before you go and ask for recommendations near the school. Social media is the perfect way to discover friends or family that have connections in the college town you are visiting.
Even though we started the college search early, it took our son a while to narrow down his selections. Our Richmond, Virginia trip was planned within months from when applications are due. However, many families choose to wait until after their child is admitted before visiting the schools. That's okay, too.
Whenever you decide to visit, get excited about experiencing the college ambiance while still enjoying a chance to explore a new destination, sample local food, and discover what new cities have to offer.
My Virtual Vacations Blog
About the Author
Thanks for cruising by! Along with creating this website and blog, I work in an office full-time and as a mom to two energetic teenage boys. With our family's busy work and school schedule, we look forward to traveling during holidays. Although it seems that our family can never agree on anything, we do when it comes to vacations. We typically travel on cruises or stay at luxury hotels. We enjoy upscale dining, beautiful decor, excellent service, and spacious accommodations. However, with a family including two teenage boys, we still need family friendly and comfortable.
Virtually escape and start planning your next luxurious cruise vacation on land or sea with My Virtual Vacations. Contact me for any specific questions or recommendations. And don't forget to keep checking back for the latest blog posts and information. There are always more family vacations in our future!
About the Photos
Our beautiful photographs are creatively captured by my talented freelance husband/photographer located in Baltimore, MD. Click here to explore more of his work.
Join our group
Time flies! Summer is almost here.
We are currently planning our next cruise vacation and will be heading to Alaska on Celebrity Solstice! We are so excited to cruise to Alaska and explore Seattle, too. Plus, we are cruising with multi-generations of family to share the experience.
Florida is always in our summer and we will be featuring the suite life and activities in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.
Of course, we love exploring different areas in our own region and working on some fabulous new destinations. Look out for luxury travel ideas in Maryland wine country.
If you have suggestions for My Virtual Vacations to visit, reach out to us on our Submission Form. We'd love to hear from you!
Be in the know!
Sign up for our email list and you'll receive a sneak peek when we have an update or new blog post.