Cheap Student Traveling 101

Posted February 6, 2009 by Katie Blais

BelushiCollege  College students know how to live on the cheap—Ramen noodles, dollar draft nights, and care packages from mom and dad are great ways to stretch that work study check to the max. So how about when budget conscious coeds need to travel? Spring break is coming up, you know! There are actually lots of resources out there for finding cheap travel … if you are a little creative and a little flexible. I mean your college years are all about experimenting, right? Why should travel during your formative academic years be any different?

If you are embarking on the quintessential college backpacking trip through Europe, two good resources to check out are STA Travel and Student STA tailors trips for younger travelers, and both sites offer discount airfare to students and professors. Stay in a hostel, hit Amsterdam, and get a tattoo to complete this rite of passage.

When traveling back home, you can save a bundle by flying on the actual holiday rather than the days prior to it and an added perk it’s one less day of having to visit with your Aunt Bertha and her parakeet or dodge your slimy ex from high school who is hoping to rekindle your doomed romance over Thanksgiving break.

Both Southwest Airlines and AirTran have programs especially for you scholarly types. AirTran U offers students on standby a flat rate of $69 ($99 for longer trips), though you can’t check any bags (so leave your laundry in your dorm) and it's not 100 percent guaranteed you will get on a flight, but you really can’t beat the rate, especially for last-minute travel. Southwest’s program for college students lets you rack up frequent flyer points quickly with College Rapid Rewards; you can score a free round-trip flight after only three paid round-trips.

Remember, knowledge is power, so think of being a savvy budget traveler as an extracurricular activity more productive than practicing your beer pong skills.

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Reader Comments

Wonderful stuff. Your entries are becoming the most compelling reason to check this blog!

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 12:21 PM by Carlos Halston

Had no idea about AirTran U. I've missed that boat but it's a great idea. What good is it for a plane to take off with empty seats?

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:19 PM by Wilfred Hood

Sigh. Your blog reminds me of all of backpacking through Europe as a student. There are so many wonderful deals available for those under 26 in college, including discounts on trains, activities, and entrance discounts. Go now while you're still young and before you're consumed by being a consumer.

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:19 PM by Emerson Alumni

Mmm, hostel in Amsterdam. Check out the Flying Pig if you don't mind not showering and sharing a room with 30 other strangers.

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:27 PM by Chris

Ugh. The Flying Pig! I had a basement room that I shared with 30 strangers and about a dozen mice!!! I did not sleep that night.

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:35 PM by fuzzytrippinbunny

Ramen noodles, dollar draft nights, and care packages from mom, I STILL do all those!! I wish these deals were good for the under-26, but no longer in college crowd!

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:44 PM by Erin

Erin~ STA definitely offers deals for the under 25 crowd, and you can still get an international youth card for $25, which gives you discounts on a slew of things. Check it out:

Posted on February 06, 2009 at 02:48 PM by Snomad

I remember traveling as a student. It was ALL about who's couch I could crash on. Since I have graduated, it is still about staying with friends, but now it is about their guest bedroom and not waking up the kids!

Posted on February 10, 2009 at 01:31 PM by Sam

Fun article about good times. Another option for cheap travel is to bum around with friends across the country. I did this with a buddy on our way to Chicago, and we stayed on five couches along the way. Paid for gas and fast food, and that was it. Ah, memories.

Posted on February 10, 2009 at 05:50 PM by Jayson

STA travel is great if you want to plan out if you want to plan out your own trip. However, if you are looking for affordable travel that is preplanned and all you have to do is get on the plane, EF College Break and Contiki are the way to go. They are very affordable, their prices include airfare, lodging, and lots more, and they are great people to work and travel with. You go with a group but have so much "free time" you will feel like you are traveling by yourself or just with close friends (if you choose to travel with friends). And the best part is, they go all over the world!

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 07:39 AM by Sarah

Hi everyone, I'm sort of an interloper here, because I'm a parent of a poor student. My son really deserves a spring break this year but doesn't have much extra cash. Neither do I, so checking out the STA site looks like it's going to have some real possibilities for us. He's done well this year and I told him I'd contribute half of the money for his trip. Glad to find all the possible ways to save here. I feel confident we can find a good deal for him and his buddies without breaking the ol' man's bank account! Thanks.

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 10:55 AM by JCG

Sam said,"I remember traveling as a student. It was ALL about who's couch I could crash on."

LOL, so true. I remember well those days, and it didn't bother me a bit to sleep on couches. In fact, one summer while traveling through Europe I slept on a strange couch for almost two weeks in Amsterdam through a program called "The Couchsurfing Project", a free hospitality service. I became pretty good friends with the guy I stayed with. He showed me around and took me to the pubs to meet his friends. The following summer he came to the US to visit me and I did the same for him.

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 07:22 PM by Spence

This is such a great article! I'm currently in my second year at school and definitely can relate to the very low income lifestyle, if there's anyway to pinch pennies I'm there! lol I love the sites you mention and the AirTran U I had no idea about!! I'll definitely be keeping some of these tips in mind!! Thanks

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 11:33 PM by Laura Kelly

I wish I had known about all these sites back then when I was in College, because I could have used a bit of traveling. Right now I can't do hostels or backpacking anymore, but I wish I had done it. So, if you have the chance, get out and see the world from a poor student point of view, it's something that no tourist guide can show you.

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 11:36 PM by Ptlover

Man, that's useful to know, me being a college student. I haven't completed my "requisite trip to Europe," so tips for cheap flying are always incredibly helpful for that (cheap places to crash aren't too hard to come by over there haha). I especially like the link to Southwest's rewards program. That'd be really useful if you're away from home and flying back and forth at the end of semesters, or if you're making more than one Eurotrip! Not sure if I'd want to go to Amsterdam, but the Flying Pig sure sounds...interesting? Heh.

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 11:36 PM by Angela C.

That was absolutely amazing; I was looking for the perfect place to get a cheap trip after college, particularly to Europe. I'm planning on going oversees to visit Ireland first, and perhaps do some sight-seeing in England before moving on to France and Germany. Italy is always a distinct possibility; my girlfriend has wanted to go there for years. Keep up the good work! I'm definitely going to remember this blog for future reference before I plan any overseas traveling! College can be such a pain... I can't wait until it's over. XD

Posted on February 11, 2009 at 11:50 PM by Stephen E.

One of the best ways to travel through Europe is to start there by studying abroad for a semester. Once you're in Europe, it's so easy to take weekend trips to many different countries. It's not hard to find cheap flight tickets, and if you're willing to sleep on a bench in the airport rather than pay to stay in a room the night before you leave, it's even cheaper! (best to do this with friends, not alone) And hostels are cheap, student friendly places to stay as you explore Europe.

Posted on February 12, 2009 at 04:39 PM by Lara

I agree with you Lara, studying in London for a semester was one of the best things I did in college ... I saw a lot of Europe and met a ton of fun people I am still in contact with today!

Posted on February 12, 2009 at 05:09 PM by Baby Suri

Use EF College Break discount code McK8224 to receive an automatic and guaranteed $50 off any tour. You can possible receive up to $150 off some tours!

Posted on February 26, 2009 at 09:52 AM by Melanie

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