So you've made it all the way to college. Congratulations! You're really on your way now! Time to buckle down for 4+ years and get serious about life • get a degree, get a job, and a dog. Find a second half, pop out some babies and call it a day. That all sounds nice and great and exciting, but if you're anything like me when I was in college, you're just itching to get out there and see something!
I spent my entire Freshman year reading travel blogs and staring at Instagram pictures with exotic beaches and remote waterfall adventures (when I wasn't in class of course). And one day, I made a decision to save some money and just go, no matter what! So, I'm here to shed some light and help you out! In 7 steps... The Ultimate Guide To Traveling While in College.
While in college, I visited over 12 countries and took over 18 plain rides. And no, I don't have any sort of trust fund or sugar daddy. And guess what, you can too.
1 • Get Past Your Misconceptions About College Travel
Let's break it down. You've caught a little wanderlust and have the inkling to go get out there. It's in the back of your mind and you keep toying with the idea, but maybe there are still some things holding you back from taking that next step. There are always a million reasons not to do something.
So let's debunk some of those fears and common misconceptions that naturally come with idea of traveling while in college.
"TRAVELING IS AN UNNECESSARY LUXURY THAT I'LL JUST HAVE TO LIVE WITHOUT" • No, you will not die if you do not go travel. But it'll eat you up inside, and you may live your life regretting the memories you could've made. Stop thinking about travel as something intangible and out of reach. YOU CAN TRAVEL IN COLLEGE. YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN. Don't disregard your desires. If you want to travel and grow in your own way, don't think of it as a dream or fantasy to justify not going. Make the decision that IT WILL HAPPEN. Once you switch your mindset from unnecessary luxury to actual future plans, the rest is easy.
"I DON'T HAVE TIME TO TRAVEL WITH MY SCHEDULE" • Yea, I know. You're expected to be in and out in four years. But the truth is, it's okay to go at your own pace. If you want to travel, you have to make it a priority in your life. You have to take active steps to make your adventure happen. This may mean moving your life around and reprioritizing your time. Take a year off. Cut your course load in half and get a job to save. You do have time to travel if you make it a priority.
"I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START!" • There's probably a lot going on in your head, but there are tons of resources online to help you plan your trip. It's easy to get inspired and organized with social sites like Pinterest that can help you search and organize travel ideas. Don't let the vastness of the planet overwhelm you. Use this as inspiration to fuel all the possibilities. Start writing things down! Make it tangible.
"I'LL JUST TRAVEL WHEN IM OLDER" • Of course there are tons of opportunities and possibilities of traveling later in life, but traveling while you're young is a completely different experience. You don't know what your future may hold. Maybe you start a family or take on other unforeseen responsibilities right after college and those crazy nights in Thailand become nothing but a distant unfulfilled dream. You're in your physical prime right now! Now is the perfect time to go.
TRAVELING IS TOO EXPENSIVE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS • Lame excuse man. Like I said before and will say again, if you make travel a priority, save, and are smart about your spending, this is an absolute myth. There are many budget destinations like Central America and parts of Asia. All it takes is a little research. READ ABOUT HOW TO FUND YOUR TRAVELS.
TRAVELING IS DANGEROUS • Driving a car is dangerous. Life is very unpredictable, and unfortunately, bad things can happen to anyone at any time. This doesn't mean that going to a foreign country is point blank dangerous. Don't do anything in a foreign country that you normally wouldn't do in a city where you live. I myself have never had anything stolen, or really felt unsafe because of other people or locations while traveling. Be careful and mindful of your surroundings, trust your gut, and act responsibly.
BUT I'M A WOMAN • Scared of traveling alone as a woman? There are tons of solo female travelers who've made resources on the subject. I myself traveled alone through most of my college travels and it is beyond rewarding.
MY COLLEGE EDUCATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT I ACTUALLY WANT • I have to put everything off until I finish college, right? Wrong. Think about why college is expected of you. Are you trying to please someone else? Maybe your parents or friends? Is it truly a priority in your life right now? Sometimes you have to stop living by the status quo and listen to your heart! Stop doing what everyone else is doing if what YOU wanna do is different. Do what makes you happy. This is living.
NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO GO WITH ME • Go by yourself! My first trip I ever took was to Nicaragua and no on else could go when I wanted to. So... I just went by myself. It was the most amazing trip, and I almost didn't go. No regrets! Solo travel is truly a unique and incredible experience.
2 • Weigh Your Options + Ways To Travel In College
Now that we've gotten past all those negative misconceptions you may have had before, it's time to talk about your options for traveling throughout college! You essential have a few options on how to go about integrating travel into your life story and college experience. You can...
- TRAVEL BEFORE COLLEGE • More and more young adults each year are taking some time off to explore and find themselves before even stepping foot on campus.
- INTEGRATE TRAVEL INTO YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE • Join clubs that take trips. Study abroad with your university. Make a club that travels!
- TAKE TIME OFF DURING COLLEGE • Didn't take that gap year before college? Getting burnt out? Itching to take some time off? DO IT! Yes you can! College will always be there. Yes it may shift some things around in your life, but if it's something you really want, anything is possible!
- TRAVEL DURING YOUR SUMMERS • This is what I did. Work during the school year and travel all summer! Work, save, travel, repeat.
- TRAVEL AFTER COLLEGE • Couldn't make it happen before graduation? That doesn't mean the opportunity is lost. Wait to get into that corporate job or start that family and get lost! It's never too late.
However or whenever you're traveling, there are tons of ways you can work or volunteer abroad. This will cut your expenses dramatically.
- BECOME AN AUPAIR • Live with a foreign host family while you look after their kids. I've used sites like AupairWorld to connect with families in different countries. Some people want AuPairs for a couple months, and some want you to stay for a year or more! You'll even get paid some spending money.
- DO A WORKAWAY EXCHANGE • My personal favorite. https://www.workaway.info/ connects travelers with hosts from all over the world. Stay somewhere in exchange for a little work each day. You can search by location or even job type! Create a profile and connect with hosts all across the globe.
- WWOOF! • WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. http://wwoof.net/ links volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote unique educational and cultural experiences. Go work on a farm!
3 • Get Inspired
Okay. So you've decided that YOU ARE GOING, and you've decided when and how you wanna make the travel happen. Now it's time to actually plan a trip! I could talk forever about how to plan each little aspect of a trip, but the key idea here is to get inspired and figure out where you wanna go.
SEARCH WITH ESCOSIA • https://www.ecosia.org/ is a search engine that works just like any other. You search the web and Escosia uses the revenue generated from the AdsSearch ads to plant trees! You can't travel if we don't have a planet. And the planet needs trees!
SEARCH FOR CHEAP FLIGHTS • Not really sure where you want to go? Try finding the cheapest flights and go from there! One of my favorite ways to get inspired is to search for flights on Skyscanner. You can search for crazy cheap flights to anywhere at anytime in the world if you don't have a set location/time for traveling.
MAKE A PINTEREST BOARD • Pinterest is also a great resource, because it allows you to easily save and organize your travel ideas and inspiration. Make a board of where you want to go and start saving some pins on the subject. You won't believe the destinations and possibilities out there. People save resources on budgets, places, restaurants, accommodation... everything you'd need to know about a location.
4 • Fund Your Travels + Save Save Save!
So how on earth are you going to afford to travel as a poor college student? You could sell a kidney, but it's not for everyone. So here are some real ways to fund your travels while in college.
- GET A JOB • Yea you're probably not qualified to do much. But there are still plenty of ways you can work in college. I myself worked as a server, after-school teacher, bartender, babysitter, and ran my own Etsy shop at various times during college.
- SELL YOUR JUNK • Don't use it anymore? SELL IT! You can sell just about anything on Ebay and Craigslist, and there are Apps like Vinted and Poshmark where you can sell your old clothes. You'd be surprised at how much you can make and how much stuff you really don't need anymore.
- ASK FOR MONEY • So this may sound a little lame. But if you express to your family that traveling is something you really want to do and something you are passionate about, some family will be thrilled to help you out. Maybe they'll want to pay for your next flight or just give you some souvenir money. If you let them know you want money for Christmas or your birthday for travel and not just for the sake of money, they'll be more inclined to help fund your next adventure. As long as they get to see all the pictures of course.
- GET A CREDIT CARD • This one's controversial, I know. And I'm only saying this one from experience. But the only way I was able to fly so much during college was from credit card points. With my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card I was able to earn 50,000 bonus points by spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. I had my parents put large expenses on the card to help me get to this balance in order to get the rewards. The 50,000 points went a LOOOOONG way with budget flights. You also get 2x points on travel and dining and 1 point for all other purchases. You also get 25% more value when you redeem for flights and other travel booking through Chase Ultimate Rewards (which is what I did). You can also get some points for referring friends to get the card. If you use my link and get the card, I'll get some fun travel points, and you can too! I use this card for everything I purchase now and the points really add up. It's awesome.
WAYS YOU CAN SAVE IN COLLEGE
- Wait till after the first class to get textbooks. Sometimes you don't actually need them.
- Buy used textbooks.
- Get deals for used electronics on Ebay .
- Apply for scholarships.
- Cook your meals!
- Get some roommates.
- Use free campus amenities.
- Take a bus/bike/walk/carpool.
- Never go shopping while hungry.
- Don’t get a pet!
- Buy a coffee machine. Starbucks adds up.
- Cut your subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, Hulu). Mooch off your loving friends who have these subscriptions
- Always ask yourself, "Do I NEED this?"
- Choose your trips wisely. Would you rather go on an expensive spring break cruise for one week or backpack Central America for two months for the same amount of money.
You have to start thinking about how your daily/monthly expenses add up. That $3.15 coffee everyday for a year is $1,000+. Your monthly Spotify subscription is over $100 a year. You could sleep in Nicaragua for half a month with $100.
5 • Go Have An Adventure!
Now that you've figured out where you're going and how you're going to pay for it, it's time to go! Don't hold back. Close your eyes and jump! I promise you, it will be the time of your life. Take pictures. Develop lifelong friendships. Make mistakes. Get lost. Make lasting memories.
6 • Save Money While Abroad
Here are some tips on how to not break the bank while abroad on your college travel adventure.
- TRAVEL IN A GROUP • Sometimes there are discounts or you can save on accommodation. Sometimes 4 people staying in an Airbnb can be cheaper than booking individual beds in a hostel.
- FLY SMART • Maybe the cheapest way to get somewhere is not the most direct. I love finding flights on Skyscanner!
- USE A TRAVEL CREDIT CARD • I love my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The points you make can go right back into your future travels!
- COOK • Lot's of hostels have kitchens. Use them! Limit eating out, because the cost really adds up.
- FREE TOURS • There are almost always free walking tours in European cities. Do a quick search while you have wifi and you'd be surprised all there is to do for free!
- USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION • Learn how to use the metro and other public transport, not taxis.
- PACK LIGHT • Pack everything you need into a <40L carry-on and you'll save tons on checked baggage fees. You'll also never lose your luggage. Here's the backpack I use and swear by!
- STUDENT DISCOUNTS • You can find student discounts for the weirdest things sometimes. Bring your student ID with you and don't miss out on any deals.
- HOSTELS • Budget hostels are often much cheaper than hotels. And no they're not scary! Do your research and pick one you like. Some have kitchens and even free breakfast! They are also a great way to meet fellow travelers. I like to search for hostels with HostelWorld. They have an easy to use app with tons of options.
- TURN OFF YOUR DATA • Don't make the mistake of thinking your cellphone was on airplane mode the whole when it actually wasn't (me). You can actually go into your settings and just turn the data off completely!
- COUCHSURFING • Meet locals and save on accommodation by sleeping on someones couch for free! couchsurfing.com connects travelers with locals who have opened up their couch or even a spare room to meet like minded travelers form around the world. The site also has a really great community that you can chat and connect with.
7 • Study, Save, Tavel, Repeat
If you've followed the money saving tips above, hopefully you're not in any insane amounts of travel debt. This means. You can go back to your classes for a semester or two, work some more, and then travel again! once you catch the travel bug, there's really no going back.