Your college years are the best time to travel while you’re young. Spring break, summer vacation, winter break, and all the national holiday’s in between are what we nostalgic college students live for and plan for every semester. Of course traveling should never be out of the picture once you graduate college; however, it does tend to get harder to do once you have a full-time career and more bills to pay. The money you make while working part-time during college shouldn’t be spent on just one splurged vacation a year. Instead, it should be spent on a few cheap trips that doesn’t need all of your savings to embark on. While it can sometimes seem impossible to go on more than one trip per year, some destinations are a lot cheaper than you think! Here are 12 affordable summer vacations for the wanderlust college student, like you and me.
1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Affordable summer vacations don’t have to be international! San Juan is the perfect destination to cure any young traveler’s wanderlust. This colorful and cultural coastal city takes you back in time and makes you feel like you’ve gone completely international. Since Puerto Rico is a part of the U.S., there’s no need to spend time or money on passports or currency exchanges. Staying within the historic city’s two square-mile radius doesn’t require a car, which is a great way to save money on your trip.
However, if you still decide to venture out of the city for other sight-seeing, you can always take an Uber! Just make sure it’s not too far, where Uber drivers are limited. Airbnbs are also relatively cheap in or near San Juan, for some as low as $29 per night. Staying in San Juan gives students easy access to the beach and several historical sites (like Castillo San Felipe del Morro), making it super affordable for college students!
2. Denver, Colorado
Mostly popular during the winter for its awesome ski slopes and gorgeous snowy landscape views, Denver is a fairly inexpensive and fun place to take a summer trip during college. Unless you can make it to Denver with a fun and scenic road trip to save even more money, the average roundtrip domestic flight to Denver from many major U.S. cities is around $250, which isn’t bad at all.
Check out the city’s historical landmarks like the 1930’s Mayan theater or Union Station from the 1800’s; spend time outside in Denver’s various parks and hiking trails; or catch a ball game with a beer in hand at Coors field for as low as $4. And of course, you can’t forget about the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is an absolute must when you visit the Mile High City.
3. Arenal, Costa Rica
Although the US does contain many great spots, affordable summer vacations can take you out of country too. Central America has become popular among college students and other millennials for its affordable prices and off-the-beaten-path adventures. College students will find affordable hostels and Airbnbs as low as $15 per night here in some unique spots of the area–cheap flights from the U.S. to here is also a huge plus! Arenal is a tourist destination because of the great adventure opportunities, its lush terrain and famous national park surrounding Arenal Volcano. Although most young travelers gravitate toward the tourist traps of the area, it’s important to look the other way and go with the local options to keep within your budget. The currency exchange rate also helps make Costa Rica that much more affordable!
Although airfare to Europe from the U.S. is generally always on the high side, Albania is the perfect exception. It’s not the first country you think of when you think of Europe, but it’s known to be one of the cheapest places for cost of living, and at no sacrifice of beauty or culture. In this little Mediterranean country, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches to soak up the sun, gorgeous mountainous terrains, and some of the tastiest authentic cuisine–for super cheap!
5. Las Vegas, Nevada
If you’re able to look beyond the luxurious lifestyle and casinos of Las Vegas, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how cheap it can actually be to vacation there. Flights from anywhere in the U.S. are relatively cheap to get to get here and Airbnbs start at $29 per night. Although the summer is when the temps are at their highest, the low prices and adventurous opportunities in Las Vegas are so worth it. Instead of spending money in the city life, opt for renting a car for a day or two to enjoy outdoor adventures like Zion National Park, Death Valley or the Grand Canyon.
Like Costa Rica, Honduras is among those random and off-the-beaten path destinations for college students that offers a variety of options for affordable activities to do on your trip. From horseback riding to scuba diving along the world’s second largest barrier reef along the Bay Islands, to visiting ancient Mayan ruins, there’s something for every college student’s budget. Flights are also relatively cheap, averaging to around $350-$400 from most major U.S. cities.
7. Montreal, QC, Canada
If you’re craving a French getaway that you can’t afford, Montreal is the perfect substitute at a much cheaper cost for young travelers. Montreal’s charming boulevards, cobblestone streets of Vieu-Montrèal, Parc du Mont-Royal and the famous open-air Marchè Jean-Talon are all vital pieces of the affordable summer vacations you can experience on a trip here. College students can also enjoy the currency rate without flying halfway across the globe.
8. Mexico City, Mexico
Often overlooked by most college students because of Cancùn or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City is one of the cheapest Mexican destinations to travel to from the States. As the country’s capital, it’s filled with an affordable abundance of history, culture and exciting city life that you don’t want to miss out on. Summer flights to this city are as low as $215, and quality hostels as low as $10 per night. For the adventure seeker college students traveling to Mexico City, the city is also surrounded by mountains and volcanos that reach over 16,000 feet for visitors to hike and find adventure in–not to mention the famous ancients ruins and pyramids to explore. Let’s just say, Mexico City is definitely a great summer destination for college students on a budget.
9. Punta Cana or Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic destinations Punta Cana and Puerto Plata are known as two of the most affordable luxury vacations spots in the Caribbean. While there definitely is a fair share of expensive all-inclusive resorts in these cities, there’s also a good amount of affordable ones for young travelers and college students. They may not be all-inclusive, but many offer complimentary breakfast–and any little thing helps when you’re a broke college student. Both of these destinations are the perfect getaway spots for hanging out on the beach all day with cold drink(s) in your hand. Plus, we get a great value of our dollar in the Dominican Republic.
10. Santiago or Puerto Varas, Chile
If you’re willing to splurge a little for a plane ticket somewhere international, do it for Chile. It’s not the typical destination college students think of for the summer, but it definitely should be for the value. Even for international, it qualifies withing affordable summer vacations easily. Santiago’s vibrant food and wine scene and hidden gems, like little tucked away wine bars, make for the perfect college summer trip. For a more low-key Chilean experience, Puerto Varas is another great and affordable city to spend a summer trip. Puerto Varas is a beautifully quaint lakeside town where it’s super cheap to rent a car and explore the area, or just outside to find a volcano to hike, waterfalls, and delicious authentic cuisine.
11. Vancouver, BC
What better way to spend a college summer trip than exploring British Columbia? West Coasters can take a scenic road trip to save money–although airfare averages to about $350 from major U.S. cities. But with $.80 to the U.S. dollar, some of the nicer hotels are little more affordable for college students. The adventure opportunities are endless around the city. You can rent a car for the day to hike at Joffre Lakes or Garibaldi Lake for the breath-taking turquoise blue water views. Or, rent bikes for cheap to ride along the seawall at Stanley Park.
12. Jupiter, Florida
Many tropical vacations could never rank on a list of affordable summer vacations. For any college students in desperate need of a tropical paradise, Jupiter is your destination. Just under 20 minutes north of Palm Beach on the East Coast of Florida, this small (but rapidly growing) beach town is the perfect place to spend summer days on the beach. It has year-round sunny weather, miles of clean beach, good happy hours, delicious local food and affordable options for hotels and Airbnbs. Jupiter is a great option for young travelers who want a low-key tropical vacation that fits within their budget.
What are your favorite affordable summer vacations? Share them in the comment section!
Recent Barry University graduate and Florida girl living in Dallas. If I'm not up writing or editing at 3AM, then I'm probably still up binge-watching Grey's Anatomy, again.