How to travel on a college student’s budget
Get prepared for your summer trip
As a broke college student it can be hard to scrape together enough money to travel, which can easily stop you from pursuing your dreams of seeing the world. In my travels I’ve picked up some wisdom on how to go on adventures without breaking the bank. During my gap year I spent roughly $3500 (less than most people spend on a two week Eurotrip) on a four and a half month trip to Europe. Here’s how you can do the same!
Buy your tickets in advance
Buying plane tickets several months before you plan on leaving can save you hundreds of dollars. There several websites that can help you find cheap flights both domestically and internationally. My personal favorites are Fly4free.com and Rome2rio.com. Like Fly4free on Facebook for constant offers on cheap flights around the world, and go on Rome2rio for travel packages that include tickets for planes, trains, and buses.
Be a traveler, not a tourist
There are several things that distinguish a traveler from a tourist, and most involve money. Tourists go on tours and visit every museum, all the while buying cheesey gifts for their friends and family. Look for free walking tours and find out what days you can go to museums for free. Don’t buy gifts for everyone you know! Street vendors and tourist shops often target english speakers, and overcharge them for everything. Also, more souvenirs in your luggage equals more weight, and more weight equals(that’s right!) more fees when you check your bags.
The top expenses of traveling are food and housing. Workaway.info gives travelers a way to link with people around the world who are looking for “volunteer” workers, who they’ll compensate with room and board. Here’s how it works; Step 1: Sign up($30/year). Step 2: Explore a wide range of volunteer opportunities including, but not limited to, childcare, housekeeping, hostel work, teaching, building, and painting. Step 3: Contact hosts(not all hosts respond quickly, so apply ahead of time!).
Most hosts are flexible about how long you can stay with them, and in some cases will even offer to pay you! The best part of Workaway is that there aren’t any contracts, so if you don’t like a certain host or job, you can simply move on to your next destination.
Stay away from expensive programs
Exchange and adventure programs are very expensive, and are likely to draw you in with their flashy advertisements and stellar reviews, but unless Daddy is paying for your trip, stay clear. Travel programs charge fees to pay for insurance and trip leaders, neither of which you need! Traveling by yourself or with a group of friends gives you the freedom to see what you want to see when you want to see it. And just like universities, travel programs have all kinds of hidden fees that will leave you even more broke than you anticipated before your trip.
Eat in, not out
You’ll rarely see backpackers or nomads eating in restaurants. If you have the opportunity, buy food at markets or grocery stores and cook for yourself! It’s healthier, cheaper, and a great way to improve your culinary abilities. Eating out gets very expensive, very quickly. Tip: Shawarma and Kebab joints tend to be cheap, delicious, and open late(important if you plan going out).
Don’t be afraid of hostels
Hotels are expensive and unnecessary! You could stay in most hostels($10-$25/night) for a month for the same amount that it would cost you to stay a night in many hotels($300+/night). Also, many hostels offer free tours or outings, which are great ways to get to know your roommates and the hostel staff, many of whom are pros at saving money(ask them for tips!). Staying at hostels will not only save you money, they’re also super fun and usually filled with other young adventurers!