How to Make Travel Cost-Effective
Each time I’ve studied abroad, I’ve gone about traveling in essentially the same way: pick a place, find a friend, and go! Surprisingly, it really isn’t much more difficult than that once you know where to look for cheap accommodation and transportation. Remember to use an “incognito” winder when searching and booking anything travel-related, as many websites will remember what you frequently search for, and will up-charge you based on your search history. Here’s a list of some great discount travel sites that many students take advantage of:
RyanAir is the infamous discount airline which flies all over Europe. I’ve gotten one-way tickets for as cheap as $25, and if you’re willing to jump through some of their hoops, this is a really great way to go! Be sure to read all fine print (especially sizing and weight for carry-on baggage and check-in policies) so you don’t get stuck with any hefty fees.
Easyjet is another discount airline in the same vein as RyanAir. If you can’t find a flight on RyanAir, try Easyjet (and vice versa!).
Skyscanner is a website which will search all airlines for your trip and find the absolute cheapest flight. This works for traveling outside of Europe as well, so you’ll be able to find the RyanAir and Easyjet equivalents all over the world! The great thing about this site is that they also look through the discount airlines (RyanAir, Easyjet, Flybe, WowAir, WizzAir, etc.), so you really are getting the cheapest possible option. Be careful which booking agencies you go through, though. I’ve found some of the ones that turn up in searches can be scams, so be sure to read online reviews of the company before you give anyone your credit card information. If you do book through them (and I have many times), be sure you get a confirmation from the booking agency and the actual airline!
Airbnb is a website where people can list their properties for people to pay to stay in. I like to think of this site as glorified Couchsurfing because it’s a similar concept except that you typically get your own room or apartment, and you have to pay for it. I like the extra security measures this site takes to screen its listers, I haven’t yet felt uncomfortable with one of my stays! The other great thing about this is that you will typically be staying with locals, so you’ll get a little extra cultural insight. With this type of accommodation, you’ll probably also get a little more privacy than you would if you were to stay in a hostel with 19 other people in your room. I stayed with a woman in Germany who baked us Christmas cookies and whose cat would cuddle with us! You may also find some cool “experience” stays on Airbnb, like a room in a castle or lighthouse. Use this link for a $25 travel credit toward your first trip!
Hostelworld is a hostel booking website. I use them for almost all of my bookings, especially when I’m specifically looking to stay in a hostel. I love their review system (I always check for high scores in cleanliness, security, and location), and their booking fee is extremely low. If you’re planning to do a lot of hostel crashing, you may want to invest in their gold card, and then you can avoid booking fees for the whole year.
Couchsurfing is an online community which allows travelers to connect with one another. Often, the main purpose of these connections is a free stay with a local where ever you happen to be traveling, but the site can also be used to just meet other people to go out with or for local insight into a city. Couchsurfing is a great way to stay very cheap (free) in a city, but you just have to be very carefully about who you choose to stay with. Send out a whole bunch of requests when you’re on the site (don’t expect the first host you contact to accept you), and then make sure that your host has a lot of positive reviews. Like anything else, there are trolls on this site, but I’ve known people to have great experiences provided they’ve done their research! There are also many Couchsurfing “communities” in various cities, where there are weekly meet ups in bars and other events, so check out what’s happening in the city you’re visiting to meet locals and other travelers!
There are many other travel sites which feature low-cost travel, but the ones I’ve listed above are the ones I’ve used and have had good experiences with. Feel free to share the ones you like, and I’ll check them out!
Student Travel Tips
Traveling as a student is a much different experience than traveling at almost any other time your life. In many parts of the world, students get special discounts, ticket prices, and transportation options that aren’t available to other people. Take a look at the following list of student-specific tips to help you get the most out of your traveling experiences! For study abroad-specific information, check out the Deciding to Study Abroad, Pre-Departure, and Adjusting to Life Abroad pages.
- Always bring your student ID card with you. A lot of attractions, stores, and types of transportation will offer a student discount, but you’ll need your student ID card to take advantage of it. If it’s possible, bring both you home institution ID card and the ID card from your host institution abroad so that you have a higher likelihood of it being accepted. For example, sometimes a European attraction will only accept European ID cards, so you’ll need the ID card your host university gave you.
- Always ask for a student discount. You may be shopping in a store or buying a ticket where there’s a student discount that isn’t posted, and you’ll never know about it unless you ask!
- Look for student discount cards. I usually wouldn’t recommend buying what is essentially a coupon card, except that I’ve had really good luck with some of the ones that are designed for students. The first, and most general, card is called the ISIC (International Student Identity Card). This card is universally accepted as a student ID card, so you won’t theoretically need your others (I would still recommend carrying them), but it also gives you additional benefits than what you’d get with a regular student ID card. They list the benefits and discounts on their website, so be sure to read through them to decide if its cost of $25 is worth what you’ll save using the card. The other card I’d suggest is the NUS Extra card. This is a UK based program that’s very similar to the ISIC card. If you’re studying abroad in the UK, it may be worth getting as a lot of stores and restaurants will offer NUS Extra-only discounts. Check in your host country to see if there are any other student discount cards that are worth buying!
- Take advantage of student-designed transportation. There are tour and transportation companies all over the world that cater specifically to students (although they typically also allow non-students to participate). Be sure to look for these options in the country or region you’re studying in! I have personal experience with a bus company called Student Agency, which is a Czech company that provides great transportation to other cities throughout Europe. This company offers free hot drinks, movies, newspapers, and individual radios on board, and is super comfortable- it’s a great way to go if you don’t mind sitting on a bus and looking at the countryside!