Traveling around the world is priceless. Getting to explore different areas of the world, experience different cultures, gain new knowledge and insight is probably something you can’t put a price on. Unfortunately, there is a price when it comes to travel, and sometimes it’s not cheap.
Traveling on a college budget can almost seem near impossible when you have student loans, rent, groceries, textbooks, and trying to maintain a social life. If you’re a full-time student, chances are you also don’t have time to work full-time, which can make having a decent travel saving account difficult to achieve. During my four years of college, I have been able to do a bit of traveling including studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, visiting two other times, traveling to Bali, and a few spots around the U.S. With my travels, I’ve stumbled across some of the best websites to save money and ultimately be able to travel anywhere in the world on a college budget.
Step 1: Get an Income
Regardless of how many great deals you find, you need some type of income. If you’re a full-time student you need to find a job that you can easily manage while being a full-time college student. Balancing a part-time job and being a college student can be difficult, to see if the combination is for you, check out my blog post about how to balance working part-time in college without failing. If you have a dream to travel to an exotic location or something a little more luxurious, a minimum wage job probably isn’t going to make a dent in your travel funds. I’ve had a few jobs while in college including working retail, a frozen yogurt shop, and working as a waitress. Although waitressing is hard work and there can be long hours involved, I found that it not only worked around my class schedule easily, but I was able to make and save so much more money waitressing than any other job. If waitressing isn’t your thing, make sure to look for a job with a decent pay.
Step 2: Plan
Once you have a decent saving, now it’s time to set up a plan. Find the main destination that you’re interested in going to and start planning around that. You need to decide if it’s somewhere you’re going to drive, take a train, fly, or take a boat. Say you want to go to Italy. You might want to stop in Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice, Milan etc. You need to set almost a roadmap of where you want to go and for how long. This will give you the blueprint of your trip to look into travel and accommodations. I like to look at Pinterest and travel boards to see must-see stops and destinations for the area I plan on traveling. Pinterest is great for travel guides and if you haven’t used Pinterest to plan your trips, I highly recommend you do so!
Step 3: Book
I’ve come across some great sites when it comes to booking. First, you want to start out in an incognito window. To do this, you need to simply right-click on your internet browser and select ‘New Incognito Window.’ This will allow you search your travel accommodations or flights without the travel sites tracking your searches. If you’ve ever looked into a flight and check five minutes later to see that the price has gone up, it’s because the website is tracking your searches and they know you’re really interested in that flight, therefore they can raise the price on you hoping you’ll book ASAP.
After you’re in an incognito window, you are now ready to begin your search. I recommend checking out the sites listed below.
Statravel: I like to think of Statravel as my secret gem, although it’s popular in a lot of other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. I first used Statravel to book my first flight to Australia and now I check the site first before booking from anywhere else. Statravel has all the standard travel booking website functions but also includes many additional features like tour trips, rail passes, visa help, work and study packages, and tons of deals for students. If you are a student, you’ll need to pay the $25 fee to get a student ID card when booking your flight. However, I found that most prices are the same regardless if you’re a student or not and they’re always the cheapest than any other travel site, sometimes by hundreds of dollars! There are so many different discount codes on Statravel. Use the code Student for $10 off any student price ticket. Statravel also allows you to book a trip with a deposit that you just need to pay off before your flight. This feature is specially designed for people wanting to travel on a college budget.
Kayak: Kayak is an awesome travel agent website that allows you to book anything from flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, anything for your travel needs. What I like about Kayak that I found is different from a lot of other sites is a few features. I really love their advice section in the upper left corner. Here they tell you their predictions on the flight’s price in the upcoming weeks based on the previous tracking. They give you advice on whether or not you should buy the flight now, meaning prices are bound to go up, or if you should wait and hold out for a better price. Another feature that I love about Kayak is their explore option. Under the ‘more’ menu option you can select ‘explore.’ That allows you to put in specific dates, a specific departure airport, and your ideal price range. You then can see all the flights available around the world in your budget and time frame. If you don’t have a specific place in mind that you want to travel to, this option is great!
Step 4: Accommodations
If I’m really trying to save as much money as possible, I tend to only travel to places where I’ll have a free place to stay. This means that I use my network of friends and family or friends of family or other friends to hopefully crash at someone’s place. The awesome thing about college is that you’ll meet a lot of people and chances are from all over the country or all over the world. Take advantage of that situation and if someone offers for you to stay with them if you visit, take them up on it!
However, if you don’t have connections where you’re wanting to travel to, one of my favorite sites to look for affordable accommodations is Airbnb. I’ve mentioned Airbnb before on my blog but it allows you to get more “bang for your buck” with renting apartments, rooms, or houses for cheaper than most hotels. It not only gives a more homey feel to the experience, but it’s definitely practical for longer trips. With renting an apartment or house with a full kitchen, you can then save money by eating-in and not eating out as much. You can also click this link right here, and save $40 off a booking of $75 or more! How awesome is that!
Also looking to make some spare cash? Airbnb also lets you welcome travelers into your community and help them belong anywhere. List your guest room or vacation home; become a co-host for others in your neighborhood, or even host unique experiences where you live to introduce people to your community.
Signing up for Airbnb host is super easy. Click here to find out more here.
Step 5: Once You Arrive
Chances are now that everything’s booked, you probably got the biggest expenses out-of-the-way. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy your trip. As I mentioned before, looking at Pinterest for the top “must-see” spots of your destination is a great way to get advice on what to do and see and maybe what not to do and see. What might be worth spending money on and what might not. Seriously, I can’t emphasize using Pinterest enough for traveling.
Plan your trip around your interests. However, if you’re trying to save money, going on shopping trips probably won’t help your travel budget. A little bit of shopping never hurt anyone, but especially when I’m in a new area I like to see the sites and do more outdoorsy things. A lot of times these things are free or barely cost anything. When exploring, packing a lunch with you will save you a lot of money, especially if you’re in a touristy area. For example, when my boyfriend and I traveled to Acadia National Park, we packed a lunch. However, we knew that we wanted to eat at Jordan’s Pond House which was famous for their popovers. We simply went in there, got a cup of coffee and a popover and then ate our lunch by the pond which was fantastic. Saving money doesn’t mean missing out on experiences at all.
Other Helpful Tips
although most international flights allow you to have a checked back, most domestic flights make you pay extra for a carry-on and some even charge more for anything other than a personal item. Being a strategic packer, using packing cubes, and only taking the necessities, will save you a bit of money and will allow you to easily travel without lugging around huge suitcases.
Travel During Off-Season
Every place has an “off-season” where the least amount of tourists are in the area. This can be winter, summer, or rain season depending on where you’re looking to travel to. During the off-season, flights, accommodation, and other excursion or popular tourist destinations are cheaper and also less crowded. So if you’re not picky about the weather, traveling off-season is a more budget friendly option to traveling to popular tourist destinations.
Traveling on a college budget is definitely possible if you really want it. If you cut back on your daily Starbucks or have one less margarita when you’re out with friends, it can definitely add up and you can save up a travel budget easily. I’ve always lived by the motto “if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way if not, you’ll find an excuse.” I find this motto very prominent in many aspects of life, but with travel specifically, you can always find a way if it’s important to you!
I hope you found this post helpful regardless if you’re on a college budget or just looking to travel for less money. If you still find that traveling on your current wage is near impossible, another alternative is to study abroad, but that’s for a whole separate blog post that I’ll go into shortly. Let me know some of your travel hacks in the comments down below!