While the phrase “student budget travel” may seem like an oxymoron, it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to travel in your University years. Not only is travelling as a student one of the best times to travel in your life, but many companies and websites seek young people, particularly students, for adventures around the world, whether it be studying abroad, making use of student discounts, or working as an Au-pair.
For all students and those who may be living on a student budget, here are ten life hacks for travelling the world on a student budget.
1. Study abroad
If you’re looking to travel during University, studying abroad is by far the most accessible option to do so. Depending on your financial situation, any loans you are receiving during term-time tend to apply to your studies at a foreign university as well, making this an ideal option for those wanderlusts stuck on a student budget.
While studying abroad, try to live like a local in terms of staying away from eating and drinking in as much as you can, and staying away from any tourist-trap areas that may be more expensive than the local scenes. Additionally, make use of your free weekends by planning getaways to nearby destinations while you’re already living there. For example, if you’re studying abroad in Prague, make use of its close proximity to other cities like Vienna, Munich, Budapest, and Bratislava.
The most frequent regret of University students when graduating is that they don’t study abroad when they were offered the opportunity. Don’t let this be you — talk to your advisor and financial office and find a way to make this a reality.
2. Plan in advance
Flights and accommodation are always cheaper and more available the sooner you book in advance, making this a crucial step for travelling on a student budget. Most travel agents will recommend booking international flights 4 to 5 months before your departure and booking domestic flights 1 to 2 months before your departure in order to guarantee the lowest cost.
For accommodation, availability and price varies between hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs, but I would recommend from experience booking 4 to 5 months in advance depending on the season you’re visiting and whether it is expected to be high with tourists. For example, if you’re planning a trip anywhere around Christmastime, or planning to visit Greece or Spain in the summer, book at least 5 to 6 months in advance.
Though it is true that cheap deals for travel can appear weeks or even days before departure, this isn’t guaranteed and therefore you shouldn’t rely on this method if you’re on a student budget.
3. Travel with friends and stay in Airbnbs
One of the best parts about travelling as a student is that you often have a group of friends who are also on a student budget and keen to get away from your University town for a few days. If you’re travelling with a large group, one of my strongest pieces of advice is to stay in an Airbnb together. Though hostels are also affordable, Airbnbs are often the same price or even cheaper.
With an Airbnb, you’re guaranteed privacy and amenities like a kitchen, shower, and even a TV. When travelling to Kraków with five other friends, we stayed in an Airbnb near town and we each spent £40 for 7 nights accommodation! Though it’s worth comparing Airbnb’s prices to Hostelworld’s, definitely do not neglect this option if you’re on a student budget.
4. Become an Au-pair or use Workaway
As a young person, particularly between 18 and 35, certain companies seek you out to assist them, and sites like Workaway or AuPairWorld will often provide free accommodation and meals as well, meaning all you need to afford on your student budget is flights to the destination.
On Workaway, you will find listings from people all over the world looking for help with small tasks, like gardening or hostel management, in exchange for food, lodging, or payment, sometimes even a combination of all three.
Being an AuPair can essentially be described as nannying for a family on the other side of the world. AuPairWorld is the most popular site to find families, and as an AuPair, you can practise language-speaking skills by living in another country, or just experience a different culture, while taking care of kids while their parents are at work.
Of course, do your research on whichever family or job you choose, and try to choose a listing with positive reviews from others, but these are two of the most common ways in which young people travel the world on a student budget!
5. Scott’s Cheap Flights
As a travel junkie on a student budget myself, Scott’s Cheap Flights is my favourite way to find cheap flights around the world. The site functions with real people, not robots, searching the web for crazy flight deals and advertising them to their audience while they are still available. You can sign up for their email subscription service for free and then get notified in your inbox every time there is a deal from your home country.
Though it isn’t the best way to find flights on a student budget to a specific destination, if you’re flexible with your time and your destination, you will no doubt luck out with this service.
6. Student discounts
Many cities around the world often offer student discounts, just as they offer discounts to senior citizens or children. When you are abroad and looking for activities to see the cities, make sure to do your research on places which accept your student card and will offer a discount. These places often include museums and major landmarks.
As a bonus, research the city you’re travelling to at least a week before departure and see if they offer a city card. This city card, like Milan’s MilanoCard or Prague’s City Pass, ask you to pay a fee up front in exchange for discounts on tourist hotspots, restaurants, and local transport, which is a must for those on a student budget.
7. Explore the local supermarket and cook meals
Depending on your taste and your destination, eating meals out in the city can often be the largest financial drain, especially to those on a student budget. To avoid this and save some money, find the local supermarket in the city you’re travelling to and make use of cooking some meals yourself.
These meals don’t have to be elaborate — you can grab a bag of pasta and some tomato sauce for dinners, or milk and cereal for breakfast every day — but any assistance in bypassing the cost of food while travelling will benefit you and allow you to see more of the city with the time saved on eating out.
If you’re on a student budget or just looking to save some money on travels, do not ever search for flights on the flight provider’s website! Instead, use a booking site like Kayak, my personal favourite, to compare not only the dates you travel on but also the airline you travel with in order to find the best price possible.
On Kayak, you can add flexible arrival and departure dates, compare airlines, and even use their Explore feature to add the dates of your travel and compare that with where you can travel to for the cheapest on a world map. Though you can then book your flight directly on the flight provider’s website, use an alternate site to find your best route.
9. Cheap flights do not mean cheap destination
On the note of cheap flights, beware the draw of outrageous flight or accommodation deals without doing any research. While you can luck out and this happens often, sometimes flights are cheap because you wouldn’t want to visit the destination anyway, or because the destination itself is not cheap to travel to.
For example, travellers are currently ecstatic over great flight deals to Reykjavik, but Iceland itself is quite expensive once you’re there, especially for food and excursions. Make sure you’re aware of the costs of food, lodging, and experiences in your desired destination, particularly if you’re on a student budget and can’t risk unexpected high costs.
10. Travel money
Before your departure, be sure to visit your local bank and take out enough money in the local currency, as you don’t want to get stuck with taking money out at the airport on arrival and paying extortionate fees or exchange rates.
Additionally, if you’re on a student budget and want to save money whenever possible, be sure to take money out in the local currency at ATMs when do you get more cash out. For example, if you have a British card and you’re at a Polish ATM, be sure to check the option which allows you to take money out in Polish zloty and not British pounds, which means your home bank will convert to the best exchange rate rather than you accepting the current exchange rate.