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Travel is one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences for a student. It is oftentimes the best form of education as it equips the student with knowledge and experiences that are not taught in lecture halls and classrooms. It opens up students’ minds to different cultures and people and broadens their awareness and knowledge of global issues. However, being a student (especially in the United States) can be incredibly costly, and very little funds are left for things such as travel. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there for student travel on a budget. Here are our favorite resources for cheap student travel, including cheap flights, cheap student tours, cheap travel insurance, and student travel programs.
Needless to say, students are not the most wealthy people. As such, countless tourist attractions and destinations offer discounts to students so that students may still have the opportunity to experience the same attractions and tours as others. If you’re a student and want to take advantage of the student discounts at local attractions, make sure you do your research online first to determine whether the attraction you’re visiting offers student prices for admission. Many times, the person behind the ticket counter will not automatically recognize that you’re a student and will not offer you the discounted price – thus it is your responsibility to acknowledge the fact that you’re a student, show your student ID, and ask for the discounted rate. Do this for admissions to museums, train and bus passes, and most importantly, plane tickets. Websites such as Student Universe and STA Travel specifically target students and allow students exclusive access to the cheapest prices.
In addition to discounts offered by official tourism companies, there are countless other apps and websites that can be used to find coupons and discounts. A couple of more well-known apps include Groupon and LivingSocial, but also look for lesser known local apps. Keep in mind that the local apps are more likely to give you the best deals because businesses are more willing to offer discounts if they know the audience is not as wide. For example, I use an app called Hooked in Ann Arbor which offers various discounts to restaurants for a short period of time. Apps like Hooked can definitely be found in other cities too, so do your research and learn about the local apps before embarking on your trip!
Being a student teaches you to be okay with less than prime circumstances. From late night ramen, to the obnoxious drunk person screaming in your dorm hall at 4 AM, to the mysterious substances served in dining halls, students are best equipped to handle all kinds of uncomfortable situations. Use this to your advantage! Not everyone is willing to book a flight that leaves at 3 AM with 40 hour layovers in three different destinations. However, as a student, capitalize on this opportunity and think back to the time you pulled an all-nighter to study for finals. It’s not that much different, and travel is much more rewarding!
As a student, you are probably also more accustomed to living in a hostel setting since you most likely share a room with a roommate at school anyway, so having a few extra roommates is not a big deal. Living in a hostel will save an unbelievable amount of money, and there are even youth hostels that target specifically students and other young people. However, if you are able to pull together a group of friends, and you are willing to spend a bit more than you otherwise would on a hostel, you can find gorgeous homes to stay in for very affordable prices (as low as $20/night). House rentals can save you so much money and help free up your budget for other things like food, drinks, and going out on excursions with your friends.
Student Travel Companies
There are a number of travel companies that offer special travel discounts through competitions and raffles that are only available to students. Sometimes, these student travel companies or travel programs will even offer to pay the full cost of the trip. A great starting point is to look into different travel programs offered by your school or by businesses with upper level management affiliated with your school. Through your school’s connections, you may be able to find summer programs and internships to apply to that could potentially give you a free trip to an awesome destination. For example, I will be spending the summer in Berlin because I was able to obtain a paid internship through my school.
If your school does not have a big network of international opportunities, or if none of the programs offered by your school is a good fit, you can always turn to the internet for similar programs – and trust me, you will find many. One such program is the Kalu Yala program in Panama, which allows students to contribute to creating a completely self-sustainable community. If you google virtually any place in the world, there will probably be an opportunity there that fits your interests and funds your trip if accepted to the program.
Student Travel Programs
When I went to Europe this past summer, I purchased something called the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). I’d never heard of it before but had been recommended it by
some people as a good and affordable form of student travel insurance. After purchasing it, I realized that there are lots of discounts offered by various businesses to students with the card. In fact, after I went back to Toronto, I found that there were even companies there that offered discounts to ISIC holders. Other companies that offer cheap travel insurance for students include STA Travel, World Nomads, International Medical Group, and Seven Corners.
Other programs, such as those that teach the languages of the countries that you will be travelling to, are also available to students. These are, of course, super beneficial so that you can learn some basics before venturing out into an unfamiliar country.
Scholarships and Study Abroad Through School
Many schools offer students study abroad opportunities at little to no additional cost of regular tuition. Studying abroad is an incredibly rewarding opportunity and is essentially a free trip if it costs the same as attending school on campus. Some schools even offer students scholarships or financial aid to travel to different countries. I believe this is because schools believe in the power of travel and cultural immersion, so they are usually more willing to send students on trips they believe will give their students stronger desires to positively impact the world.
In addition to providing a resource guide of tips and tricks for cheap student travel, I hope this article was able to inspire students to take advantage of their youth and travel. It’s easy to put off travelling until tomorrow, or until after graduation, or until you’ve had your first job, or until retirement, but many things are best enjoyed during youth. It is important to not look back one day and realize that all of the opportunities in front of you were missed or shoved aside because you’ll never be able to go back in time and have a second chance at experiencing everything you missed.
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Student discount with ID was such a blessing when I was a broke student in University. I still used my ID for a year after graduation to enjoy just a few more discounts and deals. The study abroad programs are such a great way to earn and learn that foreign language credit.
Gotta love the student discounts! My uni actually screwed up with our cards when they redid the system and put an extra 4 years on mine, so I’ve been sneakily using it…my excuse for my questionable ethics being that I don’t earn that much…and also that the cheap student in me never really left haha.
Can totally relate to your “flexibility” section… I’ve done 10 hour-long rideshares with strangers from Madrid-Toulouse to save 100-200 euros on airfaire. At the time it was worth it, but I did end up giving a 5 hour French lesson to my Colombian driver and had to pretend I was tired and nap in the backseat. It’s a story to tell to say the least!
I wish I’d have known about the international student ID card when I was a student! Nevertheless, student discounts are awesome! And you can still get by using old student ID’s when traveling to other countries, sometimes (hehe). I fully agree about study abroad sessions being like “free” trips if it costs the same as staying on campus. If that’s the case, then why not go??
I like the idea where you mention to look for local apps for getting great discounts for students. Congratulations on getting a paid internship to Berlin and I wish you have lots of fun. I stayed in hostels too during my visit to Europe last year and I realised that I can tolerate upto 3 other roommates. Anything over that was torture to my sleep system.
Great post !
When I see the student rates in India compared to what I pay 🙂 100 roupies vs 500 roupies
Keep up the good work !
In Bangkok you’ll be able to find an exact copy of an ISIC card at a very cheap price. I actually joined a $5 photography course online in the UK which entitled me to a student card which I then used for a decent discount at the gym and movie theater. What else works in foreign countries is to show any card and tell them you are a student. I once showed a Safeway store card at a movie theater in Mexico City and because the lady didn’t understand English she gave me student price. This method works well in Thailand too where they have different letters and are too lazy to work out what the card really is!
Its such a pity that I never travelled as a student. In India, its really not the norm..gap year is unheard of! If you take one year off to travel it bears negatively on your next job interview. Well, better late that never…at least I am travelling now!
I never knew about student travel companies….will share your post with a few students who plan to set sail soon. Thanks for sharing!
Students need to make the most out of their budgets. So many travel agents never tell you about this little tricks and nifty ideas. Thanks for sharing. I’m no longer a student but wish that I was so I could take advantage of these.
Great ideas for students and one really talks about. More should be done to encourage travel for students within budgets. Great post
We firmly believe that the whole world is a classroom!! Learning officially ‘on the books’ in a traditional sense can be enriched by travel!! Would have loved to travel this way when I was student age. Didn’t get the chance but love this information and will pass it on to other traveler’s on twitter.