Cheap Travel

Hanna Ladstaetter

     Most students dream of going on extravagant vacations abroad during the summer. Whether backpacking through Europe or traveling to exotic locales in Australia or South America, students can only wishfully think of summers spent in overseas vacations. Most people assume that these kinds of trips are extremely pricey, and soon give up hope on their summer fantasies. However, there are many ways to save money.

     Step 1: Plan carefully. Don’t start a month before summer break. Parents will think that it’s simply a poorly planned fantasy trip, and thus the slight chance of their valuable financial support is gone. Plus, the longer you wait, the more expensive hotels and flights will be.

     Plan your trip with a friend. Write down where you want to go, what you want to do, how much time you want to spend where, how long you want to stay away, and  find people that you know who live in your general destination. A free night’s stay at a friend’s house is cheaper than renting a room in a foreign hotel. Contact them and ask whether they are willing to house you for a couple of days. Even if you haven’t spoken to them in years or they’re unable to host you, they might be able to point you to someone who could.

     Start looking for plane tickets early on. If you go to Europe, try to plan your trip during less chaotic, tourist-filled times. If you go during less busy times, then your prices will be significantly cheaper. The main season for tourism is from late June to August. Off-season is in the winter, making the cold weather a deterrent for tourists. But during Shoulder season, which is from April to early June, and September to early October, the weather is warm, the days are longer and tourist hot-spots are less crowded.

     The Internet is extremely helpful when it comes to planning a vacation. It offers a lot of information about your destination. If you go to a country that doesn’t speak your language, learn at least the basic phrases. Say “bon giorno” instead of “hello” when you’re in Italy. An impressed Italian may even offer you a free, authentic Italian meal for trying to adapt to the language.

     The more you know about the country, culture and language, the more you will be able to gain from your time there. It also helps to start conversations with natives, who can show and tell you even more about their country.

     Step 2: Getting there. Transportation costs are probably the most expensive part of your trip. Keep in mind that your transportation and hotel stay account for most of your expenses. If you’re staying on this continent, you can take your car or rent an RV and drive to wherever you want to go instead of paying for a plane ticket. That way you get some fantastic sightseeing on the way there as well. While it may take longer to drive to Mexico than fly, it could give you more valuable time to spend with your friends.

     If driving is not the right thing for you, you can go by bus or train. This is generally not a popular way to travel, but it can take you almost anywhere you want to go in the US. Also, it is much cheaper than flying to your destination. Of course, it’s less comfortable on a bus, but think about it like this: getting to your destination is an adventure in itself. Why fly to California if you can see the beautiful nature on the way there from a train?

     Step 3: Staying there.  While in Europe, you should consider spending more time east and heading for the countryside. Although Western Europe is more popular, Eastern Europe offers just as much culture and architecture for less money.

     Hotels and hostels that are outside of the big cities are a lot cheaper than the ones downtown. Plus, if you’re not in downtown Paris, you will actually get to know the French way of living better. Keep in mind that big cities are very enticing, but to experience the actual country you need to head to more rural areas. Think about it like this: does Austin represent the typical Texan way of life? To see the cowboys, you need drive into the country. A trip to a foreign country just isn’t complete without getting to know the whole country, urban and rural.

     Hostels, camping and “Bed & Breakfast” motels make accommodation costs more affordable. For those who are less knowledgeable on finding these places, “” is a place where you can create your own profile and search for people all over the world who are willing to house you for your stay in the locale that you visit.

      Try not to eat out too often, and instead make your own meals. This will greatly cut down on your food costs. If you are not the best cook, go to the smaller, more authentic restaurants. Meals will be cheaper, and maybe even more delicious.
You could rent a recreational van and have zero expenses for overnight stays. An RV is also very helpful for the next step…

     Step 4: Getting around. Cars are necessary in America, but that’s not how it is in many other countries. Renting a car is one of the most expensive ways to get around. For some countries, an international driver’s license is also required.

     The public transport system in Europe is very convenient, and also very inexpensive. Buses, subways and trains take you to any hot spot you want to go to. Some like to traverse Europe on a bicycle, and see the sights of the country firsthand. Sometimes, you don’t even need a set of wheels to take you somewhere, because in the larger cities, you can walk almost anywhere you need to go.

     Exploring Australia or New Zealand with a “work-and-travel” program can be very attractive, too. This means that you travel through the entire country and stop here and there to work for an easy job, such as picking fruits on a farm, and use the money you earn to continue on your trip across the country.

     There are many organizations that offer volunteer services or work opportunities in foreign countries. You won’t travel as much as a “work-and-traveler”, but you get to see a lot more of the spot you’re working in. A common method of this is going on a mission trip with your church. Most churches offer summer mission trips, sometimes even to foreign countries.

     Step 5: Enjoy. Whatever you decide to do, do it and not just say it. Where’s a will, there’s a way and you are the only one who keeps you from exploring the world!