College Road Trip Survival Guide

Ask a college student what his or her definition of a road trip is and it will probably be slightly different from what his or her mom defines a road trip as. While a mom might define a road trip as a trip you take with your family, staying in bed and breakfasts while sight seeing, a college student will likely define it as a 72-hour, non-stop booze fest.

I don’t know when this definition of “road trip” emerged, but it has certainly seemed true given my two years as a college student. Maybe it’s an SEC school thing, but when our team travels to another city for an away game, student fans follow loyally wherever they may go… and make a “road trip” out of it.

Our logic of road trips as University of Florida students may not make much sense. After all, we travel to New Orleans when we play Louisiana State University, despite their school residing an hour and a half away in Baton Rouge. But it sure was fun flooding the streets of Bourbon last year when UF won, chanting, “I said it’s great to be a Florida Gator.”

With the road trips to the University of South Carolina happening this weekend, road trip newcomers should attend with preparation and caution… but excitement too. It may be overwhelming of where to start, what to pack and what to do, but have no fear. With my Road Trip Survival Guide, road trip newbies and pros alike will have the time of their life on this year’s South Carolina road trip and all other road trips to come.

Survival Guide Tip #1: Know how to prepare for the bus ride there

Bus rides are long. Bus rides are longer when there are 100 college students on it wanting to stop to pee and wanting to stop for McDonald’s. The bus ride on the way to Columbia will feel like the longest drive of your life… until the bus ride home. There are, however, a few preparations for the bus ride there that will make it that much more fun and substantially less miserable. 

  • Get on a bus with your friends. When signing up for road trips, make sure that you have a solid group of friends to sign up with that will actually go with you. Then, don’t forget to fill out the forms for roommate and bussing preferences. If you have your besties by your side on your bus, any mishaps that occur won’t seem nearly as tragic.

  • Bring a roll of toilet paper. While this may seem weird, this was the first piece of advice an older girl gave me when I went on my first road trip, and it was essential. The bus is guaranteed to run out of toilet paper so having a backup roll of your own will save your life. It’s also great for if (more like when) someone spills his or her drink on you.
  • BRING WATER. I promise you, no matter how hype for road trip you are, you will be neither willing nor able to drink alcohol (if you're 21) the whole bus ride there. You are going to wake up, ask where you are and what century it is and then realize your mouth is the Sahara Desert. And then you will be glad you brought water.
  • Buy a cheap pillow and blanket to bring. I did not learn this until after an event that almost ruined my first road trip occurred. There is a little something called “frat juice” that coats the floors of the buses that consists of a mixture of dirt, spilled alcohol and vomit. It is, in fact, as disgusting as it sounds and I was personally victimized by it. Your pillows and blankets will belong in the trash by the end of the trip, so do yourself a favor and buy cheap ones that don’t matter to you.
  • Sleep on the bus. The likelihood of getting 0 hours of sleep on road trip is higher than you might think. I didn’t sleep in my hotel bed at all this past year in New Orleans, other than for a 2-hour power nap. Sleeping on the bus will make the ride go by faster and fuel your body for the weekend.

HC UFL videographer Taylor Wilson vlogged a road trip she took to New Orleans. Watch her adventures here!

Survival Guide Tip #2: Plan out your time in the destination

  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t go too hard on your first night there because you won’t make it the rest of the trip. Space out the drinking with activities like sit-down lunches at cute restaurants, shopping downtown and, when all else fails, naps.
  • Use the Find My Friends app. (If you don’t already track your friends, they may not be your real friends.) But in all seriousness, if you don’t already share your location with your friends, road trip is the time to do it. You’re going to be in a city that you’ve (most likely) never been in before and getting lost is a strong possibility. Having your friends’ locations could potentially safe you from some really bad situations.
  • Take cash out, and then take out more. It’s unfortunate, but road trips kill bank accounts. Meals, cover, drinks and souvenirs add up to a big expense. Having cash is good insurance in case you lose or get your credit cards stolen. Also, ATM fees are real and annoying.

Survival Guide Tip #3: Know that the bus ride home will be miserable, and prepare to make it suck less

You survived road trip… well, most of it. The bus ride back may seem like the hardest part for some people, but there are some things you can bring and do to survive it.

  • Bring headphones. There will still be people trying to rage on the bus ride back (believe it or not) and my favorite strategy is to block them out with the sound of my music. I don’t want to listen to people scream, and I don’t want to talk to anyone, so headphones are a good remedy for that.
  • DRINK WATER (part 2) and take Advil. Water is essential for the bus ride back too because you will be extremely dehydrated from the weekend’s festivities. You will also likely have a raging headache, so be prepared with Advil on deck. You’ll also likely make a few more friends if you share.

College road trips are overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect; however, they can be some of your best college memories if you do them right. So drink water, track your friends, avoid the frat juice at all costs and prepare to have the time of your life.