7 Ways Students Can Travel Abroad for Less
The years you spend in college are arguably the only time you'll drink quite so much coffee, live with all of your best friends, and learn so much in such a short, intense period. They're also unique for most people in that you're given the flexibility to spend time traveling during long breaks from class or during a year spent studying abroad.
Unfortunately, it's not a time when you're likely to be earning a lot of income that you can throw toward travel. But there are several ways students can save money and travel for less.
1. Enjoy cheaper flights
Websites such as Student Universe and STA Travel offer special rates on flights for students and youth. Although booking through a third-party website always comes with caveats (changes and cancellations may be more difficult, for example, than if you book directly with the airline), it's worth checking these websites for deals.
StudentUniverse specializes in discounted fares for students at degree-granting universities, though it does also offer some flights for anyone between the ages of 18 and 25. It has been around since 2000 and works with 75 airlines to negotiate cheaper rates, passing on the discounts to customers.
STA offers discounted tickets for students, teachers, and anyone under 26, and has been in business since 1979. Student tickets are marked with a little blue circle with an "S" inside for "student." Youth tickets are marked in green with a "Y." (See also: 8 Money Moves Students Should Make for a Gap Year)
2. Always travel with your student ID
Be sure to bring along your student ID wherever you travel, since it can represent serious savings while you're away from home. You may already know that at some museums and historical sites, a student ID will get you reduced or even free admission. But some people are surprised to find that even movie theaters will sometimes also give a discounted price for showing a student ID.
If you have some shopping to do before you leave, or you need to pick up some new items during your trip, Madewell offers a 15 percent discount on in-store purchases for students and teachers. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Students)
3. Take advantage of other student cards
Beyond a student ID, there are other student discount cards that can help you to save money while traveling. The ISIC (International Student Identity Card) costs $25, but may be worth it, since it gives you access to more than 150,000 discounts on concerts, accommodations, museums, and restaurants.
The ISIC card has the added benefit of being an internationally recognized means of proving your status as a student, which is valuable in places where a foreign student ID may not be accepted. Plan to order your card at least four weeks before your departure so that it will have time to arrive in the mail. You may even find yourself using it for discounts while you're at home, too.
4. Incorporate travel with your studies
Travel can be a unique learning experience, so why not get credit for your time abroad? Some universities offer amazing opportunities to incorporate travel into your course of studies. Check with your department about what kinds of internships or summer experiences it may accept for credit.
Another option is to find classes that include travel. For instance, at my university, there were certain (highly coveted) classes that delved deeply into Italian art history. At the end of the term, the class took a two-week trip to see the artwork that they had been learning about all semester.
Depending on your university and the specific department, these trips may even receive funding from the university to defray the cost of the trip for students.
5. Leverage study-abroad programs
Studying abroad is another way to seamlessly incorporate extra traveling into your student life. Not only will you get to experience life in whatever country you choose, you'll also have the opportunity to travel to areas nearby. Having a home base abroad for a semester can be an excellent way to get to know a different region of the world and learn about a new culture and language. (See also: Budgeting for Study Abroad)
I studied abroad in the south of France, and during that time, I was able to travel extensively throughout Europe, visiting Prague, London, Budapest, and Istanbul, to name just a few destinations. While these trips would have been extremely expensive from the United States, since I was already in France, I could take advantage of cheap airfare on discount airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet. Plus, travel time was often only a few hours, so I could see these new cities over a long weekend.
I reduced the cost of these trips further by staying with friends or acquaintances who were studying abroad in other European cities. That not only saved me the price of a hotel, it also gave me more of an insider's perspective on these destinations. When I didn't have a friend living in the place I was visiting, I'd use Couchsurfing to find locals who would host me for free. (See also: 7 Ways to Make Money During a Semester Abroad)
6. Apply for grants
It's worthwhile to spend some time researching what grants are available through your school. Some top universities have travel funds for undergraduates to use for internships, research projects, or other programs abroad. You can apply for a grant to cover some or all of the costs of your travel and housing while you're away.
Some grants are offered directly through schools, but others are open to students across the country. Spend time preparing your proposal, since these grants can be competitive.
7. Travel offseason for better rates
Prices can vary a lot depending on whether you travel in peak season or not. Take advantage of the flexibility of being a student to book cheap flights at less popular times of the year. Being flexible with your travel dates can pay off, too. Use websites such as Skyscanner that allow you to filter your search by the cheapest date to fly. If you haven't decided on a destination yet, you can also search flexible departure and arrival airports. (See also: ITA Matrix Is the Best Kept Secret for Travelers)
When I was in college, I decided to take a semester off school to travel, and ended up being able to take advantage of an opportunity to travel to Chennai, India from Paris for just $200 — half the usual price. Once in India, I traveled for a month on only $200, so my cheap ticket was the equivalent of an extra month of travel.
While you might think that traveling is outside of a meager student budget, hopefully this list will show you some of the unique advantages that students have for traveling cheaply.
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