While there is an awful lot of fun to be had while at college, most students dream about studying abroad or having some sort of unbelievable Spring Break experience. But what if your bank account isn’t meeting your lofty vision? With college tuition costs at an all-time high and the recession making things tight for everyone it isn’t easy to afford a great vacation these days. College kids are notoriously broke, and these days it could come down to selling off textbooks to buy dinner for the month. What’s to be done when your wallet is filled with mothballs but you’re determined to see the world? It won’t be easy, but here are a few options to help you travel, even as a broke college student.
First off, do a tireless amount of research before you ever leave home. Traveling inexpensively has a ton to do with being prepared. The further in advance you can book a trip, the cheaper the price will be. You can also set up notifications through many of the travel websites to ping you when hotel or airfare prices hit a certain range. Sign up for travel newsletters, so you can pounce on unique deals as they come around, and take the time to save up just a little bit each month. If you start planning your trip a year in advance, that alone may be enough to help you make it happen.
The broke college student will also have to be flexible with his goals. A week in the south of France may not be in the cards when you’ve maxed out your plastic. But a few nights in the south of Florida could be entirely possible. If you have to travel during that Spring Break period, consider places that aren’t traditional college getaways. Avoid the beaches and go somewhere cultural instead. If you absolutely must have your time in the sun, you may have to go during the summer and skip Spring Break. It’s not ideal, but it is a way to make sure you still get to travel.
While you’ll need to be flexible on the time and the location you will also need to keep an open mind when it comes to your mode of transportation. Flying is incredibly expensive, even when you book far in advance. So consider renting a car to get to your destination instead. If you can share the fees with three or four other people it will be far more affordable than airfare. Better yet, what about a train or a bus? There’s nothing particularly glamorous about it, but either option will get you there in one piece and with a bit more money in your pocket. These are both great choices if you are traveling abroad as well. Fly as you must, and then travel by land to see more of Europe or Asia. The same goes right here in the U.S. as well.
When you get to your destination, you won’t see very many broke college students poolside at a five-star resort. Hostels exist to help you afford to travel, and you should take advantage of them. Make sure you choose a couple of options in the area you will be visiting, and check online reviews to make sure they are reasonably clean and safe. Two other options are services such as AirBnB and CouchSurfing. In these cases you will be staying in a private home. You can’t treat it like a hotel, but you’ll always have a comfortable bed and often a home-cooked meal as well. And the best part is you’ll meet new people and experience your destination from a local’s perspective. You’ll hear all about the latest elections, the change in the energy law, the neighborhood dramas and which pub has the best beer on tap. It’s a unique experience, and you won’t have to spend money on guidebooks!