1> Which other colleges? If you are visiting any inside the city, I would recommend staying in town.
2> Do you expect to have time for any other activities, or just the visits? If you will just be hitting the schools, I would probably stay closer to them, just to avoid the hassle.
Thanks- the other school was Bryn Mawr. There do not seem to be many reasonably priced places in the vicinity, that's why I was looking at Norristown and around there. Would traffic be an issue? Any suggesions would be welcome.
For Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swathmore you do not want to stay in Norristown or Plymouth Meeting. That would be considerably far compared to other more centrally located places. If you have time and want to see other things in the city, then staying in center city is fine. However, you could actually stay at the airport and be within a close enough distance to haverford, bryn mawr, and swathmore.
The airport was going to be one of my suggestions if not heading into the city and price is a major factor (sometimes they have deals).
There are also some fairly reasonable options in Conshohocken, which is fairly close.
I wouldn't suggest Conshy just because this person wants to hit up Swarthmore college as well. That's my reasoning for suggesting the Airport. It's close enough to all major roads to take you to Swarthmore just as quickly as Bryn Mawr and Haverford.
I also would NOT stay anywhere in between Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr/Haverford...mainly because there aren't that many hotels and those there are, while budget friendly are kind of crappy to put it nicely.
I should know...I live in between Swarthmore and the Bryn Mawr/Haverford are.
Have you visited this site? http://onebigcampus.com/ If I were a first time visitor to the area I would stay at least one night in the city to explore that and the rest of time close to one of the colleges. I'm assuming you are doing this for at least two nights. Seeing Philadelphia is, IMHO, part and parcel of attending any of those colleges.
I've found too, that if I visit too many colleges in one day, we all get cranky and don't really take in what we're seeing. Having a bit of downtime is a good thing if you can make it happen.
The Radnor Hotel in St. Davids would be the most conveniently located for the schools that you are visiting. It is located on Route 30 (drive east on Rt. 30 for Haverford and Bryn Mawr) and convenient to 475 (drive south to Swarthmore).
sorry that should be 476 aka the blue route
If you choose to stay in Center City you can easily get to the three colleges by Septa's regional rail lines.
I agree with toobusy and Lynn. I think you would enjoy your stay and get a better feel for the area and campuses by starying in Philadlephia and taking the regional rail trains to the schools. Besides, being realistic, that is what your student will be doing (in reverse) for fun. Okay, so being at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, or Haverford doesn't allow much time for fun, but you still will appreciate the visit more. Might as well check out Penn while you are here. Right next to downtown. You can also get to Princeton by train(s) from downtown.