Being a college student can be expensive. From tuition to textbooks, rent to eating out with friends, and -- of course -- the dreaded accumulation of student loans, it’s hard to see yourself traveling over the next four to five years of your life. But you don't need to let these costs prevent you from traveling -- when I was student I managed to travel for next to nothing, exploring several European countries in depth, as well taking as a luxury trip to Hawaii.
I’ve put together seven great tips on how students can afford to see the world on a college budget.
Use sites like Skyscanner and Airfarewatchdog to track the best deals for international flights. If you’re flying domestic, we suggest Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. When booking flights, try to depart on a weekday like Tuesday or Thursday. Do your best to avoid the weekends, as these are the most popular times to fly. Try to book tickets off season. (Hint- maybe after finals may work) Avoid the bag check-in fee by packing light or by using airlines that offer to check-in your bag for free!
I highly recommend signing up for emails from Secret Flying, too, as they share incredible return flight deals from the United States. I'm talking about $300 return to most countries in Europe or Latin America. It's a great way to pick up a bargain during your time off from college.
Ditch the hotels and check out alternative sites that offer unique places to stay, like glamping.com and Canopy Under the Stars. Why? They’re more affordable, accessible, and offer a whole new experience for the price of a 2 star hotel with stained sheets and a subpar view. Stay somewhere a little bit further than the main city or attraction, too, as these places are usually cheaper and less in demand. Travel in groups rather than solo, so you can split costs between you and your friends.
Attractions and Activities
Pass on the guided tours and pave your own path by doing plenty of research on a place before you arrive. I recommend using sites like Viator, Rough Guides, BootsNAll and Smarter Travel, which are independently owned sites that offer a more personal and off the beaten path perspective. They won’t encourage you to spend money on tours that don’t show you the true city itself.
Take advantage of everything that’s free. Each country, city and village offer tons of things to do without costing a cent. Walking is the best activity anyone can do, and most cities do offer free walking tours for visitors, which is definitely worth doing on your first day in a place. Additionally, in many places around the world, there are days when all museums in the city are free, so that's definitely something to research before you arrive.
Public transportation is the way to get around if you're looking to save money. Hands down. Take the subway, train or bus when you're traveling, and avoid taking expensive taxis or Ubers.
Many places have sophisticated public transit systems like Manhattan, London, Paris and Berlin. If you take a cab, be sure to split the cab fare with someone else, and make sure you don’t get taken advantage of just because you’re a foreigner. Try renting bicycles if that's an option, as that'll help you to see more places without spending too much money.
Car rentals are most likely out of the question because of all the fees they tack on, because you’re a student.
Plan and organize your meals for every day you’re traveling in advance. This may sound lame, but it works. List down the top restaurants in the city, how much you'd need to spend there, and then figure out why you want to eat there and whether it would be worth it.
Eat a large breakfast, and if possible, sneak an extra bread roll into your bag to count for lunch. Hostels are great places for stocking up on food if they offer a free buffet breakfast, and if you eat enough, you'll be able to skip lunch (or save some food for it), and allocate your money towards your restaurants or cafes of choice.
Grocery shop at the neighborhood store and cook in the hostel kitchen to save money (pasta is a great way to eat on the cheap!) and pack snacks so you don’t end up spontaneously buying food when you’re hungry.
Only buy items that you know can’t be found back home, unless it's an absolute emergency. Scout out what the price should be online before you buy.
In hot tourist spots, chances are, they all carry the same thing, so check out a few stores before you make your final purchase. Don’t be afraid to haggle, as it’s never a bad thing. If all else fails, ask yourself if you REALLY want it, and the answer may just be no.
Carry enough cash so you don’t have to continuously withdraw from ATM machines -- those fees can add up. I always withdraw the maximum amount possible in order to keep my fees down.
Befriend your hosts and the locals around you. Not only will you be making new friends, they’ll give you insider tips for budget activities that you wouldn’t have known about in the first place.
Try studying abroad! These programs are paved for you to be able to get educated while experiencing a whole new country, and you'll gain a deeper insight to the culture than a one-week-long vacation there.
Purchase all your personal products at home rather than buying them at convenient stores, which are much more expensive. Opt for solid shampoo, conditioner, and bars of soap for toiletries, as they'll last several months and free up more space in your bag.
Lastly, be as prepared as possible for any eventuality so you don’t have last minute expenses.