Updated: Sep 26, 2020
I want to preface this article by saying I am extremely thankful that growing up my family was able to go on trips every summer. However, traveling with a family of five is by no means cheap, so some of these tricks I did learn from my parents. Since I moved out about 3-4 years ago, any trip I have gone on has been completely funded by me, which has made me realize how to save and budget my money, as well as when it is appropriate for to take trips and when it's not. I have been working since I was 16 years old, and over the years have learned how to budget my money, and am extremely fortunate to be able to take 1-2 bigger trips a year now. Money, in my opinion, is definitely one of the top things that stops people from travelling new places. I certainly have a few dream trips I would love to go on, but can't at this point in my life because I don't have the money, or I need to save my money for more important things, like rent, and student loans (how boring). As I started travelling more on my own, however, I have gotten better at finding deals, and traveling on the cheaper side. I'm going to share some of my tips and tricks of how I was able to save money and travel to a few different places on a college student budget. Obviously, I'm not an expert, but these are some things I have learned from my experiences, and some things that have worked for me.
1. BE FLEXIBLE WITH AIRFARE!!!
A majority of the time, one of the most expensive aspects of any trip is the airfare. Depending on the trip, I sometimes prefer to look for 2 one-way tickets rather than a round trip ticket. Not only does this give you more flexibility in travel times, but I have noticed that sometimes it is cheaper. Personally, whenever I would fly back home to PA, there are 3 airports within 1.5 hours of my house, so I typically look at flights going into all 3 of those airports. While it stinks for my parents to drive 1.5 hours to pick me up sometimes, they're usually okay with it if it means saving $100 on a flight. Also, look into different airlines. I fly about 8 times a year (when I was traveling back and forth from NC and PA, and other misc. trips) and I have found one way tickets on frontier for as little as $20! Obviously those types of tickets aren't always available, but I could typically fund my entire trip to and from my parents house for under $100. I have also noticed Saturdays are one of the cheapest days to fly for some reason, and flight prices are a bit lower when you look on Tuesdays. You may have to adjust your days a little bit, but it's definitely worth it to save $$$! Also it helps if you are able to be flexible with your times. I know that is not always possible, but my aunt and I were able to save about $60 on a flight this summer by deciding to leave at 6:30am as opposed to 10:00am. Typically when I look for flights, I prefer using google flights, or a site such as expedia or travelocity as opposed to the direct website of whatever airline company. I always find cheaper ticket prices on these sites as opposed to the airline website. I also really like using the app Hopper to help me find the cheapest flights. The app basically compares different airlines for where you want to go, and lets you know if airline tickets will increase or decrease in the future (basically lets you know when the best time to buy tickets will be). Not spons. (but hopper hmu (; ), but for real, hopper seriously has saved me so much money over the past year or so that I've had the app. Lastly, I have noticed that frontier, and delta typically have some of the cheaper flights, although they might not be the most luxurious, and may require random layovers, I almost always choose them for shorter flights.
2. IT ALWAYS HELPS TO TRAVEL WHERE YOU HAVE CONNECTIONS
While this obviously isn't possible every place you travel, if you know someone who lives somewhere you are planning on travelling, staying with them will save so much money! My best friend and I were able to travel to San Diego twice and only had to pay for airfare and any attractions / restaurants we went to because we stayed with her sister, even if it meant alternating sleeping on the couch or the floor. If you don't have the option to stay with somebody, look into sites like homeaway.com or airbnb.com . Homeshare websites are usually way cheaper to book than hotels, especially if you're staying for a week or more and have multiple people.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRAVEL AGENTS / MEMBER BENEFITS PROGRAMS
Again, I know this is not something everybody has the option of using, but for people who do, this will help you out. I have had AAA plus for 2.5 years now, and didn't know until about 3 months ago that I can get a free travel agent through AAA. I was able to book a cruise to the Bahamas with the help of my AAA travel agent for about $100 cheaper than if I would have booked it through the cruise line. While other travel agents can be pricey, depending on the trip, sometimes it can be worth it because they truly can save you so much money in the long run! Going back to AAA, I never realized truly how many benefits members get especially on travel aspects. AAA gives great cruise discounts, and while I have not looked too much into it, I know you can also get airline, rental car and hotel discounts using AAA. Another recommendation I have is, if you notice that you fly multiple times a year like me, and notice that you typically tend to fly one airline more than anything else, become a mileage member! When I fly, I usually almost always fly with Frontier, or United, and while I am no where near having enough points for a free flight, there are a lot of other perks, like free bags, that you can get with less points. The memberships are always free to sign up with, so why not take advantage of them!
4. TRAVEL DURING OFF SEASONS
Each place you go, especially if you're traveling internationally, will have peak tourist seasons and times, and it is way way more expensive and crowded to travel during these times. When I went to Disney several years ago, we went in June. Not only was it miserably hot, but each park was super crowded, and some of the rides has over an hour long wait. (That's where fast passes came in handy!!) At the time, we knew a worker at Magic Kingdom, and she told us that October is the best time to go, because it's not too hot, but its also way less crowded. I noticed that with my cruise too. I went on a cruise 3 years ago to the Bahamas in July, and it is way cheaper my most recent trip in March even though I still went to the Bahamas and used the same cruise line. I have never traveled internationally (besides the Bahamas), so I'm not too familiar with other countries peak travel times, but it is something you can easily google.
5. TRY NOT TO EAT OUT A LOT
Everywhere you go there of course are going to be classic "must try" places, (for me, it was In n' Out Burger and Jack in the Box when I went to Cali.) and while it's obviously fine and fun to try out new coffee shops or restaurants try and limit eating out. Especially in the case where you're staying in a house or similar setting for multiple days. It is way cheaper to buy a few essential groceries and eat out only every once in a while. When I went on a trip to Maine a few years ago with my family, and my best friend, my parents decided it would be way smarter to spend around $100 on a big grocery trip, and only eat out a few times rather than pay a $50-$100 bill every time we ate out...plus since we drove to Maine, we were able to take any leftover groceries home!) The same goes for alcohol (If you're 21 of course!). A lot of touristy places will hike up their alcohol prices in general, for example, the cruise I went on - a mixed drink was a couple more dollars than it would be at my local bar, and why shouldn't it be? People are willing to pay for them! My friends and I were able to find the most bang for our buck alcohol deal and ended up saving about $200 more than we would have if we bought the drink package.
Like I said, these tips are from my own personal experiences, and what has worked for me in the past. I know that everybody has different limitations and capabilities whenit comes to traveling, but I hope that some of these tips helped you out! Thanks for reading, and remember, there's always more to be explored!