College budgeting isn't all Ramen noodles and secondhand textbooks. There has to be room for an entertainment allowance, and enough so that you can escape the trusty 10 by 15 from time to time. Traveling in college is all about pinching pennies and holding on tight to every last experience life affords. It is possible to be a tourist on the cheap, especially as a student.
If you're ready to pack your bags and see something new, then consider these seven tips about how to travel on a budget while in college.
Start a Digital Change Jar:
Image via Flickr by CollegeDegrees360
To travel – even on a budget – you should start saving. A bit of money set aside each week or month will grow over time. However, keeping a change jar in your dorm room isn't exactly the most convenient or safe way to save.
Start a digital change jar. Many banks offer programs that promote automatic savings. There's even an app for it – several, in fact. The more you save, the better your chances of traveling in the future. Whether you're traveling at low or no cost, you should always make sure you have emergency money.
Choose Monuments Over Museums:
If you want to travel on a budget, plan your trip around free attractions. Many cities offer free or low-cost pay-what-you-can tours of historic sites and monuments. Research the city and find out what the locals like.
Free services such as Trip Advisor allow you to search by city and scope out "Things to Do" in a particular location. The "Things to Do" section includes an organized list of attractions, as well reviews. The reviews come from locals and seasoned tourists alike, so it's easy to learn more about the sites that you will or won't spend money on.
Figuring out where you'll stay when you travel often leads to the biggest money-headache. There are alternatives to pricey hotels and communal hostels. You can get a lot more for your money with Airbnb and other similar services such as Couchsurfing.org.
Airbnb lets you browse through user-created listings for accommodations in specific neighborhoods. The fees are often much less than a hotel, and sometimes you can even have an entire apartment to yourself. If you want to spend close to nothing, couch-surfing is the way to go. Couch-surfing is usually free, but the host may expect you to pitch in with food or chores. The bonus: you have a built-in tour guide with advice on what to do and where to go.
Offer to Transport a Vehicle:
The opportunity to transport a car may not always coincide with your traveling fantasies. This option is best for a weekend getaway; however, there are moments when the stars align and that cross-country road trip gets paid for on someone else's dime.
Check the newspaper or local websites for car transportation requests. Before you go, request to see all the documentation proving the requester actually owns the car. Once you've established that it's a legal transaction, start haggling. Inquire what costs will be covered and if he or she will arrange return transportation.
Another option is to travel over a university break, and hitch a ride with someone who is from the place you want to visit. You can find people through university message boards, word of mouth, and from newspaper/online ads. You'll probably want to rent a car for your trip home so you have more freedom to explore, and you won't have to depend on your original ride for the rest of your trip.
Travel Long-Distance by Train:
Image via Flickr by kevin dooley
Traveling long distances by train instead of plane could add up to big savings in the long run. Sure it's less comfortable and the trip takes longer, but you'll have the opportunity to see more with money to spare. Traveling by train is also great for a cross-country experience. It's especially convenient for cheaply Euro-tripping from country to country.
Many long-distance train tickets offer nothing more than a seat, so plan accordingly. Bring enough food and comfort items to last the duration of your trip. For longer trips, it is possible to request a private train cabin; however it will significantly increase the cost.
Find Free WiFi:
Finding free WiFi is more important if you're overseas, since most smartphones come with data plans for easy communication. If you can't cover your WiFi or communication costs through any of the means above, it's time to track down the places where you can use it for free. Using free WiFi allows you to keep in touch with your friends and family without spending money on international calling cards.
Cafes and book stores are popular places to connect for free, but keep in mind that services in these locations are often reserved for paying customers. In order to play fair, order the cheapest item on the menu and spend minimal time on the Internet. After all, you came to the city to explore the town, not Facebook.
Teach to Travel Further:
Image via Flickr by DFAT photo library
Looking for a long-term travel experience? Teaching English abroad is a productive way for college students to travel on a budget – especially since it often comes with academic credit. In many cases, the cost of your stay overseas is completely covered and you'll receive a modest salary. However, most students are responsible for securing roundtrip airfare.
If you're intimidated by the price of the plane ticket, have no fear. There are ways to cover that cost too. Consider creating an Indiegogo campaign to raise money. Friends and family are more likely to fund a noble cause than a spring break party trip.
Teaching English abroad may be a cheap way to travel, but it offers a wealth of experience. In addition to the fulfilling opportunity to work with children, you'll also typically stay with a host family. Living with a host family will offer invaluable insight into a culture you may never get to learn about otherwise – especially firsthand.
Now that you're in top shape to start your very own DIY travel movement, it's time to start exploring. What are your favorite budget travel hacks and tips? What are your must-see destinations to see on a dime? Share your experiences in the comments below.