Why Cheap Travel is Cool Too

Lexi Elio

Traveling evokes images of faraway destinations with sparkling beaches, exotic jungles and quaint European towns. Once the daydream starts to dissipate, however, the disappointment of the massive price tag associated with these adventures begins to set in.

Lacy Lichtenhan climbing at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent
Lacy Lichtenhan climbing at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Lichtenhan made the drive down to New Mexico the night before. (Photo by Lexi Elio.)

There are countless expenses associated with travel, from airfare to lodging to food. During college years, students often struggle simply to pay tuition and accommodate their basic needs in the meantime, making it hard to get out and see the world.

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Fortunately, there is another option to satisfy the wanderlust characteristic of our generation — less expensive, local trips. Colorado and its neighbor states offer stunning locations close to home that satisfy a wide variety of interests.
If you’re willing to put in a little driving time, there are plenty of nearby places to visit.

Computer science freshman Donnie Phillips embarked on a week-long road trip weaving through various national parks (Rocky Mountain, Zion and Bryce Canyon) as well as more iconic destinations including Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. 

“We actually bonded a lot during the drive,” Phillips said. “One of my friends (an exchange student) picked up on English jokes, including one from ‘Zoolander,’ and they carried on throughout our whole trip.”

Spending a couple days in a new environment often provides the spontaneity many crave and allows them to return to everyday life reinvigorated.

One of the simplest ways to minimize the cost of these trips is by spending time in the great outdoors, free of charge. Colorado is known as one of the healthiest states because residents take advantage of beautiful weather and landscapes. Hiking is a free way to get fit and snap some breathtaking Instagram shots.

Top Hiking Destinations Close to Home:

Arthur’s Rock, Lory State Park in Bellvue, 0.5 hour away

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, 1.5 hours away

Devil’s Head Fire Lookout, Sedalia, 2 hours away

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, 2.5 hours away

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garden of the gods2
View from the top of the trail at Garden of the Gods. The park offers a simple loop with stunning views and the opportunity for extensive rock climbing for qualified individuals with equipment. (Photo by Lexi Elio.)

Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, 3.5 hours away

Top Hiking Destinations a Mini-Road Trip Away:

Great Sand Dunes, Mosca, CO, 5 hours away

Arches National Park, Moab, UT, 6 hours away

Blue Lakes Trail, Ridgway, CO, 6.5 hours away

Tent Rocks and Slot Canyon, Ponderosa, NM, 7 hours away

Zion National Park, Hurricane, UT, 10.5 hours away

Hiking in many national parks has the added bonus of free or affordable campsites. Camping offers a break from technology so prevalent in today’s everyday life and an opportunity to connect more deeply with traveling companions.

Neuroscience freshman Emily Legatski spent spring break in Moab, hiking the Delicate and Double Arch trails in Arches National Park as well as the Moab Rim Jeep trail.

“I think (hiking) is a great way to be active and experience the true beauty of where you are. Everyone can do it because there are easy and hard trails, and it’s a great way to gain appreciation for where you are.”

The outdoors aren’t for everyone, however. Local trips can be made extremely cost-effective by staying with family from other cities. Calling up an aunt or grandmother and asking to stay for a night or two eliminates the cost of a hotel room, not to mention faraway family will likely appreciate the visit.

Top Attractions Close to Home:

Fort Collins Escape Room, Fort Collins, 0.5 hour away

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder, 1 hour away

Aquarium, Denver, 1 hour away

Terror-dactyl, Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs, 2 hours away

Royal Gorge Bridge, 3 hours away

Top Attractions a Mini-Road Trip Away:

Piedra River and Rainbow Natural Hot Springs, Pagosa Springs, CO, 6 hours away

Hell’s Revenge ATV Tour, Moab, UT, 6.5 hours away

Via Ferrata Cliff Climbing, Telluride, CO, 7 hours away

Sandia Peak Tramway, Albuquerque, NM, 7.5 hours away

Carlsbad Caverns, Carlsbad, NM, 10.5 hours away

The Tent Rocks National Monument provides a stunning view as the sun slowly begins to set. Photo courtesy of Lacy Lichtenhan.
The Tent Rocks National Monument provides a stunning view as the sun slowly begins to set. (Photo courtesy of Lacy Lichtenhan.)

Many of these activities can be combined to create an itinerary unique for the group and what they are looking to get out of the trip.

Colorado has so many unique destinations to offer that often go unnoticed. While some spots can be categorized as tourist traps, many are quiet, peaceful and private. Exploring the state makes you a better host, too, when out-of-state friends come to visit. 

Another benefit of low-cost trips is the relatively small amount of planning they require. There are no boarding passes to print and no need to learn another language, meaning they aren’t associated with the typical anxiety of travel.

These trips also allow for much greater flexibility. Because the destination is relatively close, anyway, there’s plenty of time to stop at scenic overpasses and there’s plenty of time for bathroom breaks. 

“We were supposed to make our trip a week long, but something came up and we left way earlier. We planned the whole trip in two days,” said Liam Huber, a political science sophomore. “The road trip was probably the best part, just hanging out with my bros on the road.” 

Do yourself a favor this semester and plan a small getaway. Grab your friends, make an awesome playlist and embark on a short adventure that won’t break the bank.