8 Steps To Amazing Travel On A College Budget

I’m a college student who spends most of the semesters counting down to my breaks. No homework, no classes, no stress and possibly a vacation? Yes, please! Sign me up! I love to travel. I love driving, flying, taking the train, I’m up for anything! I think travel is something all college students should experience. Spring break is one of the best times to get up and go. Unfortunately, spring break just happens to be one of the most expensive weeks of the year for traveling. As a college student, some can only work part-time jobs, if that, so you must be more diligent when it comes to booking a vacation that qualifies as affordable. Traveling has some of the biggest and best loopholes but also some of the worst. Below I’ve listed some simple, yet awesome traveling tips. I swear by them. Save your money and you can still take that awesome vacation!

8 Steps To Amazing Travel On A College Budget | College students should be exposed to travel but it is often out of reach because of the price tag. Anna shares her 8 step strategy to having an amazing vacation even on a college budget. This post is perfect for the upcoming Spring Break season, but also any time where colleges students will be traveling.

Step 1: Plan ahead

You should track prices and flights for as long as you possibly can.

The minute you decide you’re going to go on vacation is the minute you should start looking at prices, trips, etc. Being on your toes is always the best strategical plan when you are trying to save some money. I recommend checking as often as possible. You can figure out what this destination’s “regular” price is and sometimes you find an awesome deal at a random hour during the day/night. 

Step 2: Compare all airline costs

 I totally understand some of you prefer flying on United or JetBlue (for example), but sometimes it’s so much easier to forfeit the airline flight and fly based solely on cost. Look at every airline your airport provides before settling and booking. Unfortunately, you might not be getting that JetBlue television for the trip, but you might be getting there way faster and at a more reasonable price! Look at all airports around you (even if it means a 3+ hour drive to get to it). Sometimes driving those three hours means you saved $400.00 on a ticket. I’m serious! It does happen. You really need to take everything into consideration before booking.

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Step 3: Check Expedia and Kayak

These two websites I work with regularly at my job and for personal use. They are reliable and the horror stories you hear usually end up being the customers fault, NOT Expedia or Kayak’s. My family has used them and so have many of my coworkers. By booking on Expedia, you can sometimes save up to $500.00 on your tickets, hotels, cars, etc. If there is a possibility of changing or canceling your flight, I would avoid these websites. That is usually where the issues come into play. They do charge steep change fees (as do most airlines), but sometimes these charges are a deal breaker for travelers. If you know you won’t be changing you flight times or days, then Expedia and Kayak may be your ideal money saver! Make an account today and track your destination daily. The prices change regularly. 

Step 4: Use Hotels.com

This is also a 3rd party booking website like Expedia (but for hotels instead.) It provides you with several options for the area you are going to, detailed information, and great prices and rewards! If you plan to change and/or might cancel your trip, avoid this website as well. It is awesome if you are 100% positive about where you are going and when. I use Hotels.com at my job and they offer great rewards. It is entirely worth it because you can save hundreds on bookings. 

Step 5: Compare your hotel prices

Hotels.com makes a great reference page even if you don’t plan to book on it. This allows you to see what really happens (they show you reviews) inside the hotel and it often times provides evidence if it is a sketchy/unsafe place that you should avoid. If the hotel on the direct website is $376.00 a night (for example), Hotels.com often times allows you to book the same hotel for up to 40% cheaper (maybe even more if you get lucky.) Compare these costs! I can’t stress that enough. Again, even if you don’t plan to book on this website, this provides you awesome information and insight on the place you’re planning to rest your head at night. Compare & contrast, people!

Step 6: Read reviews, Seriously

I always want people to be aware of where they’re going, where they are staying, what they’re driving, etc. Always check them out because you never should put yourself in a location that has bed-bugs, has dirty sheets, and doesn’t provide you security in areas where you might need it. The reviews that websites provide you are your friends. Always, always, always be aware of where you’re going and what the quality and concerns are. Don’t travel and be uninformed and uneducated! College students looking for a quick, affordable, and easy spring break often overlook this. Plan everything correctly and you can avoid an issue and have a perfect trip. 

Step 7: Driving is sometimes the best choice (make sure you look into this option)

I know, I know. Flying makes everything quicker and easier. However, driving sometimes saves a massive amount of money. So, if your location is only 6-8 hours away, maybe consider splitting the drive amongst your friends and winging it. Make sure you calculate the possible/estimated cost of driving; you might be shocked with how much money you can save! Gas split between you and your friends is so much cheaper than a plane ticket for all of you. Be smart and watch your wallet. I know people who have driven up and down the country and they track their mileage and gas to the exact destination where they will need to re-fill. This gives them advanced notice to save the money quicker and they knew exactly what everyone needed to chip in for the cost. Driving can also be so much fun when you’re with friends!

Step 8: Food and drinks rack up the quickest (make sure to calculate it)

I love food and I love drinks (don’t we all?). When you’re going somewhere for a vacation and it’s a well-known and/or a fairly popular tourist destination, the food and beverages will quickly make you feel like you’re running out of money much quicker. When you’re spending all that money on your food, sometimes it’s easier to simply buy some basic grocery items and avoid eating out all the time. Some restaurants charge up to $6.00 for a soda because once you start getting re-fills, you’re in trouble. I always recommend planning/prepping for food and drink charges. They sneak up and get you when you’re not looking!

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Wrapping this up

I think the #1 thing I always stress to college travelers has to do with the buddy system. I always recommend that when you or someone you know is traveling somewhere new, take a friend. Going alone is scary (especially with the world we live in), and going together and splitting the cost can make for a much more affordable, safe and fun trip! 

While you plan everything out, I can’t stress to you enough the small bills you should be considering too! You need to calculate your food, your drinks, your luggage prices, etc.

When you need to buy traveling accessories such as luggage tags, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. TJ Maxx, your local Dollar Store, Marshalls, and more will offer you GREAT deals and you can get them for a cheaper price than usual! Shop around on Amazon if you have Prime (if you don’t, shipping can rack up fairly quickly), it has saved me SO much money and SO many trips to the store!

AVOID buying your food and drinks on a plane! They charge you so much more! Sometimes opting for the yucky airport food (which is also pretty pricey) will save you $20.00-$30.00 if you plan it all right.

Lastly, if you are choosing to fly to your beautiful destination and your flight ends up being canceled, delayed and/or completely screwed up in some small way that causes major damage, don’t be the traveler who admits defeat. I can’t stress to you how badly it is to just quit and walk out of the airport. It sounds stupid, but SO many people do it! If you do want to leave, do NOT leave the airport until you have a receipt for a guaranteed refund, a new ticket to get you to your destination, and/or your flight was rescheduled and you know you will be on it when the time comes. Leaving the airport often is the biggest way to lose all of your money! Be smart travelers and enjoy your trip.

Have fun on your budget-friendly vacation!

About Anna

Check out Anna's blog | Pinterest | Twitter | and Instagram

My name is Anna Elyse and I am a full-time college student, full-time blogger, and full-time travel & event coordinator! I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was a child and could hold a pen and paper! I spend as much time as possible with my two goldendoodles, George & Bitsy! I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I live as far upstate in New York State as you can get (just below Montreal, Canada.) I love a good adventure, I live for fabulous parties & events and I take pictures of everything. Flowers & gold are my go-to décor choice and I find so much inspiration from HGTV’s Fixer Upper! When I’m not writing, you’ll find me pinning my life away on Pinterest and/or watching Hulu/Netflix on my couch with my dogs. My life motto that I use almost every day: “enjoy the little things in life, for someday you may look back and realize they were the big things." I try to bring as much passion and honesty to my writing as possible. 


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Amanda Cross

My name is Amanda Cross and I am the blogger behind The Happy Arkansan. I am a 20 something college graduate, graduate student, and all around awesome person.

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Enter your name and email address to get instant access to my college toolkit. The toolkit features 60+ resources to help you with things like writing, research, scholarships, dorm decor, and so much more. This toolkit will be updated with new resources every month so please check it out today!

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