How I Afford to Travel While in College

College is the perfect time to travel the world. You are old enough to be responsible, independent, and energetic, while still being young enough to enjoy the luxury of summer vacation. Unfortunately, travel costs can add up quickly and most college students are limited to working part-time jobs during the school year making saving for travel difficult. However traveling extensively while in college is still possible (even without study abroad or scholarships). Here is how I travel on a budget while going to school.

Start Saving 

If you know that travel is something you want to do you need to start saving for it immediately. When I receive a paycheck I personally allocate 10% to long-term savings 5% to investments and 10% to future travel. For some people that might be more money than they can afford, and for others, it might seem like nothing at all. The most important things it to start somewhere. The sooner you start moving money into savings the sooner you can start planning the trip of your dreams.

Getting a Summer Job that Pays You to Travel 

Last summer I was able to travel to Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. All of these trips were part of my work schedule and my travel expenses were covered by the company I work for. While some of the cities I visited in these places were off the beaten path, I was still able to see a large part of the United States without spending any of my own money on travel.

As a college student looking for jobs that provide travel I highly suggest looking for jobs or internships in your degree field. You will likely receive either a higher salary or benefits that are more appealing to your situation by doing so. While my paycheck was definitely smaller than any of my friends who stayed home for the summer I walked away with a travel experience I will never forget.

Take Weekend Trips 

My summer job dictates where I travel for 3 months out of the year, which sometimes leaves me wishing I got to see a little bit more of a particular location. Since I have already gotten a sampling of what I want to do when I reach a particular destination I am able to carve out time to return during the school year by going on 2-3 day trips every couple of months. Saving up for a weekend trip is generally a much more affordable and convenient option than traveling for a week or two or a time.

Weekend trips are also a great way to check a location off of your bucket list without spending a ton of time there. While it is great to get the opportunity to travel all over the country there are some destinations that might not be everything you were hoping for. Weekend trips let you have an affordable mini-vacation, without the commitment of finding things to do for an entire week.

Be Flexible 

In my experience, this has been the most important part of being able to travel. The more flexible you can be the further your money will go when traveling. Be flexible with travel dates, methods of transportation, location, and activities once you arrive at your destination.

My upcoming spring break trip was planned simply because it was the cheapest flight I could find for the dates I was available to go. I also choose to shorten my trip from a potential length of Friday-Sunday (10 days) and book my flight Tuesday-Saturday. By doing this I was able to save hundreds of dollars on the flight, hotel, and rental car, while still getting an amazing trip.

Research Before You Go 

A great way to feel as though you are getting a weeks worth of experience in a shorter vacation is to figure out what you want to do before you go. Look for cheap or free activities near where you are staying and plan your itinerary around it. Be careful not to overbook yourself because you will likely discover new and exciting things to do once you reach your destination. But having a rough idea of what you would like to do when you arrive is a good way to save your budget ahead of time.


Always Budget Ahead of Time 

The worst part about traveling is getting to a destination and realizing something costs more than you expected. Especially if you are a student there can be tons of hidden fees you never expected when traveling for the first time. If you happen to be renting a car when you get to your destination you can sometimes be looking at outrageous fees and deposits that increase in cost the younger you are.

If you happen to be renting a car when you get to your destination you can sometimes be looking at outrageous fees and deposits that increase in cost the younger you are. Hotels will also often charge a larger deposit at check in based on the age of the person reserving the room. Even daily costs you expected to help you save money can start to add up such as public transportation, food, and the airline deciding to weigh your carry on.

In order to help offset any unexpected fees while traveling, I always budget to have twice as much money available then I expect to need. Typically this “extra” money gets tied up in places like deposits that can take a week or two after your return home to be put back into your account. To help offset the cost of my next trip when deposit money gets put back onto my card when I return home I transfer that money to my travel savings account to be used for my next trip.



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