How To Travel on a Student Budget
Wanderlust is a term to describe someone with an irresistible urge to travel and explore the world, and I quite literally have diagnosed myself with wanderlust syndrome. I have actually only recently returned from a 2-month adventure across 3 continents (covering 7 countries) and loved every second of it! The whole trip was honestly one of the greatest experiences of my life.
The trip included about a week in America (San Francisco and New York), 3 weeks in Canada (Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Banff, Whistler and Vancouver), 18 days in Europe (London, Bristol, Rome and Paris) and finally 2 weeks of volunteering in Africa (South Africa and Swaziland). Each place was so different to the last but had its own charm and special features. My passion for traveling will no doubt carry on into future trips and it is something I think all people should get to experience. If you are interested in following my travel adventures I have even started a separate Instagram (@peta_travels) to share all my photos from abroad.
However, the down side of traveling it that it can be quite expensive! While you are away you cannot work (no income) and have to pay for everything (food, place to stay, transport etc), and as a University student with no regular source of income this can be quite difficult. Therefore, I have compiled my best 10 best suggestions on how to travel and save money as a student so you can keep visiting amazing places during your breaks!
Plus: see the bottom of the article for my favourite apps and websites to help you budget and plan your travel!
Using sites such as airbnb allows you to often have an entire apartment with all the amenities and is generally cheaper than hotels. Even better, the location of these places is usually pretty central and does not get as expensive as the hotels in the same area. They are also good when you are sharing so you can split the price, just make sure to double check that there is enough bedding available for everyone! Additionally, with the extra facilities you have available you can save money on food (by cooking for yourself) and washing clothes.
2. Cook for yourself
One of the most expensive things about traveling is eating out for every meal. Think about it, depending on your location of course, but one meal can easily equal $20, times by three meals a day and that’s $60 per day. In a week of travelling that equates to $420! This could easily pay for flights or accommodation… The best way I found to save on food was buy food from a supermarket or local market for two meals a day and cook them at the place you are staying eg. Breakfast and dinner, thus only eating out for lunch. Another tip when eating out in touristy places is walk at least 6 - 10 blocks away from a tourist site eg. Colosseum/Eiffel tower to prevent being hit with uber expensive food.
3. Student Flights
If you are a student and you have not yet checked out this site or the app ‘Flights’ or website studentflights.com, you are missing out! This app/site offers discounted flights to/from anywhere in the world on many airlines for students or people under 26 years of age. Occasionally, luggage may not be included in the ticket cost – but even with paying for this it is still usually cheaper than buying the same flight on the airlines website.
4. Track flight prices
Once you have chosen where you want to go, do not book flights right away on the first site you find. Have a look around and use comparison sites such as webjet, skyscanner and trivago. You can also use apps such as ‘Hopper’ that allows you to track a flight prices and notify you when the best time to book is to save money! However, be warned these are not always perfect and you should always do a little bit of extra searching because you may find an even cheaper deal else where! In saying this, online sites for flight searching have the tendency to go up in price every time you search, so it is important to use functions like incognito to prevent this happening.
5. Cut on luxuries but not experience
Personally, I would much prefer to be able to afford to see everything a place has to offer than stay in a lush 5-star hotel. As I said earlier there are many great alternatives such as airbnb and hostels that offer great accommodation at much more affordable prices. In the end if you are truly traveling you will only need your room to sleep, so as long as it has the basics (bed, toilet & shower) you should be good to go!
6. Sign up for travel specials
This could not be more crucial than at the moment, as there are currently huge price wars occurring between the major airlines on domestic and international flights. Make the most of this opportunity, especially if you are tossing up where to go and book a discounted flight while you can! I dislike getting spam emails from various websites but the ones I never unsubscribe from are travel sites, because often you can get crazy deals that are only available for a limited amount of time.
7. Get a student card
These cost about $30, but will make up for it in a few days if you are planning on seeing major tourist attractions. Especially in Europe we were saving $10-$15 per entry by having an international student card. We also chose to only do one admission per day where we wanted. This helped to save money but also still allowed us to get the most from the sites we valued the most.
8. Walk! (or ride)
This was probably one thing that saved me a fair bit on my most recent trip! Rather than spending time and money trying to figure out the local public transport in every location just get a map and walk to all the places you want to visit. It allows you to truly explore the local culture and see areas you don’t see on the subway underground. You also most definitely will hit your daily step counter (think 30,000-40,000 steps a day)! It gives you the flexibility of changing your plans and not being locked into going somewhere (eg, if there is bad weather) and you become a lot more familiar with the place you are in (sometimes even beginning to feel like a local). Other options we used when we wanted to visit places a bit further apart was renting bikes for a day and cycling around. Many major cities also have bike stations all over the place with bikes to hire for about $2-$4 an hour and you can drop them off wherever there is a station.
9. Find alternative transport methods
a. Getting from an airport to your accommodation is commonly quite a costly task if you chose a taxi, as airports must be located far out of the main city due to noise. Therefore, it is worth the effort to do a quick Google search before arriving in a new place on the best ways to get into the city. Many main cities have metro, buses or trains leaving from the airport that cost ½ to ¼ of the price of a taxi.
b. Flying is fast, but you also spend a lot of time at the airport (waiting, checking in and going through security) and it can be costly. Other methods such as buses or trains are ideal if the place you are going is not too far away. You save money on a ticket (usually) and can often arrive ½ - 1 hour before departure without stress.
Unfortunately, booking a holiday takes time… especially if you are doing it yourself. But, by taking a bit longer to search around and compare prices you will save money for sure! I have never personally used a travel agent and find that I can often find cheaper deals looking online than they quote. However, you do need to be weary of scam sites etc. but I have never had a problem. You also have more control over what you are doing and seeing, thus ticking off more of your personal goals for the trip!
Top apps: all free
- Flights (student flights)
- I know the pilot (AMAZING!)
- Guides (allows you to download an offline map of major cities with major attractions, restaurants etc labelled)
- Cheap Flights
- Rome 2 Rio – amazing for figuring out different options to get from a to b
- Tripadvisor (to see reviews before booking)
- Hostel world
Feel free to shoot us a message if you have any questions about a trip you are planning or want recommendations on places we have been!