But with that said, budgeting for a trip – and also juggling uni expenses, while on a pretty meagre pay rate, working pretty minimal hours – is tricky, so these are a few things to keep in mind for planning your first (or sixth) trip.
1. Student-travel agents are NOT the be all and end all.
Yeah, getting things at a student price is fun, but you know what, that can be done almost anywhere. From my experience (I’ve used both student travel stores and your regular, run of the mill agents) you can get almost any student price at a regular store, especially if you make the most of the ‘price-beat’ guarantee which every second store will offer. What’s more, I’ve found that the more experienced agents are better equipped at finding good deals for you, in comparison to the rather inexperienced and unqualified travel reps I’ve dealt with who appear to be students themselves. With that said, if you’re looking for advice on trips targeted to your age range (think Contiki style travel), student travel stores may be the way to go, at least for ideas.
2. It pays to shop around.
Just as you would shop around for the best price on a car, or a house, or anything else which is going to take a major bite out of your bank balance, it pays to shop around for travel deals. Yet, while I would say this is one of the best ways to get a good price, two out of every three people I know who have jetted off haven’t done this. What you need to understand is that the price of a flight is not ‘the’ price of the flight, every customer on your plane will have paid a slightly different ticket price, and every agent you meet will be able to negotiate and find a different deal. This goes for hotels, hostels and almost anything else without a set price.
3. Utilise your student benefits while overseas.
Grabbing and ISIC student card (remember, your regular student card may not be deemed valid while travelling) before you go will allow you, especially in Europe, to snag yourself great deals on hostel stays and entry to a lot of major attractions.
4. Keep an eye on exchange rates and understand your options when it comes to money.
Firstly, you’re always going to want some cash on hand when you touch down in a foreign land. So, if you’re not travelling immediately, it pays to hold off buying cash a.s.a.p, and instead keep an eye on the exchange rate – when it’s good, pounce.
Secondly, in general, there are two kinds of travel cards you can purchase to use overseas – the first type will allow you to load up in your regular currency, and will withdraw at the current exchange rate, while the second will allow you to load up in the foreign currency at the current exchange rate. The better option for you will really depend on where you’re going, and what the exchange rate looks like at the present moment. Of course, if you dollar is looking great, but set to fall before you leave, loading up in the foreign coin is the obvious choice.
5. Sharing is caring.
Taxis are sometimes an unavoidable necessity, particularly when departing from an airport which has no direct connections via bus or train. But if you’re travelling solo, this can also be a huge cost. So, if you’re staying somewhere pretty communal such as a hostel, have a scope around to see if there is anyone flying out on the same day as you. While one of you may have to sacrifice a little extra time if your departures are hours apart, you will slash the cost of the ride in half.
6. Do as the locals do.
Tourist traps know they can charge the Earth for food, without many people so much as batting an eyelid. Instead, keep an eye out for restaurants and cafes that appear filled with locals – the food is likely to be both delicious, and cheap. Street food is also a blessing on your purse strings, and usually one of the most authentic ways to try some of the cultural ‘must-eats’ of a particular city.
7. City-passes don’t always save you moola.
Paying a discounted price for all of the city’s major attractions is great – if you’re actually going to use it to see ALL of the city’s major attractions. However the typical time limits on the passes, or else your time in the city, usually meant this isn’t feasible, and you’ll just be hitting up those which most appeal to you. So let’s take off about half of the sights listed on the pass, plus take your student discount from the full prices they list as examples and, voila, you’ve probably spent more than you would have anyhow.
8. The same goes for metro passes.
While a week long (or sometimes even tourist pass) might sound like the responsible, adult, money-saving choice when it comes to public transportation, this may not always be the case. Before you splash out on a pass, figure out how many times, realistically, you think you’ll actually be using public transport, and calculate the cost with single trip passes – you might be surprised.
9. It needs compromise.
There’s no point travelling half way around the world only to miss out on what you most wanted to do because of expenses. For instance, my New York City weakness is Broadway shows, which over the course of a week (even with rush tickets and TKTS) can still amount to a hefty price tag. So how do I do it? It simply means forgoing something that you know you can do without, such as a few museum visits over the course of a trip.
Of course these are just a few of the many ways to help you budget and plan your dream trip, and I’d love to hear the hints and tips you have all amounted throughout your travels – comment and share!