I like to travel, which I think other people like to do as well. However, as a college student with a limited budget, I’ve had to find ways to minimize my costs and maximize my fun while traveling. Read on to learn 10 ways to cut costs so that traveling can become something that fits within your budget (and some other tips and goodness here.).
1. Book your plane tickets 2-3 months in advance
While the exact number of days in advance you should book depends on the season, it’s always a safe bet to book tickets 2-3 months in advance for the best deals. It’s also cheaper to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
2. Book tickets with the amenities you need
Sometimes you don’t need a checked bag or free airplane food or a TV screen. Certain airlines, like Spirit in the states or Ryanair in Europe, are considered “low cost” airlines, only offering you what you need. These types of airlines tend to be the cheapest options for traveling; I booked a ticket yesterday from Malaga to Marseille with Ryanair for $25.
For myself, I prefer these airlines, because when I travel, I usually just have a backpack as a personal item and pack my own snacks and download some Grey’s Anatomy for in flight entertainment. Some people need the extra legroom (sorry tall friends) or want to bring a carry-on bag. I totally get it, but to minimize transportation costs, these low cost airlines are the way to go.
3. Research student deals on airlines
Most countries have one really big airline company; here in Spain, it’s Iberia. Iberia offers deals for students traveling abroad, as well as deals for people under the age of 30. If you’re considering traveling a lot or have a favorite airline, consider looking into deals like Iberia has. Or get a membership/rewards card to start logging miles that you can use later.
4. Pack smart
Yes, packing smart can help you save money! When your bag is overweight or bulky looking, you might be forced to check it at the airport, which can be crazy expensive (like $100, ask my friend Connor about it). When you pack light, you can avoid the airline fees, as well as travel easier because you won’t have a huge bag to carry around everywhere.
A tip I learned is to roll your clothes, since it takes up less space. Another thing I’ve learned is that you really don’t need 7 pairs of shoes and 6 pairs of pants and 14 shirts for one weekend trip. I know it’s hard, but only pack what you think is absolutely necessary. Always pack extra socks and a rain jacket, though.
5. Use websites to find accommodation
I am a huge fan of hostels since they are usually very cheap and located in excellent areas of the city. You can find hostels using Hostelworld, which is the same website I use. Some hostels will offer free Wifi, breakfast, linens, and walking tours, but the best part about hostels is that you can interact with other world travelers.
6. Buy your own food at a local grocery store (or on the street)
When I was in Rome, I went to the grocery store and bought a package of rolls, some cheese, and some ham. I proceeded to eat all day for about seven euros in total. Buying your own food not only saves you money, but saves you time as well. If you have a lot to see and do, it’s easier to just make a quick sandwich while sitting on a bench in a plaza than to sit down at a restaurant and wait for service.
I do recommend enjoying the local food as well. Street vendors usually sell relatively cheap eats, and you get the opportunity to enjoy the local flavors.
7. Research free days and things to do before arriving
When I was still in Rome, I got to visit the Vatican for Easter Mass, the Forum, and the Coliseum, all for free. Certain attractions will have free days that you can take advantage of, just make sure you plan to wait in line. Most museums are usually free or very low cost. And of course, you can enjoy free walking tours.
If you are a student, try to research some student deals. Most places, like the museums and cultural landmarks, will have discounts or free entry for students if you present your ID.
8. Change your currency BEFORE leaving
No, the ATMs at the airport will not get you the best currency conversion, and neither will the currency stores at the airport. I suggest going to your bank to change your currency, as they’ll give you the best conversion rate. It might take some time to get the money in, especially if you’re asking for a lot of it, but you’ll be prepared once you land.
While you’re at the bank, make sure to let them know, as well as your credit card provider, that you’ll be traveling. If you do travel and try to use your cards without alerting your bank or credit card company, it’s more likely than not that your account will be frozen, and then you’re really stuck.
9. Use the public transportation (or walk)
Buses and subways are your friends.
In Europe, my experience with public transportation has been phenomenal. The metros come every five minutes, the hours of operation are long, the lines go almost everywhere, and the price is low. Recently, most large cities have implemented bike or scooter renting services, which are also relatively inexpensive. And as always, you have the power to walk to where you need to be, as long as it’s not too far and is safe.
10. Don’t fall for tourist traps and “deals”
No matter where you go, I’m sure you’ll run into someone on the street offering you a “really good deal”. Most of the time, these are not deals, but are more like scams.
My friend Connor (the same guy who had to pay for his bulky backpack at the airport) was traveling in Morocco. Long story short, he met a man who promised to take him to the best Moroccan restaurant in the city. Low and behold, the restaurant served basic tourist food and was filled with tourists who were getting upsold on the prices of tea and food.
Overall, be safe when you’re traveling. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your intuition and leave the situation.
Of course, these are just tips and don’t need to be followed all the time. Free to splurge on a nice dinner or a really cool souvenir to make your adventure special. Travel on!
Also published on Medium.