How to travel cheaply as a student

I’m currently a freshman in college, and I have been to 11 countries. Many people ask just how exactly I can afford to, well what people don’t realize is that there are deals all over the internet waiting to be discovered. Luckily I am here to give you insider tips on the best way to travel cheap.

1.Flights?! They’re always so expensive

Not quite, through this website Secret Flying, I have been able to score cheap flights, so cheap that I got tickets to Bangkok, Thailand for $460! I’ll be going next month. Usually tickets are the cheapest in the low season. Asia the low season is summertime. Europe the low season is the winter time. Plan your trips around those times and you can score awesome flights!

2. When should I go?

As I mentioned before, usually it’s best to go in the low season. I went to Europe in the winter and had a blast. When people picture Europe, they picture the summertime. Sadly in the summertime is when everything is a million dollars (but I’m serious! Everything is expensive). Go in the Spring (where it’s still a bit hot) and Winter. There’s still so much to see in the winter that many people don’t realize, imagine skiing in the Swiss Alps, or going to Lake Como in Italy. Amsterdam is hauntingly beautiful in the winter if we are being honest

3. Bring a friend

By bringing a friend, it will save you ALOT of money in the long run because you can spilt the cost of accommodation and even food. The options are endless! It cuts the cost of the trip in half and you really do get more for your money. If you travel to Asia with your friend, you will get more things because the cost will already be cheap.

4. Where will I stay?

Airbnb is so useful in Europe if you don’t have a fear of being murdered (this won’t happen). You will stay at the nicest places with the nicest people through Airbnb. I have met a lot of great people through Airbnb and saved so much money. Many hotels offer deals if you’re afraid of Airbnb’s, I didn’t use Airbnb in Egypt for safety reasons, instead I opted to stay at the Marriot. They had a great offer that included breakfast!

Skip out on eating out, it all adds up in the end. In Europe I did eat out a lot, which was very bad! But come on Italian pasta and pizza is so worth the splurge! Many times you can go to the supermarkets and stock up on food, in the end you will save a lot of money that you can use to buy cute items to take back home

6. There are free tours

Instead of spending money on tours, many cities in Europe offer free tours. Many of them are pay whatever you want because the tour guides deserve to be paid to be honest. I love that free tours are offered because I don’t want to pay $70 for a tour of Paris, that money can go to something better.

7. Learn the metro system

YES! This one is important, in Paris alone I almost spent $200 on UBERS! The metro system was easily accessible but I was too lazy. I wanted to see everything really quickly and I didn’t want to wait because I am in Paris! Learning the metro system will save you a ton of money, believe me

8. Arrange cab beforehand

In Egypt I spent ALOT of money on cabs, many people will swindle tourist. You have to pay because you want to get out of the airport really quickly, they play on your emotions. Websites like Expedia can arrange cabs for you already in certain countries! It’s helpful and saves money

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How to travel cheaply as a student

Before heading straight to book a train ticket for your next journey, it’s worth reminding yourself that trains can be even more expensive than flights these days.

As comfortable as taking a train or driving in your own car can be if you have a long journey, the amount of money you’ll be able to save if you travel by coach will make it well worth the back pain and leg cramp – we promise.

Plus, it’s actually possible to get coach tickets for even less. We’ve got tips on how you can find the best deals on coach travel (including how to get a huge 25% off a trip), plus the best companies to travel with.

What’s in this guide?

Cheapest coach and bus companies

These are the best coach companies for cheap fares and tickets:

Megabus

You’ve most likely seen Megabus coaches out on the road. They’re identifiable by their bright blue and yellow branding, so they’re hard to miss.

The deals they offer (such as coach tickets from £1.50) can seem a bit too good to be true, but they really are just extremely cheap.

You can also get 10% off your Megabus journey if you book online with a TOTUM card.

National Express

National Express is the longest-running coach company in the UK, so you can rely on their sturdy reputation when it comes to getting you from A to B with the least amount of fuss possible.

You can get a third off the price of your ticket by using a Young Persons Coachcard (more on this later. ) for £12.50 a year, but these cards can’t be used for savings with Megabus.

If you don’t travel enough to justify a coach card, National Express also offer a 20% discount on full-price fares to TOTUM cardholders (15% for UNiDAYS).

Snap is a new player on the coach scene and, unlike National Express and Megabus, it doesn’t have its own fleet of buses.

Instead, Snap matches up groups of people who are all looking to make a similar journey and puts them on a bus run by what they describe as some of the UK’s top independent coach operators.

One of the bonuses of Snap is that you can create your own custom route and share it with people in your network. Then, if enough people sign up for it, Snap will run the service – perfect if you’re part of a uni society!

Of course, Snap does depend on enough users wanting to take a specific journey for it to take place – but for popular routes, this shouldn’t be a huge problem.

Usually, if you sign up through up our Snap link, you can get 25% off a return journey. However, this offer has been paused due to coronavirus – keep an eye out as we’re hoping it will resume again soon.

Coach and bus ticket booking sites

Of course, you don’t have to buy your coach and bus tickets directly through Snap, Megabus or National Express.

There are loads of sites where you can book coach tickets. Although their prices may not be too different compared to tickets bought directly from the coach or bus operator, some of the apps and websites are a lot easier to use. What’s more, some will also have cashback offers.

Some of the most popular sites for booking bus and coach tickets include:

In terms of prices, National Express and Megabus tend to offer similar fares, so it’s just a matter of searching for your date of travel and destination to see what comes up – and keep in mind both student discounts.

How to save money on coach and bus fares

Follow these tips to get the best deals on coach and bus tickets:

Buy a National Express Coachcard

How to travel cheaply as a student

If you’re going to be doing a decent amount of travelling, at just £12.50 for a year’s pass (or £30 for three years), it’s worth investing in a Young Persons Coachcard – it’s similar to the 16–25 railcard, but for coach travel.

Young Persons Coachcards are available to full-time students and anyone aged between 16–26, and these cards will save you a third off Standard and Fully Flexible fares. But that’s not all – you’ll also get 10% off travel to festivals and events.

Switch bank accounts

Did you know that some banks offer free Coachcards as an incentive when you sign up to a student account with them?

Both NatWest and RBS currently offer a free 4-year Coachcard when you open a student account with them – and it’s so easy to switch banks.

Book coach tickets in advance

It’s sometimes easier said than done, but if you do know the dates you’d like to travel far in advance, this could see you saving a fairly substantial chunk on the price of your ticket.

Break your journey up into multiple stops

Obviously the easiest, most comfortable and least stressful way to travel by coach is to just get one bus that takes you directly to your destination.

Check if other destinations close by are cheaper

How to travel cheaply as a student

If you’re using a ticket aggregator like CheckMyBus, widening the search mileage for your starting point and final destination can bring the price down a little.

Travel off-peak

Travelling at less popular times will almost always be cheaper, simply because the tickets are in less demand.

If there’s no need for you to be in your destination at a particular time, you’ll save more by being flexible. If you can carry out your journey at off-peak times, we’d definitely recommend doing so!

Getting off-peak coach tickets usually means travelling in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, and avoiding weekends.

Look out for deals

Every now and then, companies like Megabus give away free tickets (although there is a 50p booking fee), and often their fares can be as low as £1!

If you decide to spend a little extra to travel by train, make sure you know when you’re due a refund.

How to travel cheaply as a student

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Note: As you plan travel during the coronavirus pandemic, please check the CDC and State Department websites for current guidance and travel restrictions.

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a pall over the travel industry and is likely to send the global economy into a recession. Nobody knows when travel will resume at anything like its normal pace, nor who will be able to afford a vacation when it does resume.

Previously, we’ve explained how to book airfare for maximum flexibility and prepare your finances for a recession . Now, we offer a glimmer of hope for those worried that they may have to scrap their travel dreams. Here are the details about four ways to travel cheaply during an economic downturn.

1. Play the rewards game

Maybe you’re already a points pro, or maybe the idea of learning how to maximize points and miles gives you an anxiety attack. In any case, the easiest way to travel "cheaply" while tightening your personal finances is to play the rewards game.

Start small: Get a highly rated travel credit card with a low annual fee, and use the points or miles earned from the sign-up bonus to take your first trip. Or, if you’re already sitting on a stack of rewards and have been waiting for the right time to use them, this may be the time.

Keep in mind that, despite what Instagram influencers and lifestyle blogs may promote, even rewards travel isn't "free." Even for the most dedicated rewards maximizers, it carries many costs that can add up, including:

Fuel surcharges, taxes and resort fees. These can add up to hundreds of dollars, especially for international flights.

Credit card annual fees. Those eye-popping sign-up bonuses are often offered by cards that carry (sometimes hefty) annual fees. Even a $95 fee can add up after a few years, so stay aware of what you’re spending to earn the big benefits.

Change and cancellation fees. As many of us became intimately aware this spring, reward bookings may only cost points or miles to make in the first place — but they can cost serious cash if your plans change.

Here’s one way to get motivated with rewards travel: Make it a challenge. Set yourself a goal of booking a family trip using only points and miles. You’ll be surprised how creative you can get within reasonable constraints.

2. Stretch your dollars

While nobody knows what the future of the global economy holds, one thing is almost certain: Currency exchange rates will change. Already since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen the U.S. dollar gain on the Mexican peso, from 18 pesos per dollar at the start of the year to 24 pesos per dollar on April 20.

Of course, these exchange rates will change constantly and unpredictably, so your best bet is to check current rates before planning your trip. A relatively strong dollar will bring down the effective costs of everyday travel expenses like food and rideshares, but can also knock down the big-ticket items like hotel rooms and train tickets.

3. Hit the road

Road trips are always a budget-friendly alternative to air travel, but many factors are looking to make this an especially good time to take one:

With oil prices crashing, the cost of gas is likely to remain low.

It’s easier to maintain social distance in a vehicle than on a crowded airplane.

Road trips are more flexible than air travel, should conditions change.

True cheapskates can save money by camping, while the less adventurous can rent RVs , try glamping or use hotel points . And the amount saved on airfare should easily cover the cost of a few greasy spoon roadside lunches.

4. Be mindful

This might sound like a stretch (not the yoga kind), but we’ve described in the past how mindfulness practice can help make seemingly uncomfortable travel more enjoyable . And being comfortable with more spartan digs means spending less on luxurious hotels and premium cabin airfare.

That’s right: Meditating can save you money, though that’s obviously not the only reason to do it.

Another personal financial tool enhanced by mindfulness (and many other contemplative practices): It allows for more "responding" and less "reacting" when making purchase decisions. That is, instead of seeing a fancy room at the St. Regis available for "only" 60,000 points and immediately booking it, you might take an extra minute to ask yourself: "Do I really need the luxury, or would I rather stay more nights in a simpler room?"

The bottom line

It will be some time before many of us start making travel plans. But for those worried that the combination of pandemic and global recession means they may never travel again — don’t lose hope.

Whether investing extra time learning how to leverage points and miles to your maximum benefit, hitting the road in an RV, or, yes, sitting on a meditation cushion, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your wanderlust under a tight budget.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

About the author: Sam Kemmis is a travel rewards expert at NerdWallet specializing in airline and hotel loyalty programs. His work has been featured by Fast Company, The Associated Press and The Onion. Read more

How to travel cheaply as a student

A Beginner’s Guide for Travel Points and Miles

Best Travel Credit Cards

Baffled by Points and Miles? Let the 80/20 Rule Guide You

How to travel cheaply as a student

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Ready to book tickets back to school, home for the holidays or to a new city for a weekend trip? Wherever or whenever you need to travel, we’ve got student discounts on domestic flights to get you there for less. Scroll down to see some of the latest deals on flights in the US.

Student flights in the US

We get it: you’re a student and you’ve got places to go. Get back to school or away for spring break for less with our student discounts on flights. Hang out on the beach in LA or Miami—great for anytime of year, not just spring break—or see the lights of the city in New York or Chicago. Looking for somewhere a bit more off the beaten path? Head to Austin, Asheville, Portland or Boulder—or check a few National Parks off your list! There’s endless opportunities for amazing places to travel in the US. Not ready to book yet but want to stay posted? Sign up for our email newsletters and get our best deals sent right to your inbox.

Keep reading for more tips on how to find the cheapest flights, our favorite cities to visit in the US, best festivals and events and more!

What are the main US airport hubs?

Though you can fly almost anywhere in the US—there’s over 500 airports in the country!—certainly some airports are bigger and have more flight options than others. The busiest airports in the US include Atlanta (ATL), Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Chicago (CHI) and New York (JFK). You’ll find tons of flights to and through these airports, whether you’re just flying within the US or looking to go international as well.

Best US Airlines

There are so many airlines in the US to choose from, it may feel hard to know which to choose. The good news is, most US airlines are great and offer a variety of perks and services for students and travelers. Some of our most popular US airlines include American, United, Alaska Airlines, and Jetblue. Even better, you can get a discount on all of these airlines when you book with us, just by being a student!

Don’t care which airline you fly? We partner with 90+ airlines and you can search them all at once on our website, so you can easily find the best price and route for you.

Want to explore the world on a student budget? Students can get discounted flights on many of the world’s largest carriers with ScholarTrip. Check out these top tips for saving money on your next flight:

How to travel cheaply as a student

1. Sign up for a free ScholarTrip Account:

We get such good deals and discounts from airlines because our fares are intended just for college students. Some airlines require that we confirm that you are a student before showing you their flights, so be sure to register with ScholarTrip and verify your student status before searching. The whole process takes less than a minute, and it’s free to join!

Sign up now and start saving today.

How to travel cheaply as a student

2. Be flexible:

If you want to get the cheapest prices on flights, consider traveling during off-peak times. This may mean flying on certain days of the week (like Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays), or during less busy times of the year. We automatically search 3 days before and after your search date to find you the best deals possible.

How to travel cheaply as a student

3. Pack light:

Most airlines charge additional fees for bags on top of the price of the ticket, so traveling with just a small bag can save you $60 to $200 round-trip in checked bag fees. Be sure to look for the carry on and checked baggage icons when shopping on ScholarTrip to see what free luggage allowance is included with the price of your ticket.

How to travel cheaply as a student

4. Consider alternative airports:

Many large metropolitan areas can be reached by more than one airport. We will search nearby airports so you can decide if flying into a nearby airport can save you additional cash.

Here’s how to see the world while still paying for college.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you purchase through our links. Please read our full disclosure here.

It can seem like everyone is traveling in their early twenties. After all, social media is full of photos of people standing in front of the Eiffel Tower or lying on the beach in Greece. But when you’re trying to pay for college, seeing the world can seem out of the question.

If you’re a wannabe world traveler who thinks that it’s too expensive to travel in college, don’t despair! Read on to discover how to travel as a college student without going into (more) debt.

Table of Contents

1. Go on a Trip with a Club

How to travel cheaply as a student

Check with some clubs you’re interested in to see if they take any trips during breaks or on weekends. Often, these trips are payed for using funds from the club account, so they’re completely or almost free!

For example, last semester I went backpacking for a week with my school’s outdoor club. They provided us with food, supplies, and transportation from Wisconsin to Georgia, all completely free! This is a great way to travel cheap.

Depending on how big your school is and whether or not you’re a member of the club, getting a spot on club trips may be fairly competitive. However, it’s worth a try if you want a free way to get off campus and see a new place.

2. Organize a Road Trip

If you or someone you know owns a car, you could get a group together and plan a road trip!

With a car full of people splitting costs, this can be a great way to travel inexpensively. Save money by eating some of your meals at grocery stores and staying at hostels or campgrounds.

(Also, be sure to see our guide for how to pack for a road trip for full tips!)

3. Stay with Friends

If friends are from out of town and are going home for a break or a weekend, ask if you can join them. This is one of our favorite ways to travel cheap, plus it’s great bonding time with your friends!

This way, your food and lodging will be free, and you’ll be able to see their city like a local. In exchange, don’t forget to help them out with chores and respect their schedule.

4. Go to a Conference

If a department that you’re involved in is organizing a trip to a conference, sign up to attend! Not only will you get to see a new area, but you’ll also get to learn more about a subject that you’re interested in and network.

While most of your time will be spent attending the conference, you will probably have your evenings free to explore the city.

5. Join a Frequent Flyer Program

If you go to school out of state, you probably fly a lot. It is likely worth it to set up a frequent flyer account to get some miles that could be saved up for a fun trip.

6. Plan Summer Internships with Location in Mind

If you’re planning to get a job or internship over the summer, consider finding one in a city that you haven’t been to yet. You could even intern abroad.

Wondering where to stay? Try to find internships that provide free housing. Some internships will also give you a gas stipend or subway card to help you get around.

Spending a summer working in a new city gives you plenty of time to become familiar with a new place.

7. Study Abroad

While obvious, don’t forget about studying abroad. This is the most popular tip for how to travel as a college student, because it’s actually affordable much of the time. Depending on your school, studying abroad can cost the same amount of money as a normal semester at college.

Additionally, there are plenty of scholarships for students studying abroad that you can apply for to cover extra costs like airfare.

What are your tips for how to travel as a college student?

Were these ideas helpful? How do you travel in college? What are your favorite ways to travel cheap in general? Let us know in the comments!

Boat travel is a charming alternative to long-haul flying, and far better for the environment, too. A little known and inexpensive boat option, freighter travel, is popular with student travelers and adventurers of all ilk, but figuring how to hop aboard a freighter isn't as simple as you may expect.

When it comes to budget travel, with Easy Cruise ships bobbing up in world ports, "regular" cruises are now navigating the cheap boat travel world. So what's up with freighter travel, cruises, and boat travel in general?

About Freighter Travel

Freighter travel is more expensive than flying (fares range from $65 -$130 per person per day, depending on the freighter company you travel with), but it's a life-changing experience. Freighter boats travel the same seas as do their luxurious sisters in cruise lines, like Cunard, but there the boat travel similarities only begin.

Because of the length of freighter boat trips (Long Beach, California to Tokyo generally takes about 13 days), you’ll have time to strike up friendships and possibly meet travelers returning home — your destination area — who can become contacts and give you valuable travel tips. Keep in mind that freighter travel is the opposite of glamorous, and you may find yourself without much to keep yourself amused. Keep yourself entertained with a well-stocked Kindle and a newfound appreciation of boredom.

How It Works

Most freighter travel is set up in the form of a cruise that returns to a starting point, but almost all freighter companies offer one-way fares, which is the way to go. You can set up one-way trips, or "segments," as they're called in the freighter industry, and arrange for a segment to get there and a segment to get home.

Or you can choose to fly either way — taking a boat to your destination can be a great segue from your busy life here to your busy life there, but you may want to fly back in the interest of time.

Cost and Reservations

Hopping a cargo boat without a reservation and with the intent of working off your passage is seldom feasible; most freighter company crews come from the Pacific and the Far East, and the captain is rarely looking for a temporary boy/girl. Go through Freighter Cruises — a freighter boat travel agency (yes, there's such a thing).

About Cruise Ships

Freighter travel (freighter cruises) is the most economical way for student travelers to sail the high seas (though most definitely not the cheapest way to cross the oceans), but if you just won big bucks on a game show, you might consider a luxury ocean liner for the sheer comfort factor. Bear in mind that fellow cruise ship passengers are likely to be older and the cruise ship atmosphere far more formal and insulated than that of a freighter boat.

Short and Sweet (and Cheap) Cruises With Easy Cruise

Meet Easy Cruise, a no-frills cruise line touring the Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean islands (and one day, the world, evidently – expansion plans are underway). EasyCruise is meant for young people* on a budget – if you fit that bill, you probably wouldn't fit in with passengers on an expensive cruise line hunting down seafood buffets and the shuffleboard court anyway.

*Easy Cruise defines "young people" like this: minimum passenger age is 18; Easy Cruise says, "We have not, however, set a maximum age restriction, as people older than our target range (20-40 years old) might be young at heart!"

Whether traveling by spendy cruise ship or freighter boat, boat travel is boat travel. It's vital to pack sparingly, avoid motion sickness, and spend onboard pennies sparingly to enjoy your high seas adventure.

Packing

Packing for travel on a boat, whether a cruise ship or a freighter boat, is no different than packing for any student travel. Spare the stuff, and spoil your back.

You’re probably traveling with a backpack anyway. Backpack packing is smart for boat travel because it can be hard to get at your stuff in a “cozy” boat berth (bedroom or cabin), just like accessing your things in a hostel can be problematic. Traveling with a daypack is smart; you’ll want to take it with you onshore explorations.

Motion Sickness Prevention and Remedies

The bigger the boat, the less likely you are to experience motion sickness. Be prepared for this potential pest, though; spending a boat trip tossing expensive onboard cookies overboard is no fun.

Onboard Food and Drink

Food and drink on a freighter is almost always included in your freighter passage cost – do not count on carrying any food with you as the ship may forbid it. Food and drink on a cruise ship is usually spendy, but eating is a primary onboard activity, and some cruise ships have truly terrific cuisine.