Traveling On A Student Budget
Hi howdy friends. As the Super Bowl approaches and the entirety of the United States of America takes over our little corner of Minnesota, I feel it’s safe to say that we need to get the heck out of here. In order for us to accomplish this on the budget that we have, I thought it would be helpful to throw together a few of my travel live-bys. Enjoy.
SHOW EM’ HOW MUCH YOU WANT IT
I am in my twenty-somethings trying to get a college degree, stay out of debt, and with extra extra help from my husband, have my daily dose of food, heating, and wifi. But on top of all that, I also want to travel as much as possible before I am too much of a grown-up with grown-up responsibilities. I want to share a little of what I’ve learned with you and that travel bug that you’ve been carrying around.
Start with a commitment to prioritize travel. For us, it began as a New Years Resolution to me and my fellow newlywed back in 2015. We decided to do all we could to point towards travel with what little disposable income we had. This decision was a game changer for us. For us, this manifests as an annual goal of leaving the country at least once a year. But for you, it could be as simple as going to a new state every summer - make it your own.
To reinforce this priority, we use a spreadsheet to lay out or current and projected financial situation. If you are intimidated by Excel, there is a multitude of premade budget spreadsheets on both Excel and Google Sheets. This one is our favorite. Laying it all out there helps us set realistic goals for saving and identify areas where we can afford to cut spending. The easiest (but also hardest) area for us to cut is eating out. Nothing will make you feel more like an adult than saying no to a lunch out because of the budget. But in the end, I would rather have the experience of galavanting through Denmark with my friends than having had that extra bowl of Pho.
SKYMILES + OTHER BENEFITS
The next step we took towards making travel happen was creating skymiles accounts with every airline we flew with. Even if you don’t regularly fly with say, American Airlines, miles build up overtime and they never expire. If you’re really hardcore, you could also look into airline partnerships with credit card companies. We have heart eyes for Delta so we have the Delta Skymiles American Express credit card. This card allows us to earn miles as we buy, especially when we are buying travel. It allows us to check one bag free per person, and extends the red carpet of priority boarding.
If you do the math and are aware of the fine print you can definitely make credit cards such as this one work for you instead of the other way around. Don’t buy more than what you can pay off in a month (because trust me, the interest rates on these babies are sky high, pun intended), and if you aren’t getting the value you want, cancel before annual fee time comes around. There are so many travel cards out there too! Go crazy, shop around.
TIPS AND TICKET TRICKS
Probably one of the easiest ways to protect the piggy bank is to travel in the off season. This will be different for every destination. When we went to Iceland with friends a few years ago we traveled there in March, knocking around $700 off per ticket. And as a plus, we got to see more of the untapped seasonal changes in a new place. Worth it.
Research shows that if you’re traveling internationally, the best time to book a flight is 90 days prior to travel dates on a Tuesday at 3pm. This is incredibly specific and is definitely not a hard and fast rule. A riskier but sometimes more rewarding route is buying a week or so before travel time. We have taken spontaneous trips that have required us to do this and have been shocked at the decrease in prices, however, once again, not a hard and fast rule! Another tested tip is to open an “Incognito” window on your computer when you’re shopping tickets. Apparently, depending on the kind of device you have and what your most recent searches are, your prices can rise! Shopping undercover will help you here.
A few more tips for our experience include our bias towards SkyScanner to hunt for flights, and also checking to see if buying two one way tickets is cheaper than a round trip. Weird, I know, but sometimes you can save big money.
Finding a place to stay can be very overwhelming, especially if you’re going to a new place. Our favorite way to travel is go where we know people. The experience becomes bliss when you have locals who know and love the place and can show you the best spots. The next most money savvy choice is to look for hostels. They are the cheapest thing on the market, and an excellent way to meet fellow travelers! Not to mention they are usually located in the middle of the city, decreasing your need to pay for transportation. Sometimes they will even hire temporary workers if you need to make a lil $$ on your venture.
Ranging in price is the oh so new to stardom, Airbnb. Depending on where your travels take you, Airbnb can and has been for us, the cheapest and most pleasant option available. The have a vast range of housing options from renting a room to an entire home.
Good ole’ Hotels, the reliables of the industry feel like our parents way of traveling for sure. But the industry is really trying to morph into what the young kids are looking for. You can actually help them do that! If you’re a videographer, photographer, or have any kind of micro influencer, reach out to a few nicer hotels ahead of time with offers to do promotional photography, videography, or social media in exchange for a room! We know so many people taking advantage of this option.
SEEING THE SIGHTS
Normally when I travel I like to have some kind of rough idea of the things I want to do or see. I hate that feeling of arriving somewhere and not knowing what is there to see and do. In the planning process, I like to do as much research as possible. I use apps like Townske to find the hotspots of coffee, food, touristy things, and local attractions. Locals or fellow wanderers can make guides based on coffee, photography, food, yada yada etc. Airbnb also offers a multitude of local must sees!
Additionally, there is a plethora of guides and tips online so if you don’t love the app life, you are not out of options.
Please feel free to share from your book of travel trips! I love the culture of travel and I think we will do it better if we share all we can. That’s all folks!
About the Author
I'm a senior at North Central University studying Entrepreneurship with a minor in Accounting & Finance. I am on the Enactus Board as the Project Manager and I am stoked to work with you! I have a heart for all things holistic, sustainable, and ethical. An easy way to spot me on campus is by looking for the girl who is always overdressed.