Road Warrior Survival Guide

August is here and school supplies are flying off the shelves. This can only mean one thing: admissions recruitment travel season is right around the corner. Whether you are new to the field or have earned your “road warrior” status years ago, surviving travel season comes much easier with preparation. Here are my tips and tricks learned during 10+ years navigating the rolling hills (interstates, highways, brick, gravel and sometimes even dirt roads) of Iowa behind the wheel of a college-branded car:

1. Know Your Institution – Sort of obvious, right?! Take it a step further than just listing your majors and the stats found on your website. Be prepared with fun facts like:

  • What makes your college unique?
  • What iconic events take place on campus?
  • What cafeteria food do students rave about?

Pro tip: Talk to current students – they know what sells your college. Build their experiences into your elevator speech and personalize your conversations. You’ll have bonus talking points if you are an alum!

2. Remember Your Table Banner – Yes, I was “that guy” standing at a college fair behind the only table without a banner hanging on it. Embarrassing to say the least! Even 8 years later I haven’t lived that down.

Pro tip: Make a travel materials checklist to run through before you hit the road and pack extras in your car to avoid running out (pens, contact cards, business cards, a list of important brochures, and a TABLE BANNER).

3. Create an Efficient Travel Schedule – Plan ahead! Map out everywhere you plan to travel and attempt to be in the same area several days in a row.

Pro tip: Establish a “home base” at the same hotel for a few days so you don’t need to check in and out and resettle daily. This means you’ll have a few extra minutes to snooze instead of repacking your suitcase!

4Prep your Phone – Make your travel safer by not needing to search through your phone for your drive time entertainment.

Pro tip: Download podcasts, audiobooks, and music playlists before you leave for easy access. A few podcasts I suggest:

  • SmartLess
  • Solar
  • How I Built This
  • Armchair Expert
  • Anything true crime!

Also add high school addresses to your calendar when you book each visit so you don’t need to do the searching while on the road. A simple click and the navigation begins!

5. Experience Your Destinations – You will have some jam packed days of travel but you will also have some downtime between events or after a day of high school visits. Find a local restaurant you want to try out for dinner or a local coffee shop to hit in the morning as you head out on the open road.

Pro tip: Ask your local connections (see tip #9) about must-see attractions or events happening while you are in the area.

6. Make Friends – Many “road warriors” have similar travel territories as you. Connect with them during college fairs and exchange contact info. Meet up for dinner. Plan to stay in the same hotels when you are in the area together. Some alone time on the road can be refreshing but the long travel season can get lonely too. Your new friends will enhance tip #5!

Pro tip: Make room in your schedule to attend the Iowa ACAC Member Meet-Ups after fairs (Sorry, shameless plug!).

7. Stay Connected to Home – Embrace Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, phone calls and texts. Life on the road can be fast-paced and fun but can also cause some home sickness. Staying connected to family and friends will be important. On the flip-side, maybe you are enjoying a little time away from the chaos of home – your kids and/or spouse will appreciate you keeping in touch which will help them support you going back out on the road in the future.

Pro tip: Keep an extra charger in your travel bag to recharge your phone when needed!

8. Be Healthy – Travel season includes hours of sitting in a car and can easily bring with it a plethora of sugary drinks, greasy fast food, gas station pizza and other unhealthy road snacks. My mouth waters just thinking about it! But, this is all the more reason to make efforts to keep your mind and body healthy.

Pro tip: Buy your snacks ahead of time to save some money. My favorites: ALL chips, cookies, candy, beef jerky and pop.

Oh, The Healthier Options – Some of these may take a little more planning but will likely leave you feeling better at the end of your road trip. Dried or fresh fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, granola, and protein bars.

BONUS Pro tip: Build the hotel fitness center into your routine. Have downtime in between high school visits? Find a nearby walking trail.

9. Make High School Staff Connections – This is the most important tip! Plan time to meet and connect with the high school staff while you are visiting. Professional school counselors, principals, teachers, and support staff all have unique impacts on their students. Positive connections with them can lead to positive connections with students.

Pro tip: Talk to anyone and everyone! I started a conversation with a janitor while sitting at my table during a lunch visit which resulted in her daughter visiting and ultimately attending my institution. Connect! Connect! Connect!

10. Find What Works for YOU! – Share your travel tips with each other while on the road this fall.

Give me a honk and a wave as you see me out on the road. I’m excited to see my fellow “road warriors” soon! Safe travels, friends.

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