Taking a break from the books to take off on an adventure doesn’t just have to be a college student’s dream. You can make that dream become a reality, even if you’re tight on cash. Most students away from home or attending a local school live on a low budget, so how is it possible to even think about traveling? Believe it or not, there are many options to consider to get out of town and far away from your studies. Pack these helpful tips with you as you plan your travels on the cheap (before graduation)!
Lend a Helping Hand
Join a volunteer program abroad! It’s a win-win for travelers venturing out on a budget. Helping the local community and getting to experience a new culture and place at the same time can surely make for an incredible experience. Choose a program that’s either an affordable volunteer program or one that requires no fees to participate. And although you must still pay for airfare and other expenses, it may work out to be more affordable to travel with a helping hand. Some students may not think of this option as a dream getaway, but it can be if you plan accordingly and join a good volunteer program. The best part about volunteer programs in college is that most programs offer college credits in place of taking a class, which could ultimately cost the same amount you’ll be spending to volunteer.
Avoid Trendy Destinations
Choose your destination wisely! Popular tourist destinations such as New York City, Paris, Italy, and any other hot spots will be more pricey, not only in airfare but in everything else such as food, shopping, transportation – you get the hint. Instead, be different. Search around for a cool new destination to explore that none of your friends at home already have planned — like Thailand! We bet it’ll be a splendid experience while staying within your budget.
Travel When No One Else Is
While it may be difficult to travel whenever you’d like when you’re in college, if possible, travel during the colder off-season months to avoid crowds and the high prices. Airfares will be lower as well as hotel rates, tours, and other tourist activities. While traveling on a tight budget it’s best to avoid going away during the summer months when everyone is out of school and traveling. It’ll be WAAAY more affordable and less hectic to go when the temps are cooler and while travel is slower during the winter and fall. And, if you’re unable to get away during the off season but you’re still flexible, consider booking alternate travel dates if the airfare is a lot cheaper.
Book It All Before You Go
It’s never a good time when you get to your destination to find out that WiFi isn’t available in most areas. To prevent a disaster from happening and to save money, book all your tours, tickets, and anything else you’ll need before you leave home. Check out the transportation system in the area you’re traveling to; you may be able to avoid pricey cabs that up their prices on tourists by taking a train or bus. Map out where you’ll be going and study the transit system to get a good sense of direction. Planning ahead will work out in your favor, as you’ll know how much you’ve already spent and how much you’ll have left over to enjoy while you’re there. It’s the best way to stay within your budget, save time by having a full itinerary, and is a great way to compare prices and options. Also, don’t forget to inquire about student discounts! While on your trip, ask about discounts everywhere you go to save a little extra, especially if you’re entitled to it!
Consider a Long Layover
If you’re traveling far and flying past a city you’d like to someday explore, squeeze it in! Consider booking a flight with a long layover in that destination. Connecting flights sometimes are less expensive depending on where you’re going. Although this may not always be possible if there are no connections in that specific terminal you wish to venture out of, compare airlines to see if any offer a stopover there. A long layover of around 15 hours will leave you with enough time to get out of the airport and quickly explore the city. And, if you’re not interested in traveling to another place, keep in mind that you’ll probably still save money by booking connecting flights.
Avoid Booking a Hotel (if possible)
Take advantage of the many options available other than a hotel (such as a hostel). Hostels aren’t always as bad as you may think, but sometimes they are. Do some solid research before booking to be certain that you’ll be safe and sound. An Airbnb is also a good idea if you’re traveling solo or with a friend. Choosing an Airbnb stay can sometimes be pricey depending on the area you’re staying in and the room/home you’d like to reserve. The good thing is you get to stay in a home with your own space, but we still recommend you do your research and read reviews to avoid any issues upon arrival.
TIP: If you’re on a strict budget, shop at the local market and cook your meals in the kitchen of the hostel or the Airbnb. It’ll save you a lot of money rather than eating out in restaurants for every meal!
Be Aware of the Tipping Etiquette
Not everywhere is like the US, especially when it comes to gratuity. Tipping isn’t always expected, and, in some countries, it’s considered an insult. Never assume that you should give the US standard of 15% of the total bill in other countries. To avoid making the wrong decision and losing money by tipping, or being rude and assuming it’s not necessary, do your research and be aware of the cultural norms before you leave for your trip.
Know of any other tips while traveling as a college student on a tight budget? Tell us in the comments below!