Everyone knows that college students are the poster children for the underfed, overworked, and financially-challenged. Ordering something that is not on the dollar menu is a treat for us 18 to 20-somethings trying to get an education. Understandably, traveling doesn’t rank highly on most of our realistic to-do lists. 2016 is the year to take ‘world travel’ off of your bucket list and move it right over to your calendar with these tried and true money saving tips.
As college students, we have all of the resources that we need right at our fingertips. It’s called your campus study abroad office. At some schools it may be called International Studies or if you’re on a smaller campus, you may be redirected to an academic adviser. No matter what form this help comes in, all of these people are there to give you the same thing: a path into parts of the world that you have yet to consider.
If your programs are anything like the ones on my campus, it can be daunting to look at a sheet full of trips that start at $2,000. Usually these are just for 2 weeks during the summer. If you’re anything like me you’re thinking “who has this kind of money?” That’s not where I recommend that you start. Look into the partnerships that your college has with other universities or simply ask a nice person from one of the offices above.
A semester away for study abroad seems expensive and at the end of it, you will have spent more money than you would have on a 2 week summer program. That is because instead of 2 weeks you’ll be gone for 4 months or more.
I chose this path because chances are, if you study abroad for an entire semester, your tuition will cover your trip. I had to pay for my flight and passport (if you already have one you’re a step ahead) but everything else was covered by what I usually paid to my home university. If your study abroad expenses look anything like mine, any money that you spend will be on weekend travel to nearby countries and an abundance of Indian food.
Impromptu Weekend Travel
Some people aren’t ready or just don’t have the time to hop overseas for a couple of months, so the next best thing is exploring your own backyard. Being flexible with domestic travel will save you tons of money on trips that aren’t any less fun because you do them locally or on a budget.
Sign up for alerts from sites like Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying for the best deals worldwide, and check sites like Cheap Tickets and Spirit for flights under $100. Google Flights is also an excellent resource that pulls prices from different airlines and tells you which days are the cheapest to fly. I was able to get a flight from Atlanta to New York (LaGuardia) for just $89 roundtrip using Google Flights!
Nontraditional Sleeping Arrangements
Now that you’ve saved money on your flight, you have the option to go all out for a hotel. Remember that you still have to eat. I have not stayed in a hotel since I’ve started my college traveling simply because there are so many cheaper options that cater to young adults.
If you’re open to crazy experiences and you love being around people, Couchsurfing may be the way to go. It’s free and you get to stay in the home of someone local. These hosts don’t like to be treated like hotels since they’re opening their doors for free and are usually people that love to travel themselves. Only choose this option if you’re willing to hang out with your host a little and share a bit of your own local culture.
The next best thing to Couchsurfing is a hostel. If you’ve never left the States before, chances are you’ve never heard of hostels but they’re the best money savers for budget travelers. The website HostelWorld has been my savior when booking rooms all over the world. In a city like NYC where hotels start at $100 a night, a bed at a hostel will cost you $20 if you book early. You don’t get the privacy that you would in a hotel but if you’re just looking for a place to lay your head or you want to make friends because you’re traveling alone, a hostel is the place for you.
If you’re not comfortable with sharing a room with 8 other people, which is completely understandable — I roomed with a creepy guy that stared in Paris but I have bunked with hot Australians in multiple countries so it’s definitely a toss up — a more private option would be an AirBnB.
This is similar to Couchsurfing because you stay in someone’s home but because you pay for it, there is often more professionalism and the space is nicer. The great thing about AirBnB is that you still get to have a tourist experience during the day while returning to a local neighborhood at night. In New York, I booked a brownstone in Harlem so 3 nights in an AirBnB it cost me less than a hotel for one night.
Now that you know how to get where you’re going and where to stay, open a savings account and try to put away at least $50 a month. I use Barclay’s since they have one of the most competitive interest rates. You can also start a GoFundMe or a Paypal and share it on social media for a few donations. You can also download the Taco Bell app and/or the McDonald’s app for free meals and coupons and put that extra money towards your new jet-set lifestyle.
Don’t forget, it never hurts to ask grandma for a little cash either.