Travel Tips: Seeing the World on a College Budget

By Catherine Lindsay

College is all about exploration. Students want to explore classes, majors, and career options, but also exciting destinations around the world. However, this can be expensive and require a lot of planning. So here are a few simple tips to help you see the world on a college budget.

Do your research: This is probably the most important tip. Traveling on a budget requires looking into all your options as well as figuring out when the best time to travel is. Remember, the majority of the cost will come from getting there and accommodation.

Try off the beaten path locations: Thousands head to Cancun, Mexico, and Nassau, Bahamas, every year. How about trying something new and a little off the map? Look into different areas in the countries that interest you or destinations you may not have even heard of. Often, these will be cheaper as typical tourist traps will be absent.

Sign up for all the reward programs: Airline reward programs can be a blessing. Even if you have only ever used one airline, look into other domestic and international airlines to compare prices and check out their reward programs. Signing up for them will cost you nothing, and may end up saving you some money!

Let your shopping habits do the work for you: … And gain frequent flyer miles as you go! Certain credit cards will allow you to obtain miles as you spend. If you do it right, it is an easy way to make your flights cheaper. Some of these will only award you miles when you buy specific items, so keep track of how you spend.

Experiment with alternate modes of transportation: … And get an adventure out of it! If you have the time or your destination is not too far, why not opt for a bus, overnight train, or even boat? Plus, you’ll get to see some great landscapes.

Look at all your accommodation options: Hotels, hostels, and homestays are all viable possibilities. First, figure out what you are comfortable with. Then, compare prices and choose your ideal location by using accommodation roundup sites such as Expedia, peer-to-peer rental sites like Airbnb, or local homestay sites such as Couchsurfing.com.

Take your friends along for the ride: Traveling as a group can be beneficial. Splitting the price will really help with the total cost, and you might get good deals on group airfares and accommodation.

If you can, pack lightly: You can save money by avoiding check-in luggage on certain airlines.

Trust the locals for cheap food, entertainment, and nightlife: They have all the secrets, so ask around and try new things. You will most certainly avoid the tourist traps this way.

Check out free events and visits: Free open-air markets, art events, and festivals should be your go-to for daytime entertainment and will help you appreciate the local culture. Certain museums may also have a free day or discounts available. Ask the local tourism center or check out the town’s official website to find these deals.

Bring that college ID: Even though you don’t go to a school in that location, many museums and other entertainment venues offering a student discount will accept your college ID, so don’t hesitate to ask!

If you buy anything and have time at the airport, get those sales taxes back: Just remember to keep your receipts.

And finally, don’t try to see everything: My father has been to Barcelona many, many times for both business and pleasure, and yet he has never visited the Sagrada Família, Antoni Gaudí’s never-finished and seminal work. Once, I asked him why and he said, “Because it gives me a reason to come back.” Give yourself a reason to come back. Relax, enjoy the vibe, walk around, get lost, take in the scenery instead of staying inside the entire time, and save money at the same time!