As a student travel doesn’t always seem possible and extremely expensive. However, there are quite a few ways to still squeeze in trips and to travel as a college student on a shoe string. It’s about smart budgeting, travel hacks and looking for options catered to student travel in particular.
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Travel as a student is totally possible
Many young people dream of travelling. It seems like the perfect way to spend your 20s, discovering yourself, see new exciting things and getting out.
However, they often feel discouraged by the cost of travel expenses. It’s already enough to cover your tuition fees, rent and daily cost of living. Travel seems too frivolous or luxurious. But it can be actually one of the most rewarding and educational investments you can make in yourself.
Luckily, travel isn’t just lavish resort stays. And the belief that travel is always expensive doesn’t have much foundation underneath it. Indeed, travelling can be as cheap or pricey as you make it.
Just like you budget anything else, you can budget and put money aside for trips.
It is all about how you approach the whole experience. The choice of places, lifestyle, and anticipations from the trip will be the primary factors for your travel budget. Thus, you can really travel on a shoestring if you wish.
You just need to approach the travel plans carefully and come prepared. Let’s see the main strategies for enjoying your travels on a budget. Many of these fall under the travelling as a backpacker umbrella because this travel style too is all about cutting costs while maximising travel and experiences.
Save every month
Although you can easily travel with as little money as possible, you still need some money to start and to cover your bases. Some countries won’t let you in if you’re under a certain threshold of money in your account (and yes, you need to show them some proof).
So, if you are serious about your travel intentions, start saving now. Set up a travel piggy bank. Some virtual banks offer compartmentalising of accounts, so certain amounts go into sub accounts every month and you are not tempted to spend.
Also there are overnight deposit accounts, into which you can lock in money for a certain amount of months to get higher interest rates. You cannot touch them before the release date, so you’re not tempted to tap into them until your holiday is due.
Having both your main travel expenses covered as well as a little “emergency” budget on the side will give you piece of mind and more clarity over what you’re working with.
Break it down
Knowing what goes in and out of your bank helps keeping your finances neat and predictable. It’s basic finance hygiene to be aware of average costs, have good overviews over fixed costs and regular spendings.
The same can apply to travel. The more you are on top of what your typical daily spendings are on food, experiences and transport, the better you can plan according to your style.
Looking up typical spending fees and average prices can help you gauge how different your budget might be in your destination. Check out comparison sites like Numbeo to get a side-by-side listing.
Also, you can ask around on social media, such as in destination-relevant travel forums on facebook or on tiktok with the relevant hashtags. Get first hand insights.
Research all the prices for different attractions and day passes in your destinations of choice so you can budget those in. Oftentimes, there are even days with free entry for museums. So you can save money if you plan in advance!
If all of this sounds to ooverwhelming, know that you can still put aside a certain amount of percentage of leftover money each month. This could be cashback money. Or you could start to pay in cash and put the change into your travel piggy bank.
Consider this saving a budgeting practice. You need to work for your dreams. Learning to manage money wisely can be your first lesson.
Do your research
There’s two essential things to keep in mind as a student looking to travel more while on a budget:
- Be flexible
- Be opportunistic
If you are not exactly tied down to high season travelling times, if you can fly out during the week and if you can plan your trip around deals, then you can save a pretty penny.
Many websites offer low season deals. Sign up to all the newsletters (which often also come with a percentage off). Skyscanner, for instance, has the amazing feature in which you can have all the prices in a month displayed so you can pick the cheapest ones.
Or you can take advantage of the world map with price suggestions to anywhere from your nearest airport. Many airlines offer this.
Then, pick a place or region you want to go to and learn all about it. First, all countries have their peak tourist seasons. Such periods aren’t perfect for budget travellers. Prices are competitive, things easily get booked out and it’s crowded.
However, the more popular they are during high seasons, the less it will cost you outside that time. It is especially true for places that live from tourism, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Peru, etc. Yet, countries like Italy, Mexico, Greece, and more remain popular throughout the whole year. So, choose your time wisely.
Next, of course, each country comes at a different cost. A single budget can last you a few days in Paris or two weeks in Bali. Here, you better choose what you value more, getting the travel experience, seeing a new country, or visiting a specific location.
In addition, try to avoid big holidays or local celebrations. Although visiting new places during such times is often fun, it also costs double. So research the national calendar of your destination to avoid big holidays.
Book in advance
Any budget traveller knows that the earlier you book, the better prices you’ll get. There is almost a science to when to book the cheapest flights. Depending on how far you want to travel, this could be between 2 weeks to 8 months in advance for the optimal pricing.
Again, set up price alerts for flights and subscribe to newsletters for deal announcements. Other hacks like clearing your cache and searching in private mode can really help as well. There are many booking hacks to save money to try out. Travel bloggers use them all the time to cut costs effectively.
Also, a smart move will be subscribing to various booking sites, travel agencies, and airlines. Set destinations you want to travel to the most and receive special offers and discounts before everyone else. Dealing with lots of unwanted mail may be chaotic, but it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
As a rule of thumb: Prices will only get higher closer to your travel date. This rule includes everything from flight tickets to hotels and tours. So make up your mind about the destination at least half a year before traveling and start booking.
Though, stay flexible in your dates for better price opportunities.
Travel with friends
Being a solo traveller can do a lot for your character and personal growth. Yet, it will also hit harder on your wallet. Sadly, the travel industry often slaps on extra fees for travelling by yourself, including accommodation, tours and cruises.
Travelling in a pair or group, on the other hand, can save you significant sums on almost everything.
Sharing Airbnb with friends, going out for dinner, and booking tours and excursions together will often come at a discount. Or you can just split the price.
So, share your travel enthusiasm with your friends or family and see where it leads you. Though, don’t despair if you can’t find anyone. You can always make new friends along the way. Other travellers also know about the financial advantages of group travel. Plus, it is a good way of starting life-long friendships with people from all over the world.
What are your priorities for the trip? Is it seeing, eating, doing everything? Or do you want to invest in things that resonate the most with you?
If you are a foodie, you might want to spend more on good food and not focus so much on activities or visiting many costly museums or clubs.
On the other hand, if you want to focus on outdoorsy adventures and hiking, you could save lots of money by cooking for yourself and bringing snack boxes with you instead of buying at kiosks for overpriced items. Also, bottled water at tourist sites is much more expensive than at a grocery store.
And many countries even have totally drinkable tap water or even public water fountains. That’s free water! Bring your own bottle and you’re good to go.
As mentioned before, there may be free entry days for museums. And many cities around the world also offer free guided city tours, like Freetour. Or you could meet up with people from facebook forums, Couchsurfing and Airbnb meetups.
Use your student privileges
Students are very lucky to travel at times like this. As the world becomes more interconnected, more countries open their borders and hearts to young travellers. And backpackers have paved the way for low budget travel opportunities all around the world.
You just need to explore the opportunities available to you. Most college students before 26 years old can expect certain discounts for transportation, museum and gallery visitations, and else. This goes for your own country as well as the country of your destination.
In fact, some countries even go further and offer special (free) tours to international students along with other interesting offers.
Moreover, students also enjoy numerous exchange programs which allow them to stay in a foreign country, such as Erasmus for Europe, while studying and receiving scholarships. Such opportunities won’t follow you into adulthood, so you better consider going away to study for a semester or two.
There are also working holiday visas for many countries around the world, which can allow you to work in paid placements and jobs in a new country. You could be grocery clark at home or abroad. You could be a barista, farm worker, work in housekeeping, etc.
If you want to save money and get accommodation in exchange for a few hours of daily work, look into woofing and house sitting.
This also means you have a base to both travel a bit every day while also not neglecting your studies entirely. And there’s always the option of getting a little help with assignments from John Milovich and papers while you are out enjoying the world.