Congratulations, your child is heading off to college. Let’s make packing up all their stuff
and getting it to the university as simple (and cheap) as possible.
By Rick Seaney / Contributor
Are you close enough to drive?
If your student is heading to a dorm at a nearby school, you can probably just pack up the car. If it’s an apartment setting where furniture and other big items may be needed, there are lots of competitively priced rental vans and trucks. (And even if you don’t normally buy insurance for a rental car, consider it for a bigger vehicle after reading the fine print, of course.) Some of the bigger rental truck firms even offer “helpers” to load and unload your stuff at an additional cost—inquire when you start the online booking process.
Or will you fly?
If the school is far away enough to fly, you want to avoid as many baggage fees as possible.
Avoid baggage fees:
Most airlines charge $25 each-way for a first checked-bag and $35 for a second. If you fly Southwest, you get two bags for free, and this might be the best deal, but before you ding your credit card, compare all other ticket prices, then add baggage fees as needed to see which carrier really has the best deal. Tip: The parent accompanying the student should pack the bare minimum, reserving the bulk of the suitcase for the kid’s stuff.
Avoid overweight fees:
Do not overload checked-bags; once they hit 50 lbs. there is usually an expensive overweight penalty, which gets even more expensive at 70 lbs.—as much as $200 on bigger airlines. Weigh your bags before you get to the airport and consider the following.
Ship excess items ahead:
Check out costs at UPS, FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service or elsewhere for the cheapest way to ship boxes. Tip: Be sure boxes arrive after those first, chaotic moving-in days, which means don’t fill them with anything needed immediately. Place all must-haves in suitcases and carry-on bags.
Buy at destination:
Look for back-to-school-savings coupons at your favorite big box discount store and get them on your phone or clip them now because once you arrive, you’re going shopping. Stock up on necessities as well as bulky items that take up too much room in luggage and cars.
A suggested checklist:
• Bed linens/pillow/towels/laundry bag
• Toiletries/laundry detergent
• Phone/electronics accessories (headphones, extra
• Umbrella/boots/seasonal clothes (if weather is
different from home)
• Water bottles/snacks
• Microwave and/or dorm fridge (totally optional)
• Desk lamp (if none is provided)
• Fan (a necessity for dorms without air conditioning)
• Pens, notebooks (sometime these Stone Age tools come in handy)
(Tips for)Booking the flight
This will help keep down airfare costs.
Always compare airfares:
No single airline always has the best deal on every route, not Spirit, not Southwest, none of them. If you don’t compare, you might still get a deal, but you might miss out on incredible savings.
Don’t buy too early/too late:
Start shopping for domestic fares about three months before departure but wrap it up a month before you leave. The most expensive fares are almost always within seven days of departure. Delay too long and you will pay the price.
Fly when summer fares dip:
If your child doesn’t have to be at school until September, that’s good news because this year, peak summer prices drop right around August 30.
Fly cheaper days:
If you must fly earlier in August, save by flying the cheapest days for domestic travel, usually Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. If possible, avoid flying Fridays and Sundays which are generally the priciest days to fly.
Compare non-stops with connecting flights:
Yes, non-stops are more convenient but on some routes that can be as much as 50% higher than a connecting flight; if you can endure a longer travel day, compare fares for both.
Happy packing and happy travels.
Editor’s Note: Rick Seaney is a travel expert, who loves helping
others find great deals on traveling domestically and abroad.
Find more information at his website: FareCompare.com.