Sure, your child could have gone to college in-state, but that would have been too easy! With the start of the school year approaching, it’s time to make plans.
Driving vs. Flying
Many parents drive their kids because you can stuff a lot in the old minivan, but if your child’s university is across the country, that may not be realistic; add up the cost of your time plus gas and hotel bills, and decide for yourself.
Avoid Overweight Fees
Most airlines charge an additional fee for bags weighing over 50 pounds, a fee that often jumps again for bags over 70 pounds. The overweight fee is usually much more expensive than the checked bag fee, and if the bag is too heavy, you pay both. Don’t forget to pack common sense too. If a flight with free bags costs $600 and the flight that charges bag fees is $200 – do the math.
How to Get Belongings from Point A to Point B
A couple of years ago, my advice was simple: one parent flies with the kid, and each person brings two fully loaded suitcases (with the parent allowed a thimbleful of space). But that was back when all airlines allowed two checked bags for free. The landscape has changed – and so has my advice.
Shipping vs. Ground Transportation
Contact your favorite shipper for the cheapest way to send boxes. The UPS website has a handy time & cost calculator on its homepage; plus they have luggage boxes you might want to try. Compare with other shippers too.
School Yourself on What NOT to Bring to College
If you fly, don’t bring items that take up a lot of space or weight. Weight equals money, and with out-of-state tuition, that’s the last thing you want to waste. Carry the laptop onboard, and shop for supplies at your destination.
Try to Fly an Airline with a Free Bag Allowance
Airlines can and do change fees at any time without notice; so always confirm before you fly. For the moment, Southwest Airlines still allows two checked bags for free.
What to Buy on Arrival in Your School’s City
Arrive at school in time for a shopping trip to a local store to stock up on necessities. Some suggestions for the dorm or apartment dweller:
•Pens/Notebooks (wait – do kids still use that stuff?)
•Microwave and/or Dorm fridge
Rick Seaney is co-founder of FareCompare, an airfare search site devoted to helping shoppers find the cheapest flights possible. FareCompare also offers easy-to-use, practical information to help travelers save on every step of their journey.