I love traveling. Many people have heard me say that travel is my “anti-drug.” That’s the truth. There is nothing better than visiting someplace different and enjoying a new city. When I graduated high school and went to college, I vowed to travel whenever possible.
Looking back at my college years, I successfully did that. As an undergrad, I visited several cities, such as Miami, NYC, Las Vegas, and Nashville. People would ask me, “Aren’t college students supposed to be broke?” In today’s post, I discuss different ways to travel as a college student. It’s going to be easier than you thought. Participating in illegal activities was not one of them! Cheap student travel can happen.
Travel as a College Student
Stay With Friends or Family
The 1st way to travel as a college student was to stay with family or friends. On some of the trips that I went on, I stayed with friends. I was there if they had an extra couch or decent floor space. I easily saved a couple of hundred dollars by doing that. It took the stress out of trying to find a hotel or other lodging place.
Use Some of Your Student Refund
We’re up to number three on the list of how to travel as a college student. I will be the first to say I never purchased a car or expensive clothes with my student refund. However, I did use some of my refund for a few trips. There may be better decisions than this, especially if your refund is student loan money. You will eventually have to pay back. Just keeping it real, some of my refund was from student loans. I don’t regret using it to travel at all. It allowed me to see other cities besides Atlanta and Savannah. My comfort zone expanded because of that. I’m sure the same will happen to you. Just spend your refund sparingly.
Work a PT Job
I worked a part-time job during the majority of my college days. At one of my jobs, I was a busser at a restaurant. I made GREAT money there. After I had paid a couple of bills I had each month, I saved a decent amount for travel. A couple of road trips and fraternity conferences were paid for with that money. The crazy thing was that I didn’t get a car until the summer before my senior year. I found several ways to get to that job before then.
Travel as a Group
The most common way I saved money was to travel with a group. There were numerous road trips where 4-5 of us would pile into someone’s car and split the gas and hotel charges. If we knew someone that lived in the city that we were visiting, we would save even more money by just having to pay for gas. Numerous road trips cost less than $60 per person because of this strategy.
If you’re going to do group travel, make sure that you and the people you’re traveling with are on one accord. Out of all the group trips I’ve been on, I only had one that started badly. To keep it short, I will say that I had to book a room at another hotel to keep people from potentially fighting. Most of the group came with me, while three stayed at the original hotel. Once we separated from them, the trip turned out great.
Study Abroad Program
Studying abroad is an excellent way for college students to gain new experiences, meet new people, and travel the world. By participating in a study abroad program, you can earn a global perspective on your studies in college, experience new cultures and lifestyles, and develop valuable skills that will help you in your career.
The way it works is that you apply for a study abroad program through your college or university. The application may be required to include letters of recommendation from faculty members, an essay describing why you want to participate in the program, and a statement of financial resources. Once accepted into the program, you will typically work with a study abroad advisor who will help you with your travel details, such as the logistics of flights and accommodations.
Backpacking your way through another country is a great way to see the sights and experience new cultures firsthand. One of the benefits is that you will have more freedom to explore on your own and decide where to go and what to do, depending on your interests and preferences. There are many ways to backpack – from backpacking across Europe using the Eurail pass to taking a tour of national parks in the United States to trekking through a remote country on foot.
Remember that you will need to be flexible and adaptable to travel on a backpacker’s budget. You may need to stay in inexpensive hostels or guesthouses or camp outdoors in a tent. If you plan to go backpacking on your own, you should have some basic survival skills, such as knowing how to read a map, set up camp, and find your way in the wilderness.
Hostels are another popular way for college students to travel affordably. These accommodations typically offer rooms where you share a bathroom with other guests or dorm-style accommodations with bunk beds. There are common areas where you can hang out, meet fellow travelers, or even work on your laptop.
Although there are many benefits to staying in hostels, such as low cost and social opportunities, it is essential to research before you book a room. For example, consider the hostel’s location and whether it is safe for women travelers. Also, find out what amenities are offered – for example, many hostels will have a shared kitchen where you can cook your own meals.
Another popular way for college students to travel is through an exchange program. This program allows you to study at a foreign university while paying your regular tuition at your home university. There are typically exchange programs through student organizations or universities themselves.
If you decide to participate in an exchange program, you will need to work with your college or university to get approved for the program. You will typically need to pass a test of your language skills, provide a statement of financial resources, and meet other requirements depending on the program.
If you have a strong interest in volunteering abroad, many organizations can help you find volunteer opportunities. These types of programs may take place in foreign countries for periods of a week or longer.
When you volunteer abroad, you typically work with local organizations and communities to help with various projects. For example, you may help to construct houses, teach English in schools, mentor children, or work on agricultural projects.
While participating in a volunteer program can be very rewarding, but it is essential to do research before signing up for one. Consider what type of project you would like to work on and ensure that your skills match the program’s needs. Also, find out what training or support will be offered and what steps you need to take to get started.
Stay with frat/sorors
I joined a fraternity during my third year in college. Little did I know how many people I would meet and network with because of that. After I had crossed, my frat brothers and I started going to parties and step-shows at other schools. We began meeting people from all over the country. A lot of them were cool. They would say, “Let me know when you’re coming to my city. You can stay with us”. I can’t remember how often I took people up on their offers. One semester, I went on road trips almost every other weekend. I only remember coming out of the pocket for a hotel room twice. I wrote all that to say that if you are in a frat or sorority, use your network and reach out to people.
Below are some travel resources that I recommend
I’ve been using Expedia since I was in college. This is one of my go-to websites when it comes to travel. They have a lot of hotel deals on their site. You can get last-minute deals and travel packages on their site.
Some days you will be driving longer than others. You may not want to get off the exit or go to a store. Bring a cooler and fill it up with food and snacks. You have no idea how handy this will be for you. Here is an example of a cooler that you can use. It’s only $14 and doesn’t take up much space.
If you want to save money on your lodging, check out VRBO. They have tons of properties on their site. I booked rooms with them in Cuba and Miami. The places were lovely, and I saved money. If you want to try out VRBO for the first time, check out my link here.
Did you travel much as a college student? If you did, how did you make it happen? What other ways do you have for cheap student travel?
Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.