5 Ways to Save Money While Traveling in College
Anyone who has seen one of our social media pages always seems to have the same question: "How do you guys manage to travel so much?" Being college students, we totally understand where they are coming from. College tuition is expensive in itself, but when you add the price of books and costs of living, traveling becomes a luxury. So how have Jane and I been able to travel to 15 countries in the past two years?
1. Avoid Studying Abroad
I know, I know. Studying abroad is a great way for college students to get introduced to the world of traveling: your parents feel safe that you are abroad, it looks good on resumes, and some people are lucky enough to have their scholarships or parents pay for it. But if you are like the majority of students, then this is not the case. Studying abroad is WAAYY more expensive than traveling abroad on your own. On our first trip to Europe, we were abroad for over a month and our total costs were about $1,200 per person including our flight - half of what most study abroad trips cost! Along with our trip costing less than some of these programs, we also got to spend 2 - 4 times as long living abroad!
2. Save More Than You Spend
Be a Minimalist
Jane and I are what you would call modern minimalists. We don't care about having the nicest car or the in-style clothing. We don't buy expensive watches or fancy perfumes. Don't get me wrong, to each their own. We just prefer to save our money for things that we think matter most to us: experiences. Sometimes a flight to Europe is cheaper than buying the *insert item here* you've been yearning for. We've made some comparisons so that you can see how the money you use to buy certain products can instead be used to buy a flight to a place you have been dreaming of instead:
New York City, NY to Paris, France (April 24, 2017 - May 3, 2017) $476 vs. Vossen Rims $800+ per rim
Denver, CO to Chicago, IL (April 25, 2017 - May 3, 2017) $87 vs. Video Game $60+
Miami, FL to Barcelona, Spain (April 24,2017 - May 3, 2017) $440 vs. Beats Headphones $208+
Fort Lauderdale, FL to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico (April 24, 2017 - May 1, 2017) $154 vs. Michael Kors Watch $100+
Start a Savings
When we first started traveling, Jane had a job where she made about $250 every two weeks. She would put 20% of each paycheck into her savings, and she saved up enough for us to be able to take our first solo trip abroad. With as little as $50 every 2 weeks she was able to save up $1,000 in 10 months - which is equivalent to the time between the beginning of the fall semester to the end of the spring semester.
Saving accounts are very easy to open. JP Morgan Chase’s most basic savings account gives you the option to automatically deduct money from your checking account and there is no fee if you automatically deposit a minimum of $25 per month. The trick is to keep adding to your savings and not pulling out money. Think of it as like the piggy bank you used to have. You would fill it up with coins and when it got full, you would smash it and have your grand sum, or in this case enough for your trip and plane ticket! Only difference, your savings account will never get full!
3. Find Cheap Transportation
Your plane ticket is usually the most expensive part of your trip, especially if you're traveling to somewhere far away. This is why you must find the best deals available. On Jane's first solo trip to Spain, she spent $890 - Roundtrip on her ticket to Barcelona, where now we can find a way to get there for less than $500 - Roundtrip easily.
We are able to find good deals by using websites like Google Flights and Sky Scanner. These websites allow you to compare the best prices depending on what date you choose to travel. And while certain airlines, like Spirit, will also compare prices in the same fashion, Google Flights and Sky Scanner will do this for multiple airlines, finding you the cheapest flight, on the cheapest day, with the cheapest airline. Also, Google Flights has an option called Explore which allows you to search possible destinations and their prices after inputting a specific location. So if you originally planned on going from NYC to Barcelona, you may notice it is cheaper for you to fly to Italy on the same day. A big thing to note is the cheapest airline is not always the best. You may have to pay for a checked in luggage, and simple amenities are not included; however, as college students, if we can make it through an entire semester with that annoying roommate, we can make it through a couple hours on a flight.
Alternate Ways of Transportation
Renting a car is expensive and something you should try to avoid. Google Maps does an amazing job abroad! It knows that subway, metro, and bus stations are the fastest way for you to get where you are planning on going. And if you get lost, most locals speak English! If you are planning on going between cities in Europe, download Go Euro! It is an app that will compare buses, trains, and flight prices. Buses are not the most comfortable and have bad wifi... but they are the cheapest so that's usually our main form of transportation. Keep in mind, buses are also the slowest way of transportation. Our bus from Paris to London was 12 hours but it also only cost $27.77 per person. If you think you can handle a little discomfort, then buses are definitely the best way to go.
4. Save on Your Living Expenses
Stay With People You Know
On our first trip abroad, we stayed in Hungary at our friends' grandpa's apartment and we stayed at Jane's uncle's apartment in Germany. We only paid for a hotel when we were in Amsterdam and it cost us $144 for 4 days. Staying with other people saved us anywhere from $13 - $100 per day for the total of 3 weeks we stayed with people we knew. We suggest that if you know anyone abroad, you reach out to them and stay with them because living expenses are sometimes a tie for first place on the most expensive part of your trip.
As college students, we are exposed to new innovations in different fields. When you traveled with your parents, no doubt you stayed in a hotel. Now that you're the one in charge of your trip, you have WAAYY better and cheaper options. Like Uber took over taxis, AirBnB and Home Away are dominating the market over hotels. Airbnb and Home Away is where people rent out a private room or an entire home, and most of the time, this option is cheaper than hotels. These rented spaces can vary from an apartment, to a tree house, to a castle! These homes usually include a kitchen, which is one of the best parts of booking with one of these apps. By having a kitchen you can save money by cooking at home instead of going out to restaurants, but we will talk about that more later. Couch surfing is similar to these apps except that it is free; however, you do not get your own private room because you literally sleep on someone's couch. The only downside is people usually do not pick you unless you have let people stay on your couch in return. And all of these options are safe, as long as you read the reviews. If someone doesn't have any reviews and that makes you feel uncomfortable, just do not stay with them. There will always be cheap options with people who have ratings and reviews.
Hostels have been around much longer than these apps. Hostels are like hotels but cheaper; however, these rooms are shared between other people, sometimes as big as 30 people in a huge gymnasium or as small as 4 in one room. Some hostels give you the option of booking a private room but for a more expensive price. Most of the time, hostels will have a common area with a kitchen so you will be able to cook or store food. Hostels are also a great way to meet people because mostly young adults stay in them. A shared room isn't the most appealing thing for a family of 4. We've met people from all over the world while staying in hostels and heard some amazing stories of other people's travels.
If you don't have a Airbnb account, Click Here and and you will get $40 off your first stay!
Travel with Friends
Just like buying in bulk, things come out cheaper when you travel in a group! The cost difference for an AirBnB that fits two people to one that fits six is about a $30 difference, but when you go from splitting it between two people to six, you end up saving a lot more money on your living expenses. We just went on AirBnB and we found entire homes that fit 6 people that were the exact same price as the ones that only fit two people. That means you go from splitting $70 a night between two people to six, saving you $23.33 per night! Also you get to experience and explore with your friends, which can make you feel safe and comfortable in a foreign location. So make sure to grab your best buds on your next adventure! They might save you some bucks.
5. Cooking Instead of Eating Out
Anyone would agree that food is a big part of traveling. Exploring the traditional dishes from each specific location is one of the best ways to learn more about the culture (and the most fun way)! From our experiences, however, it comes out a lot cheaper to cook a meal versus going to a restaurant. Last year, during our first week in Italy, we ate out about 3 times but we ate at home the rest of the time; we only spent $84.28 on food per person. While Jane and I were in England, we spent $137.54 on food and we only cooked one meal. That's a difference of $22.35 per day on food, and if you are planning on staying for a month, that is a $670.35 difference. If you're trying to save money, definitely try to cook when possible.
Even though you may be a broke college student, hopefully these 5 tips can make traveling a reality for you. If you have any tips or suggestions, comment them below!