10 ways to stretch your student travel budget

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Faced with a cupboard filled with nothing but pot noodles and the ever-present worry that next semester’s textbooks are going to cost about the same as a flight to Australia (ok… maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), the prospect of booking an epic summer holiday may seem as out of reach as that first class degree your parents still think you are going to get.

But, like a well-planned essay, organising the student trip of a lifetime is entirely possible with a bit of forward thinking, research and strong coffee (that third point is optional). It also helps if you find a cheap flight, luckily we’re experts in that, so if you have a destination in mind, start searching here.

Ready to hit the road? Before you jump the gun and book the first trip you see, take a look at these tips on how to stretch your student budget.

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Do your research and be flexible

Take a break from analysing Elizabethan poetry or whatever it is you’re meant to be writing an essay on and get on the web. This is one of the few times a bit of study procrastination can actually be productive. Start by thinking of the type of holiday you want to go on; are you looking for a city break, party holiday, backpacking trip? Then start to look at which destinations are on offer and by comparing the cost of flights, accommodation and spending money, see where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

It’s then best to research the cheapest times to fly to the destinations on your must-visit list. It helps to be as flexible as possible with travel dates, since flight prices can drop significantly depending on when you book. This could mean booking mid-week flights rather than weekend ones or visiting during a destination’s shoulder season.

SIDE NOTE: For the record, we’re definitely not condoning skipping lectures… if anyone asks.

Harness the power of social media

You spend half your life on it, so why not use it? It’s easier than ever before to get useful local tips and inspiration when planning a trip. Whether it be Facebooking that friend you made during Fresher’s Week from Germany to get some travel and money-saving tips, WhatsApping your friend who is on their year abroad in Canada to see if they want some company (and in turn, blag some free accommodation for yourself), searching Instagram for destination inspiration, joining Twitter travel conversations or posting a question on a TripAdvisor forum to get other traveller’s suggestions, the power of social media and its use as a travel tool is totally invaluable.


Work for accommodation

One of the best ways to travel on a budget is to volunteer your time in exchange for accommodation and in some cases, food. Work Away is an organisation that puts interested “workawayers” in contact with hosts around the world who offer room and board in exchange for basic chores depending on what they need. For example, a quick search under South America revealed a hostel in Argentina looking for someone to do some light cooking, cleaning and helping out with tourists in exchange for a bed at the hostel.

A similar organisation is WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) wherein interested travellers have the chance to work on farms around the world in exchange for accommodation and food.

Have a specific skill you want to share? You can try Skill Stay which connects hosts and helpers looking for a room. Sign up as a helper and then choose the country you’re interested in, choose the skill you’re offering from the drop-down menu (anything from babysitting to accounting to cleaning) and list the dates you want to travel to see what’s available.

Stay cheap – or for free (without working)

If having to do things seems far too strenuous, there are other ways to minimise accommodation costs when it comes to where you rest your head. In terms of free places to stay, your first stop should be Couchsurfing, which connects travellers with locals who have spare space for guests. If that’s something within your comfort zone, it can be a good way to meet people as you travel and get tips from in-the-know locals who can share their picks for places to eat, drink and hang out that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Hostels are going to be your next best option, offering an easy way to meet other travellers, in budget-friendly accommodation that often comes with cheap or free meals and socials. Check out hostel booking sites like Hostel World and Hostel Bookers to get started.

Try for discounts on trains and buses

There are loads of ways to cut costs when travelling. As far as European travel, the most obvious of these is Eurail passes, where under-25’s can save up to 35% on a European rail pass. Another option when backpacking is to try and take night trains and buses. As well as saving money on overnight accommodation, fares can also be substantially reduced at this time.

If travelling in the USA, students under 25 with a valid student ID are eligible for 15% discount on travel with Amtrak, whilst in Canada, students travelling with Greyhound can save 25 percent on an adult fare with a valid International Student Identity Card.


Or try ridesharing

Ridesharing sites like BlaBlaCar connect people with riders who have empty seats and are enroute to your destination, so you can get picked up where you are and go where you need to without having to stray too far from your hostel or wherever you’re checking out of. Plus, this can be incredibly budget-friendly. Did somebody say rooooadtriiiip!?

Save on sightseeing 

Save on expensive bus tours and cumbersome guidebooks by going on a free walking tour – most cities have them. They are a great way to get local history and info, usually from a local and it will also allow you to get your bearings and work out how you want to spend the rest of your trip. Good tours will be chock full of interesting titbits that you wouldn’t find out on your own. Plus it is a great opportunity to get other tips on where to eat or what not to miss during your stay.

It is also worth checking out whether or not the big attractions that you can’t miss have free days. Many museum and galleries such as The Prado in Madrid and the Guggenheim in New York have free (well… technically ‘pay what you wish’) evenings once a week.


Eat like a local

Eating in restaurants and cafes isn’t the only way to try the local cuisine. Street vendors (especially in Asia!), farmer’s markets, delis, bakeries and supermarkets are a great way to stock up on local treats to eat on the go, giving you extra sight-seeing time as well as saving you some money. If finding some great restaurants is a quintessential part of your trip however, it can often be cheaper to eat at lunchtime, especially in European countries like France and Spain where fixed priced menus offer a great value three course meal and a drink at a much lower price than evening meals.

It is also worth checking what discounts tourism cards have to offer. The I Amsterdam City Card for example, offers a 25% discount at over 30 different restaurants.


Get a student discount card

An International Student Identity Card (ISIC) will get you quite a few travel perks and options for saving money on everything from attractions to accommodation. It’s the only internationally recognised proof of full-time student status, which means you can use it worldwide to access to over 150,000 discounts and benefits in over 130 countries. If you’re not a student but still 30 years of age or younger, you still get an International Youth Travel Card.

Whats more, your usual university or college card will be enough to get you discounts and free entry into various museums and attractions. It’s always worth asking if there is student discount available, even if it isn’t signposted obviously.

Save with student-only flight discounts

Did you know some companies offer student discounts on flights? Luckily for you, you can handily search for them – along with all those other cheap flights – all in one place:

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Got any tips on how to stretch your student travel budget? Then share your money saving tips in the comments below…

10 ways to stretch your student travel budget was last modified: February 17th, 2017 by Kirsten McCroskrie
Author: Kirsten McCroskrie (94 posts)

Scottish-born London dweller who uses any chance she gets to chase the sunshine. Most at home when sipping cocktails by the sea, but will always happily settle for a double-shot cappuccino in an inner-city hipster café...