10 ways to stretch your student travel dollar

Travel can be expensive, especially when you’re a student. But hopping on a plane and jetting off to appease your wanderlust doesn’t have to be a pipe dream just because you’re in school. In fact, traveling as a student can be easier – and cheaper – than you might think. With the right tools and travel hacks, getting to that beach bar in Bali, or finally getting to eat a croissant in a Paris café, is totally doable. Whether you’re a student traveling while on break or you’re heading out for a semester abroad, here are a few easy ways to stretch your student travel dollar.

Do your research

Before you start mentally packing your backpack, take the time to do some preliminary research, which can help you save money right off the bat. Start with looking into destinations that are going to give you the most bang for your travel buck. While you might be really into swooshing down the slopes in the Swiss Alps this winter, you can likely take your travel dollars a lot further somewhere in Southeast Asia or Central America. You might also want to consider doing some research into the cheapest times to fly to the destinations on your must-visit list.

Be flexible

Start by being flexible about where you travel. For example, consider the type of trip you want to take instead of the specific destination. Want to hit the beach? Look at multiple beachy destinations before setting your sites on one in particular. You should also be as flexible as possible with travel dates, since flight prices can vary significantly depending on when you travel.

Work for accommodation

One of the best ways to travel on a budget is to volunteer your time in exchange for accommodation and, in some cases, food. Workaway is an organization that puts interested “workawayers” in contact with hosts around the world who offer room and board in exchange for basic chores. For example, a quick search under Central America revealed a hostel in Antigua looking for someone to do some light cooking, gardening and helping out with tourists in exchange for a bed at the hostel. HelpX is another organization that offers work exchange opportunities across a number of destinations.

For those who are particularly interested in getting their hands dirty, WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) offers the chance to work on farms around the world in exchange for accommodation and food. How long you stay is worked out between you and your potential host.

Have a specific skill you want to share? You can try Skill Stay, which connects hosts and helpers willing to offer their skills for a few hours a day in exchange for housing. Sign up as a helper and choose the country you’re interested in, the skill you’re offering (anything from babysitting to accounting to cleaning) and the dates you want to travel to see what’s available.

Stay cheap – or for free (without working)

In addition to volunteering, there are a few other ways to minimize costs when it comes to where you rest your head. For free places to stay, check out Couchsurfing, which connects travelers with locals who have spare space for guests. If that’s something within your comfort zone, it can be a good way to meet people as you travel and get tips from in-the-know locals who can share their picks for places to eat, drink and hang out that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Hostels are your next best option as most are considerably cheaper than hotels. They also offer an easy way to meet other travelers, a huge perk if you’re backpacking solo. Check out hostel booking sites like Hostel World and Hostel Bookers to see what’s available where you’ll be going.

Get a student discount card

An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) will give you quite a few travel perks and can help you save money on everything from attractions to accommodations. It’s the only internationally recognized proof of full-time student status, which means you can use it worldwide to access over 150,000 discounts and benefits in over 130 countries. If you’re not a student, but still 30 years of age or younger, you can get the International Youth Travel Card instead to take advantage of deals and discounts.

Another discount card option is the International Student Exchange Card (ISEC), which also offers tons of travel discounts for students on everything from hostels and B&Bs to public transportation, museums, cultural sites and more.

Take advantage of discounts on trains and buses

Your student status can often get you discounts on bus and train travel. For example, students age 13 to 25 with a valid student ID are eligible for a 15 percent discount on travel with Amtrak. In Canada, students traveling with Greyhound can save 25 percent on an adult fare with a valid International Student Identity Card, or save 10 percent on adult regular one-way or round-trip fares with any valid photo student ID from a Canadian or American secondary or post-secondary school.

While you don’t have to be a student to take advantage of deals on Eurail passes, if you’re 25 or younger, you can save 35 percent off the adult price on a European rail pass.

Or try ridesharing

Ridesharing can be another good way to save money while you’re traveling.  RdVouz, for example, matches riders with drivers who are on road trips all around the world, making it easy get where you want to go without having to stray too far. Other rideshare options include BlaBla Car and OpenRide.

Save with student-only flight discounts

Make sure to search for flights with student fares from sites like STA Travel and Student Universe, which specialize in offering lowers rates for students on flights, hotels and tours. Some airlines offer their own discounts as well. 

Hit up friends and family for contacts abroad

Once you know where you want to travel, start asking friends, family and even classmates or co-workers to see if anyone in your inner circle knows someone in that destination you can stay with, or meet up with, while you’re there. Who knows – that person might not have an extra bed but might know someone else who does. At a minimum, you can get some local insight to help guide your travel plans.

Reach out on social media

If asking around among your immediate circle isn’t netting you any results, expand your search to social media. Put it out there on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that you’re heading to Florence and Rome and ask if anyone has any local pals you can connect with. There’s no telling who knows someone in that far-flung spot you’re heading to,  so it’s worth asking around in the hopes of saving a few bucks while you’re traveling. (Do note that while social media can be a great connector, it’s important to be savvy about the information you put out there. Don’t provide specific details of your trip in such a public space and be sure to only take referrals from people you trust.)

Do you have any other tips for making the most of your student travel budget? Let us know in the comments.

Feature photo: Unsplash/ averie woodward

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