How to Travel on a College Budget
I spent eleven days in Iceland and spent only $500 and saw the entire city. With a little time and effort, traveling can be a possibility.
It was midnight and my feet hung over the water lapping against the shoreline of the Reykjavik waterfront. The sun doesn’t ever completely set in Reykjavik, Iceland, during May. I sat in the perpetual sun-down, looking out at the murky blue water that stretched before Mount Esja. I think most travelers will admit that there’s this “defining” moment of travel. It’s when you realize that there’s no turning back to who you were before. And for me, it was sitting in the quiet of the city center at midnight and realizing the world was mine to touch.
Hostels can run anywhere around $6 to $35 dollars per night depending on where in world you are. Hostels cut the cost of accommodations, as hotels typically run over $100 and up per night. Hostels provide different options and benefits, but they tend to be mixed-gender dormitory rooms or separated male and female dormitories. Single-sex dorms tend to be a few dollars extra per night. Some hostels also have single rooms that run cheaper than hotel prices, but still are costly. Hostels include community kitchens, showers, living rooms, and tend to provide a home-type of environment with a communal downstairs lounge where travelers meet. Some offer free breakfast. The best way to find out about what a hostel provides is by going online to their website. Or using websites like hostelworld.com
Other ways to travel cheaply are by using websites like couchsurfing.com, where you can sign up for an account to find fellow travelers. They will host you in their home for free, but usually in exchange for you to host them should they ever travel to your hometown. Each host has reputable reviews from previous guests who stayed in their homes. Another affordable option for accommodation is Airbnb.
If you decide to stay in a hostel, the best way to save money is to cook. Find the closest grocery store by looking online or asking the front desk. Instead of eating out every meal which adds up, purchase staples like peanut butter, cereal, apples, and pasta. The saved money can go towards future travel expenses or a special meal that you really want to try.
The best way to save money on flights is to remain open about your destination and your departure date. Websites like kayak.com provide maps showing where you can travel cheapest from a specific location. First enter in your home airport and from there the map will show how much it will cost to fly from your location to different locations around the world. After choosing a potential location you can use websites like momondo.com or Ita Matrix Airline search engine. These sites compare flight costs from a multitude of websites, and find the cheapest fare. You can look at an entire month’s worth of departure dates and find the cheapest one.
Flight prices can vary depending on where you are. Being open about dates and locations can actually save you money. For example, if you wanted to travel from Philadelphia to Spain you could spend anywhere between $500 and $2000 on a one-way ticket. But if you remained open about your location you could first fly out to Dublin, Ireland, which generally runs cheaper. You could find a ticket for around $260 and then after spending a couple days in Dublin you could fly out to Spain for around $60 dollars. Using the kayak map tool is a good way to plan this out. Once in Europe, flights tend to be a lot cheaper than they would be if you were in the United States. For example, if you decided to keep traveling after Spain a flight to Italy would probably be around the ballpark of $100 dollars.
It depends on personal preference, but generally tours tend to be over-priced and can take the fun out of the adventure of travel. Usually other hostel members will be interested in seeing the same places as you. You can leave notes on the community fridge with contact info about a plan you’d like to do and someone will almost always reach out to you. Once you get a group together you can split the price of renting a car or just have a group to explore with (safety in numbers).
Remain open about your hostel booking. When you arrive, you will likely meet fellow travelers or locals. They will point you in the direction of the cheapest and the hippest hostels in town. You will likely also make plans with people and being trapped in your hostel booking can prevent this. If you were invited on a road trip with a group of other travelers but had already booked eleven nights in a hostel, you’d be trapped in that part of the country for eleven days. Plans change.
Budgeting for Travel
Save, save, and save. Forgo the morning coffee or the lunch out. Every penny counts when it comes to stingy travel. An easy way to save those pennies is with the International Student Identity Card. The ISIC card is the only internationally recognized proof of full-time student status and is issued in over 130 countries. Get your student discounts wherever you travel.
Making money while traveling
Creativity is key when making money for travel. Look online for freelance work. Some sell street art or bracelets, others play music on the street. Some hostels provide free food and accommodation in exchange for working there. As the hostel front desk about work.
You can also apply for jobs around the local area or put out ads as a babysitter. There are also programs like aupairworld.com which connects you with a host family. And WWOOF, where you work on a farm in a country in exchange for accommodation and food. You can use the weekends for travel. Check out their websites for specifics.
With budgeting and creativity anyone can make travel a possibility. Leonardo Navieras, Spanish photographer and world-traveler said, “And if you want to move, do it with or without money. Hitchhike, walk, cycle, camp, cook your food, make way. Give life a chance to surprise you.”
And so that’s it, do you or do you not want to travel?