Penniless student travel tips

After a long school year spent trudging to 8:30 classes in the bitter cold and slaving hours away in the dungeons of Stauff, no idea could be more welcome than concocting the perfect getaway. For many of you young, wayward vagabonds out there, summer vacation seems like the perfect opportunity to let out your inner Bilbo Baggins and declare to the world: “I’m going on an adventure!”

Unfortunately, unlike Mr. Baggins’ fanciful travels, we students have more to worry about than just the casual fire-breathing dragon or a few blood thirsty orcs. Instead, students are faced with the reality of paying student loans, working multiple part-time jobs, and surviving the summer off of more than just strawberry pop-tarts and toast, which leaves most of us with nary a spare dollar or minute in sight.

However, like all good adventure stories, there is always a ray of hope for our young and slightly broke travelers out there! Just follow these tips compiled from a barrage of exchange students and a penny-pinching pro herself, and you will be satisfying your wanderlust in no time.

1. Plan far, far ahead
It’s time to take the YOLO out of travelling. When you are in a foreign land with only pocket change left and your only sleeping arrangement is sharing a hard, metal street bench with a rather off-putting looking gent, you will finally grasp the gravity of why YOLO is a no-go. By signing up for discount cards like the International Student Identity Card, Frequent Flyers, VIA Rail Rewards, Hotels.com, and Air Miles, you can save up reward money for flights and hotels as you purchase your everyday necessities.
In regard to your method of transportation, booking your bus or plane ticket far in advance and leaving at a non-peak time, such as a Monday or Thursday, can greatly spare you and your wallet. Lastly, having a loose but lucrative day plan for your adventure can help you to keep track of your expenditures -- like subway fares, museum passes, supper bills and the like -- and it can give you the heads-up on how much cash you should probably be ready to spend.

2. Don’t fall for the tourist traps
I know, I know, we are all suckers for the perfect photo opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, sipping a fresh café au lait while taking selfies under the Eiffel Tower does sound like a dream, but forking over 10€ for that coffee is not. While it’s great to snap a few photos of the world’s biggest wonders, you will definitely get a richer and more authentic experience by avoiding the big attractions and their endless array of souvenir stands.
Instead of signing up for that expensive bus tour, just grab a good old fashioned map and make your own tour. By doing so, you will definitely save money and may even find some hidden gems of your own.

3. Know where you want to spend your money
You know that saying that university students can only choose two options out of having a social life, enough sleep, or good grades? The same thing can be said about travelling on a student budget. Between sleeping arrangements, mode of transportation and tourist attractions, you have to decide which two options will bear the brunt of your money.
Of course, your decisions should ultimately be based on what you are most comfortable with. If you are travelling solo and feel uncomfortable doing a room share or staying at a hostel, then you should definitely spend a little more money on a hotel where you feel safe. Don’t be afraid to splurge on something that will make your travels enjoyable, but be prepared to cut back on another aspect like limiting souvenir shopping and restaurant meals.

4. Use your connections
We all have friends and family for a reason, and that reason includes their wonderful, reclining, La-Z-Boy sofas conveniently scattered all across the globe. Staying at a friend’s house while you travel can save you tons of money, and better yet, you will always have an expert tour guide handy. Just be sure to repay their kindness by doing some chores around their house or cooking for them if you have any culinary skills to offer.
However, if you don’t have the luxury of being acquainted with worldly people, you can always find fellow travel lovers with an open couch on Couchsurfing.com. Even travelling with friends can save you some big bucks in the long run. You can find some amazing deals for students travelling in groups at websites like Airbnb.ca, where you can often get an entire apartment for less than a hotel room.

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