Study Abroad Tips

How to Travel as a Broke College Student: 6 Simple Tips

Picture this: you’re just getting off your flight in a busy airport. Everyone around you is chattering in a different language. You yank your backpack onto your shoulder and maneuver your way through the mass of people. You step out, finally, onto a crowded side walk and cars whiz by you to collect their passengers. You reach into your pocket for your itinerary and accommodation arrangements and you feel it– a wallet full enough to still pay for a Taco Bell dinner.

How did you do it? How did you get here?

It’s a well-known fact that travelling can take a huge bite out of your budget. If you’re anything like the rest of us, your social media feeds are FULL of your peers hopping on planes and selfie-ing with new and exciting sights. And we’ve all asked the same old question- how do they pay for this?

Let it be known that there are some people who really do just have the money for it. Regardless of their avenue, they really don’t have to worry about the price of a plane ticket.

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you still haven’t managed to budget for milk and cereal, much less an exotic getaway. Don’t worry- you’re not alone. You’re also not too far gone. There’s hope for you, just like the rest of us.

International travel can be tricky and expensive. If you want to study abroad, your best bet is to get into contact with the coordinator at your university or college. Many departments can even offer you a scholarship! Don’t simply write it off as too expensive without asking!

Domestic travel, however, is a whole different story. Want to spend Spring Break in NYC? Do it. Want to skip family dinner and head to LA for Thanksgiving? Go for it. With these tactics, it CAN be done. And you’re just the adventurer to do it!

Step One: Pick a destination.

Once you’ve chosen where you want to visit, you can begin your search for affordable travel and housing possibilities. If you’re more of the spontaneous type, you can take that road as well. Just remember that last minute flights may be cheap, but finding a room may not be (and vice versa).

Step Two: Plan ahead.

Spontaneous trips can be successful on a budget, but they’re highly unlikely. Your best bet is going to be to start watching room rates and flight prices at least a few months in advance. This gives you time to search for the cheapest options instead of buying expensive because you’re in a rush. Be patient. Your adventure will find you.

Step Three: Search for affordable housing.

You can’t stay in the Ritz on a college budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to sleep outside on a hammock. There are tons of avenues to secure a place to sleep without breaking your bank. Look into apps for renting single rooms from private property owners. Look for hotels on the out-skirts of cities who just want to fill rooms. Anything around $50 is a steal- and they ARE out there. You just have to keep looking. Remember to pay close attention to credibility and reviews– DO NOT end up in an unsafe sleeping arrangement. That is the quickest way to ruin your adventure. If you have friends or connections in the area, be sure to ask their opinions on neighborhoods and differing parts of the city (who knows, they might even be kind enough to offer their couch!).

Step Four: Watch for flights.

There are various services that allow you to select certain travel dates and locations to alert you when prices are low. Plane tickets don’t have to cost $500. Airlines sometimes drop fares as low as $99! These flights won’t simply fall into your lap, but you CAN find them. And when you do, don’t let them pass you by.

Step Five: Make a budget.

Once you find flights and housing at a low price, you’ll need to lay out your other expenses for the trip to keep your wallet happy. If you’re a food person, make sure to list a few expensive places you might want to splurge on and keep your other meals to a dollar menu. If you’re an attractions person, scope out locations that are must sees, and lay out free options as well. If you’re just up for the freedom of being in a new city, Google free locations to visit and map out fast food restaurants in the area (or purchase sandwich supplies and make your own once you arrive!).

Step Six: Enjoy!

When you travel, don’t get caught up in expensive knick-knacks or souvenirs. If you want to collect a t-shirt, go for it! Remember, though, that you came for the experience and the memories. Immerse yourself in the culture and new experiences. Photograph and journal and tell stories to burn your adventure into your memory.

However you do it and wherever you go, go! You’re only young and free once. It’s easy to try and plan all the places you want to go for retirement or “after I finish…”, but you’re not guaranteed to make it that far. The last thing you want to be is 30 tied down to a mortgage and 3 kids and wishing you’d taken that $200 flight to Miami when you had the chance. Chances to fill your travel docket may only come once, and you’ll never be the same if you take the leap!

Wherever you pictured yourself at the beginning of this article, whether domestic or abroad, do your research, make your budget, and GO! Adventure is waiting and it has your name on it!

airplane wing


Graduate Student, Former Educator, Self-Care Enthusiast, "Multipotentialite", INFP.