By Hannah Long
As a student, you’ve got tons of energy, curiosity, and enthusiasm – the perfect combination for an awesome travel experience! However, if you’ve been surviving college on ramen noodles you may be afraid that your limited funds won’t support your far-reaching travel aspirations. Think again! With the right preparation and mindset, you can go anywhere on even the smallest student budget. There are tons of amazing free resources for travelers, and these five tips will help you squeeze the best trip possible out of the money you do have.
Create a budget and stick to it: The only thing worse than running out of money halfway through your trip is letting budget concerns stop you from starting your trip at all. Lots of research and a solid plan will help you strike a balance between the two. Before leaving home, figure out a rough estimate of how much money you’ll be spending each day. Consider where you’ll be lodging (keep reading for more about this!) and food costs, and make sure to account for exchange rates.Then consider any one-time, larger expenses, like train tickets from one country to the next. Once you’ve finished these calculations, you’ll realize you do have enough money to fund the trip, and you’ll be able to set aside a portion of the leftovers for fun treats along the way (so you don’t need to turn down that awesome concert in Berlin or last-minute snorkeling trip).
Be smart about packing: This phase of the preparation also requires a certain balance. You’ll want to keep your luggage pretty light, because airlines often charge enormous fees for oversized or extra baggage. However, some items will certainly cost a lot more at your destination than here at home – if you can anticipate this, you’ll save tons down the line. For example, while its probably not worth lugging a large bottle of shampoo to Europe when you can pick one up there for a couple euros, a small bottle of Advil is easy to pack and it can be a headache (and more expensive) to find your preferred formulation abroad.
Always check for student discounts: Start asking around, and you’ll be surprised by how many establishments offer discounts or perks to high school and college students. If you make it your mission to hunt these down, you’ll save tons of money and come across lots of awesome opportunities you would never have considered otherwise. Many museums around the world offer free admission to students – a Saturday afternoon activity you can enjoy without spending a dime! You may also score sweet deals at restaurants, clubs, and pubs, like free appetizers or two-for-one beers. Just remember to keep your student ID with you at all times. Many study abroad destinations in Europe often have a ton of deals for students to take advantage of.
Reconsider your accommodations: Crashing at the closest hotel each night without considering the cost can really eat into your budget, so think of nice hotels as a once-a-week treat. Instead, be creative when choosing your lodging each night – you’ll save lots of money and your trip will be way more interesting and exciting. Hostels are a fantastic, affordable option that are available virtually everywhere. Couchsurfing is also a great choice. It’s free, and you’ll meet tons of new people who can share insider tips about the city. Finally, if you love nature or are looking for a true adventure, consider camping in a national park for a night or two.<
Pay attention to local customs: Tourists often end up shelling out much more than necessary because they don’t understand local tipping practices. While its always better to be generous, do some research or ask a friend so you know exactly what to expect. In some parts of the world, all or a portion of a server’s tip is included in the bill. Also, if you’re shopping at markets or bazaars remember that bargaining is often expected (if you’re unsure, observe a couple of transactions before trying yourself). The savings may seem insignificant, but they can add up to a lot in the long run.
With these tips, you’re ready to embark on any adventure you can dream of. The most important thing to keep in mind is that years down the line, once it’s all over, you won’t remember each dollar you spent but rather each incredible experience you had. So save where you can, but treat yourself to those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Before you start planning your trip, be sure to check out 91 more budget travel tips for students.
Hannah Long is a student at Scripps College and the current Editorial Intern at Go Overseas.