I am obviously not some sort of travel guru, but I do get a lot of questions on how I can afford to travel on a college budget. Sometimes the idea of traveling seems unrealistic when you are eating Kraft mac and cheese and living paycheck to paycheck each semester, but there are a few things that I found really helped me make my travel dreams a reality.
SO, YOU WANT TO TRAVEL: HOW TO GET STARTED
SET A TIMELINE FOR TRAVEL:
Ask yourself when you want to make this travel a reality? Pick a year, semester, month and week(s) that you want to travel. Choosing a date allows you one, create a travel timeline, and two help you begin your budgeting to match the amount of time you have before travel.
MAKE A TRAVEL BOARD ON PINTEREST
Seeing pictures of the place or places you want to stay will generate excitement and curiosity. Sometimes you just need that inspiration to really drive you to save!
CREATE A REALISTIC BUDGET
Where are you going? Is it expensive, or cheap? How soon are you traveling? How much do you think you could realistically save in the time until that date? Yes, you want to see and do it all, but what is realistic for you? You have to set a realistic price point that you know you’ll be able to achieve .
DO YOUR RESEARCH
I honestly couldn’t even tell you how many hundreds of hours of research I put in before Jack and I go anywhere (he thinks it’s an obsession, which he may be correct about). You should research everything. Costs, best times to travel, flights, hotels, hostels etc. There are so many things that I have found during my research that have saved us money.
Booking ahead and using discounted student sites can save you so much money. Research the popular times of year to travel to your destination. Often during peak season, everything is ridiculously overpriced.
Research tour ideas before too! Some of the tours we looked at for our Bali trip gave student discounts, or early bird discounts for booking ahead of time!
Researching Flights is HUGE. Since this most likely will be your biggest expense, it is important that you look ahead of time! I usually start looking about 6 months before travel. Our first time looking at flights for Bali the tickets were over $ 1600.00, but because of research and price watch, we were able to book a flight from LA to Denpasar, Bali for $ 893.00 and used Delta miles we acquired during our Europe trip for a free flight to LA from Minneapolis! Because we researched ahead, waited, and looked around prior to booking, we were able to save over 700.00 $ (which was more than we brought for spending money for the entire trip). I recommend getting price alert changes on sites like kayak and google flights.
TIPS TO SAVE MONEY DURING TRAVEL
TRAVEL WITH A COMPANION
Take a pal! Traveling alone can be liberating, but traveling with a friend or companion is so much better! Going with someone else helps you stay on track with your savings plan because someone else is relying on you to save your end of the trip. In addition, you are saving a lot of money!!! As soon as you put another person into the mix, you are saving 50 percent on your hotels, gas, etc. Traveling with a friend can also save you money on tours and tickets. Many times you can get discounts for having multiple travelers.
TAKE A CONNECTING FLIGHT
Layovers do suck, but they don’t suck enough to not save money! We have had a few connecting flights that have saved us hundreds of dollars. Switching planes isn’t the worst and they usually forward your checked luggage to your final destination!
STAY IN HOSTEL OR AIRBNB
I used to be really creeped out by the thought of staying in hostels we’ve all seen horror films. BUT they are amazing if you know which ones to stay at. Our favorite are the Generator Hostels (located all over Europe). When we traveled to Europe, the hostels we stayed in were going for 13 dollars a night which is much better than paying 150 dollars for a hotel. PLUS these hostels are made for college aged travelers. Therefore, their design and vibe match what you are probably looking for.
Jack and I swear by Airbnb. We have had the BEST luck finding amazing places. When we went to Bali, we stayed in a private villa with a pool, king sized bed, yard, balcony etc for 30 USD each per night. Later in our trip we stayed in a villa on a resort for only 15 dollars each per night. Talk about saving money.
BOOK A TWO WAY FLIGHT INSTEAD OF A ONE WAY ( Multiple City Travel)
If you are traveling to multiple cities, double-check your flight options before booking! Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase a two-way flight than it is to take a one way!!
BOOK SOMETHING, ANYTHING!
The ultimate way to hold yourself accountable to your savings plan is to book something initially whether that be your flight, hotel room, a few tours etc! Once you book something, the trip feels REAL, and you will most likely be better at sticking to your budget and savings plan because well, you have to!
THE ACTUAL SAVINGS PLAN
CREATE A BUDGET & SAVINGS PLAN
This is the biggest part of making sure you actually achieve your goal. A lot of people make a plan, and have ideas of travel, but fail to create a plan to make it happen. You have to be realistic, determined and dedicated. Make a plan and stick to it. I recommend basing it off of either a 6 month or 12 month savings plan. Especially if you don’t have hundreds to be shelling out every month. Making your savings plan a bit longer might be easier to stick to especially if you aren’t the best at saving.
SKIP CARIBOU, STARBUCKS OR DRUNKIN MAC DONS ONCE A WEEK
This is a great way to start your savings plan, because it’s an easy thing to do. My best friend is a caribou addict & gets coffee around 3 times a week like most overtired, overworked college students. Skipping the trip once a week and putting that money towards your travel fund will quickly start to add up!
6 month savings: 5.00 x 4 = 20 dollars per month x 6 months = $ 110.00
12 month savings: 5.00 x 4 = 20 dollars per month x 12 = $ 240.00
SET A WEEKLY ALLOWANCE FOR YOURSELF
Based off of your weekly income and bills, make yourself a weekly spending limit! Every week during the school year I have a 50 dollar weekly spending limit that covers movies, dinner with friends, ice cream, nights out etc. Once its up, I do my best to avoid spending in order to make sure I am not over spending my money on pointless things, and thus am able to save more for my travel expenses.
PICK UP ONE EXTRA SHIFT A WEEK
Yes, we all love our weekends, but even if you pick up one small shift and dedicate that money to travel only, you will find your savings fund growing quickly! My freshman year of college I picked up one extra shift a week, a short 4 hour shift and put all of the earnings I made that night straight into my Europe travel fund!
3 hour shift x 9.00 an hour = 27 $ x 4 weeks in a month = $ 108. 00 per month!
6 month savings plan: 648.00
12 month savings plan: $ 1296.00
SAVE 20 DOLLARS PER PAYCHECK
Take a small amount of money from each paycheck and transfer it directly into your savings account! Do it every payday so you aren’t even tempted to miss that money or use it! Even if its 10 dollars every pay period- at least save something. This is probably where you are going to be able to save the most money.
20.00 per paycheck x 2 paychecks per month = 40 dollars per month
6 months: 6 x 40 = $ 240.00
12 months: 12 x 40 = $ 480.00
SAVE BIRTHDAY AND CHRISTMAS MONEY
Try saving 100.00 dollars (or more) from each Birthday and Christmas! Since this money isn’t money you usually count on for things such as bills, entertainment, rent etc, it makes it easier to put a larger sum of money into your travel savings!
100 birthday + 100 Christmas = $ 200.00
LOOK AT TRAVEL EXPENSES IN SMALLER INCREMENTS
Sometimes trying to save large sums of money for one large goal seems really tough, even impossible! When Jack and I look at our trip in regards to how much we have saved, we like to break it down into smaller chunks. For example, instead of saving 2200.00 for our Bali Trip we broke it down:
1000.00 Flight Each
500.00 Hotel Each
500.00 Spending Money
If you break it down, two things happen. One, it is much less stressful to look at groups of smaller numbers. Two, it allows to you feel accomplishment when you fulfill each of the increments, which is important to limit feeling overwhelmed by your savings goal.
THE FINAL SAVINGS:
6 months: $ 110.00
12 months: $ 240.00
6 month: $ 648.00
12 month: $ 1296.00
6 or 12 month: $200.00
6 month: $ 240.00
12 month: $480.00
6 month: 1,198.00 $ for a trip!
12 Month: 2, 216.00 $ for a trip!
Just to put things into perspective, Jack and I booked our entire Bali trip (A two-week trip) for $ 2,200.00 each. That was a trip that took us literally almost around the world! The more you save, the more places you can go for longer durations! Saving for travel can seem impossible, but taking small steps will eventually lead up! The more you save, the easier it becomes because you see all that you can get out of it.