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Budget Travel 101

Handy travel tips and tricks that will cut down your travel spending considerably.

As college students, wanderlust is practically an epidemic.  Unfortunately due to financial constraints, it can seem like one without a cure. But that’s not necessarily the case–– here, find a handful of handy travel tips and tricks that will cut down your travel spending considerably. So get packing.

Get a Frequent Flyer Account

One of the biggest mistakes young travelers can make is foregoing the creation of a frequent flyer account. Start one as early as possible. Even if you only travel every once in a while with your family, the miles can still add up eventually, leaving you with a free (or partially free) trip. Additionally, there are some credit card companies that allow you to accumulate miles with your everyday purchases.

Travel Light

Most airlines (with the exception of Southwest, who gives you two free checked bags!) charge you to check your luggage. Depending on the airline, these charges can run you upwards of fifty dollars a bag, which, unless you’re traveling long-term, is money you don’t need to be spending. Pack light–– choose versatile items of clothing that can be worn as multiple different outfits, and check to see if it’s a possibility to do laundry at your destination.

Couch Surf

Even if you don’t know anyone in the city you’re traveling to, you still don’t need to spring for a hotel. Thanks to services like Airbnb you can couch surf with anyone willing to give up their futon or guest bedroom. Some hosts will even rent out their whole apartment to groups of travelers. The rates are considerably lower than hotels and even lower than most hostels, and you can read reviews on the hosts before booking. Some hosts will even offer to show you around the area, giving you a more authentically local feel to your trip.

Get a Home Cooked Meal on the Road

One huge expense associated with travel is spending money going to restaurants. Thanks to, you can settle in for a home cooked meal with the hosts of your choice for dirt cheap. You get to choose the location and the cuisine, and you can peruse the amateur chef’s profile before committing.

Weekday Travel

If you can, try to plan your trip for during the week. Weekend travel is exponentially more expensive than a Monday-Thursday excursion. And unless it’s absolutely necessary, avoid traveling around holidays–– prices skyrocket right around Christmas, Memorial Day, 4th of July, etc. You can also save money by flying at off times of day, like late at night or early in the morning. Additional tip: experts say Tuesday afternoon is the best time to catch a deal on airfare.

Don’t Be Afraid of a Layover

If you aren’t running on a tight schedule, you can often cut money off your flight price by booking a flight with stops in other cities. While it’s not ideal to spend an hour or two biding your time in another city’s airport, it could potentially save enough money to make the time spent worthwhile.

Bus It

Don’t assume flying is your only option–– Megabus and Greyhound go farther than you think, and tickets can be as low as a dollar depending on your destination. The busses are actually pretty roomy, and some even have wifi capability so you can work (or watch Netflix) on the road.


I’ve always wanted to do a voluntourism trip, but I’ve been consistently put off by the high costs of foreign travel airfare. Fortunately, if you’re looking to go abroad to do some good, you may be able to fundraise to meet your goal. Kickstarter websites are a great way to attract family and friends with a few extra dollars to supporting your cause.

Apply for a Travel Grant

There are a number of programs out there to help young students achieve their travel dreams. If you can convince a grant or scholarship committee why you should get the funds for your particular trip, you could be on your way to your destination for free, or at least for a discounted rate.

Use Smart Apps

If your mode of transportation is car, there are a few apps that can add to the ease of your road trip. SpotHero tells you where you can find the cheapest available parking around you, which comes in handy in cities where parking can run you upwards of 60 dollars a night. There’s also GasBuddy, which gives you all the gas prices nearby so you can compare and choose your cheapest option. Additionally, the Along the Way app will show you attractions on your route so you can map it out for maximum fun.

Compare Prices

Use comparison sites like Kayak and Expedia to make sure you’re getting your best possible deal. Do your research–– if you book the first deal you see, you might not be saving as much as you could. Check out all of your possible lodging and transportation outlets before making a decision. You can also compare discounted flights for students with the  Student Universe Network.

Use Public Transportation

It’s easy when you’re in a new city to get nervous about finding your way around. I know the Chicago train lines like the back of my hand, but drop me in Boston and I’d be lost. But embrace the public transit in a new city and you’ll end up saving a bundle compared to taking cabs everywhere. Usually you can get a week or weekend long pass to unlimited train and bus rides.

Shop two streets over from the main tourist areas:

Be aware of price manipulation in areas of the city which are heavily visited by tourists.  Restaurants and shops in these areas are generally much more expensive than elsewhere. Sightseeing in these tourist areas is fine, but travel out into local neighborhoods for dinner or shopping.

Samantha Reid

Roosevelt University | 1 story

Samantha is a writer, blogger, and aspiring funny person based out of downtown Chicago. She'll be completing her English degree this December, and when she's not writing she can be found reading, tweeting, and watching baby animal videos on YouTube. Follow her on twitter at @sammmreid or check out her blog at

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