I’m here to share my top 10 tips for budget travel. These are the tricks I use to save money while exploring the world during college, and I hope they help you have amazing adventures, whether you’re in school or traveling on a budget. I know there are many other great ideas out there, but I’m carefully giving you tips that will help you travel as a broke college student.
How to Travel as a Broke College Student
We are going to look at just 10 powerful tips that can make a difference. If you can practice these tips, you will definitely have the best travel experience on a budget. That said, let’s get into the tops that will help any broke student travel.
You might think it’s unreasonable to travel across the country just for a day, but I’ve done it myself. It really pays off, and I found that with this method, you can actually travel as a broke college student and not feel the impact on your pocket.
Last fall, one of my roommates found incredibly cheap round-trip flights from Raleigh to Denver, a city I had never really thought about visiting. The flights were so affordable that eight of my friends and I decided to go for it.
We took an early 6:00 a.m. flight from Raleigh and, after about a three and a half hour journey across the country, we arrived in Denver early in the morning. Despite the distance and time change, we had the whole day to explore. We returned on a late 11:30 p.m. flight, and with the time change back to the East Coast, we got home around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. the next morning. Sure, we were exhausted by the time we got back, but it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had this past year. Everyone agreed it was an incredibly fun day. We saw so much of the city in just one day. Also, a day trip like this saves a lot of money since you don’t have to pay for a hotel.
2. Find Free Events in the Area You Are Traveling to
At number 2, I want you to do your research ahead of time. There are often free entertainment options such as museum discounts (if you have EBT), parks, and beaches. For example, in California, you can explore the Venice Boardwalk, hike to the Hollywood sign, or stroll around the city without spending a penny. No matter where you go, there are usually plenty of free activities.
Check out local community events before your trip. You might find free concerts or other activities. If you don’t research, you’ll miss out on these opportunities to save money, instead of spending a lot on shopping and paid entertainment.
3. Fly to Cheap Cities Only
If you plan to fly to Europe, find the cheapest city to fly into. For example, my friends had a 10-day European adventure during their Spring Break in March, visiting four countries. They chose to fly into Norway, not because they particularly wanted to spend time there, but because it was the cheapest destination, saving them hundreds of dollars. They spent a night in Norway and then took a short flight to their next destination. Travel within Europe, whether by flights or trains, is incredibly affordable. There are numerous cheap options for getting around once you are in Europe. So, the strategy is to find a cheap flight to get across the ocean, and then you can easily and inexpensively travel to your actual destinations from there.
4. Choose a Flexible Travel Day
So, we are into the 4th method that can help you travel as a broke college student. If possible, choose flexible travel days. I know it’s hard when you are a student with a fixed schedule. However, in my senior year, I only had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, giving me four-day weekends to travel. While it’s difficult during the school year, try to travel on cheaper days, such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and avoid expensive weekend flights on Fridays and Sundays. There’s a belief that booking flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is cheaper, and from my experience, that seems true. Also, consider traveling during the shoulder period, which is right after a major event or holiday. During these times, prices are usually much lower.
5. Try to Save Money on Events
If there is a paid event you are interested in, always check for student discounts before paying full price. Student IDs are gold for discounts, and you should plan to make the most of yours before it expires. This tip isn’t just for shopping; it applies to travel too. Whether it’s an art exhibit or a museum that charges an entry fee, they often have student rates. This can also apply to movies, shows, concerts, and more. Always, always check for student discounts – it takes a few seconds and could save you money. Students can also get a free bus pass, depending on your location.
6. Be Savvy When Booking Hotels and Flights
There are many websites out there, and it can get overwhelming. My advice is to use studentuniverse.com, especially for students. You can register with your school email, but it’s also open to anyone under 26. They offer discounts on flights, hotels, tours, and more for students. They often have promo codes on top of already discounted prices. I’ve found some of my best flight deals on this site.
There’s an app for both Android and iPhone, where you can find and book great deals on the go. For instance, last fall, when I was planning to go to DC, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. But just a weekend before, I checked Student Universe and found the cheapest flight there. Regarding my trip to Phoenix for the national championship, it’s similar to the spring incident when UNC made it to the finals. Flights from Raleigh to Phoenix were in high demand and extremely costly, with prices soaring into four figures, excluding the decimal point. However, I discovered that Delta and Universe offered much more affordable options, so it’s definitely worth checking them out before booking elsewhere. While I haven’t flown internationally with them yet, online reviews suggest their fares are incredibly low. I was skeptical at first due to their low prices, but they seem to be genuinely discounted. I’ll include a link to their website so you can explore the deals for yourself.
Another trick I can recommend is for you to book flights with VPNs for cheap countries. Weird but this works. Don’t worry, I have explained exactly how this works in my article about cheap country flight VPNs.
7. Use Groupon or Promo Codes if You Can’t Find Student Discounts
Even if the events you are interested in aren’t free, you might still find great deals. For example, during a trip to Florida, I found a Groupon for paddleboarding and saved about 50%. You should also check local business websites and their social media pages such as Yelp or Facebook. Usually, they post exclusive discounts there which you can use. Just make sure to plan your meals around places where you can get these good deals because it’s really worth it.
8. Avoid Expensive Restaurants
You can save money when you travel as a broke college student if you try to avoid restaurants located right in the busy city center or other highly populated areas. These places are usually more expensive due to their tourist appeal and high foot traffic. People tend to just walk in, and the restaurants can charge higher prices because of their prime location. In my experience, while the central restaurants might look appealing, you can save money by choosing less prominent ones. For example, when I was in Chania on the island of Crete in Greece, our tour guide, advised us to avoid the restaurants on the main strip by the water. He pointed out that they were overpriced due to their touristy nature. However, just a short walk further along the water, about 0.2 miles away, we found less visible restaurants that were much more affordable.
9. Save a Lot of Money on Food
When I stayed in LA for a month, including a week in West Hollywood with Danielle, we went grocery shopping on the first day. We bought lots of snacks and breakfast foods, which saved us a lot of money since breakfast is easy to make at home.
Alternatively, you can save when you travel as a broke college student by having your biggest meal at lunch instead of dinner. Even if you eat out for both meals, choosing a smaller dinner and a bigger lunch can save money because lunch prices are usually lower. I hadn’t really thought about this before, but it’s a great way to save during your travels. You really need to plan your day around having a bigger meal at lunchtime to save money.
10. Reach Out to Travel Companies
Finally, reach out to travel companies for a travel opportunity. This method might not apply to most of you, but it’s relevant for those who have a following on platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, or other social media. You can reach out to travel companies or smaller hotels and propose a collaboration where you offer your services in exchange for a free stay or a trip. Your services could involve promoting their business on your platform, taking over their Snapchat story, or creating content like videos and pictures that they can use for their ads. This method can be a bit of a stretch, and its success depends on the company’s openness to such collaborations. However, if you are looking to save money and travel as a broke college student, it’s really worth giving it a try.
So, here you go—10 tips that will help you travel as a broke college student. You won’t even feel the impact of the expenses on your pocket if you plan this well. Just make sure to set a reasonable budget and plan your routes before you make the move. Most importantly, stick to your plan no matter what.
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