Despite what avocado toast bashers might say, I truly believe that every single student should take the opportunity to travel if they wish. Why? Because collage is a time of freedom: it is a time of exploration, discovery and growth… and you don’t grow as fast if you stay still.
While I believe that a good portion of your early twenties should be spend on developing your financial literacy and setting yourself up for the future, I also think it is really important to go places. Spending two months in Europe taught me more about myself than I’d learned in the past 18 years of my life. It taught me that I was with the right man, that I needed and wanted to go to college and that life is more than just chasing any old dollar. The biggest thing I’ve learned was probably to appreciate what I have.
Whenever I share stories about my travel, people always ask how I can afford all this while studying full time and earning minimum wage. Do I sell my kidneys on the black market? No. Do I live on instant noodles? Sometimes. Do I have a few die-hard tips that I always follow? Of course!
Without further ado, here are my must-follow-every-time tips on how I afford to travel:
- Plan the most crucial things in advance.
Most places, such as hotels and Airbnbs have discounts if you book in advance, as do flights. When we went to Paris Disneyland, buying tickets online was half-price than at the door. Knowing exactly what to do in advance will allow you to look for deals and save yourself a lot of money.
- Plan a budget.
I like to be prepared, as you probably know by now. I also like to know that I can afford to travel somewhere before I book anything, therefore before a trip I always make an expected budget. I tend to round up everything to the nearest $100 and then compare it to the actual price once we’ve paid it. Overestimating ensures that you have a bit of wiggle room if need be. For example, our Japan trip had an expected budget of $5000, out of which our expenses were only about $4500, leaving the rest as spending money!
- Travel off-season.
If we can, we travel when others don’t. This means better deals and less crowding.
- Travel on the cheap.
We only book things if we can afford them. However, this does not mean we sacrifice comfort! Yes, we go to the cheapest hotels, use public transport and eat cheaply, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. We choose to spend whatever we save on more important things, such as ice cream and Mini Mouse ears.
- Book the flights early.
I read somewhere a while ago that the best time to buy your flights is three months in advance. Scratch that! The best time to book a flight is when there’s a sale on. If you have a favourite company, I’d suggest going straight to the website and purchasing directly. There are many times we’ve seen the same flight on ‘comparison sites that advocate the best deal’ A LOT cheaper on the company’s actual site. My favourite airlines are Singapore Airlines and Qantas – they provide the best value in economy and they always have sales.
- Pack light.
This is more a survival tip than anything else. More likely than not, you will have to drag your heavy luggage yourself across the city, so pack light. This also saves you extra charges at boarding and if you can fit all your things in the carry on, that’s even more money saved!
- Eat smartly!
My boyfriend and I developed this rule when we were in Europe: if we got hungry near a tourist attraction, we had to wait for a ten minute walk. We would walk away from the attraction for ten minutes and then get food. This ensure that a) we dodged super inflated prices and b) we got decent food. The majority of restaurants and take-away shops in popular tourist areas are simply terrible. We try to avoid them like the plague and you should too.
- Go in groups.
What good is a boyfriend if you can’t travel with him?
- Go on a study tour or on exchange.
The majority of universities have short term study tours to foreign countries and exchange programmes. If you can’t afford to travel on your own, these are a great idea as they are often cheaper than if you were to book them yourself. A lot of university also offer scholarships and funding as well, especially if you come from a low-income background or a have great grades.
- I tend to stay away from travel agents.
I just prefer to look for the best deal myself. They agent can only offer you what they have in stock, which isn’t always the best value.
There we have it guys! I hope you have a great summer holiday (Australia) or winter if you’re on the other side of the world! Go places, have fun and take lots of photos. You’re young, so why not enjoy it!
Let me know in the comments below what your favourite travel tip is and why!
Remember, being broke is temporary. Being rich is a journey.