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As COVID-19 continues to sweep the nation, colleges and universities are grappling with the effects it’s having on education. While some schools have decided to go virtual for the semester, many others are welcoming students back to campus shortly for in-person learning. 

For any non-local students, that means families will need to travel and help their kids move into the dorms safely, which is more challenging than usual due to the pandemic. To help ease concerns, we talked to an infectious disease expert to find out if parents traveling with students for college move-in day is safe, and the answer is largely, yes.

However, that yes came with some big caveats.

“I think it’s okay for parents to help their children move into dorms,” Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo. “But obviously the devil is in the details in terms of how the school has it set up in terms of opening day.”

He recommends taking extra precautions include driving your own car or renting a car instead of flying, considering your own health risks, especially if you’ll be traveling to or from a hotspot area, and packing plenty of masks along with some eyewear. 

Dr. Russo also recommends booking a vacation rental instead of a hotel, as it eliminates interactions with other guests by removing the need to enter shared, enclosed hotel common areas such as lobbies, hallways, and elevators.

However, keep in mind that there is no guarantee of safety when it comes to travel right now. We always recommend following advice from organizations like the CDC and WHO, and checking local and state government guidelines before traveling.  

Many popular college towns in the US are located in current hotspots. If you are traveling to or from one, you should strongly consider a quarantine period either before, after, or both. A vacation rental can make spending 14 days inside much simpler since you’ll likely have more space, a kitchen for cooking, and potentially even a private outdoor area for fresh air, depending on the rental. Your family should also be extra mindful of your actions both while staying in any hotspot areas and when traveling back home after.

With that and Dr. Russo’s advice in mind, we found highly-rated vacation rentals on sites like Airbnb, Vrbo and TurnKey across the US in popular college towns and areas, whether you plan to visit now or in the future. 

We based our selections on the following criteria:

  1. All vacation rentals are bookable on Airbnb, Vrbo, or TurnKey and include multiple bedrooms and plenty of space for families so parents and students each have privacy ahead of move-in day.
  2. All are available at the end of August and/or in early September, at the time of publishing.
  3. Every listing is highly-rated with a review score of 4.5 or higher.
  4. We found a range of price points from $59 to $400 per night to start.

We found vacation rentals in some of the most popular college towns, including:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Tempe, Arizona
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Tampa, Florida
  • San Diego, California
  • University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Gainesville, Florida
  • Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • College Station, Texas
  • East Lansing, Michigan

These are some of the best vacation rentals in popular college towns, sorted by location.

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