With the fall break and the winter break right around the corner, Trojans are ready to pack their bags and take a break from school. For meanderers like myself, the break is an opportunity to hit the road and explore. While being a student means most of us are living on a very limited amount of money, traveling on a budget can be done to sate the wanderlust. Here are some tips than one can consider to ease the pressure on their pockets.
1. Detailed planning of the trip.
Planning in detail for a trip, in my opinion, is the most important step in keeping a trip within budgetary constraints. Planning allows one to calculate the possible costs, whether it be for lodging, fuel refilling or even eating during the trip. Although pop culture has romanticized spontaneous and in-the-moment trips and adventure, realistically, such trips may end up stretching one’s budget. However, carefully planning and breaking down a trip into specific events allows you to be in more control of the costs you incur during the trip. Planning also entails finding out days on which certain places may offer free entrance.
2. Lodging: Hotels vs. Airbnb vs. Hostels
In considering places to stay the night, my first and foremost priority is always the friends and families that live around the area where I am traveling. However, for a more private option, hotels, Airbnb properties and hostels are preferable. Hotels are the traditional choices for everyone, but often times they cost you an arm and a leg. One way to get a price that won’t cost you half your budget is looking for any coupons that might have been mailed to you; or for some people it can be from taking advantage of all the discounts that their workplace or members’ club might offer. Personally, I have found that hostels are the cheapest options for lodging, although it does entail a trade-off of personal space while living in a dorm-like setting in exchange for the value. Airbnb does stand as a close competition for cheapness. One of the common trends in booking any lodging is that the places that are closest to the downtown or city center are usually pricey. If traveling on a budget, I find it reasonable to stay at a place that is a bit on the outskirts of the city and then use transportation to travel to the main city or attractions.
3. Use Public Transport
Although many people don’t realize it, when traveling in a new place, using public transportation is the cheapest way to get around. The skepticism is understandable when you are in an alien city trying to get about; however, if it’s not during odd hours then public transportation is fairly cheap and offers stops at major landmarks in the city. Another means is using rental bikes that are usually found in bigger cities. This is a more rustic way of exploring a city as you get to experience the place around you in new ways, rather than from a car or bus window.
4. Seek local people’s opinion for dining experiences
Although Yelp! and travel blogs are a good source of knowing what to expect at a restaurant, it’s usually the case that the cliché places are the ones that are the most rated or reviewed. My approach to eating while traveling has always been to have a conversation with the local people and express my interest in trying out their culture or something that is unique to their place. These people, since they are the residents of the area, will direct you to good eateries that are also cheap.
5. Carry your student ID
This one is a no-brainer for students, for many museums, national parks, tourist locations or even public transportation outlets offer a discount for students. This is even true internationally! Also, while booking for tickets, look for student discount codes that can lower your expenses, even if only a fraction.
6. Carry a fanny pack
The fanny pack, in my opinion, is one of the most important accessories for a traveler. Fanny packs can not only help you keep your purse, cellphone or even your passport in a more secure location, they can also act as a mini storage for quick snacks and sanitizers that you may need to carry. For me, the snack part is the main reason I carry a fanny pack, for it greatly helps whenever I experience a sudden pang of hunger that doesn’t demand a full-course meal but gets me jittery. This again not only helps you track your essential belongings, but also helps you save money on random food spending. And for the instances when you find yourself unable to use a card, a little bit of cash tucked in a fanny pack may save your day.
Traveling, although it costs money, can still be done without spending ridiculous amounts. One should be willing to spend some time doing research and planning for a trip to make it a “bang for the bucks” one. However, even for all the cheap options that are available, students do need to understand that their safety should be a priority whenever traveling somewhere new and should keep their friends and family on a loop of their plans and location. Price never trumps personal safety.