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One of the most common questions I get—both online and from my friends in real life—is how I manage to travel so much as a broke student (who is also getting pretty decent grades, if I do say so myself).
Well, there are a few tricks for that:
One, I make liberal use of weekends and school breaks. I also LOVE to use the excuse that it would be cheaper to travel around Europe for two weeks than fly back home (pros of studying abroad in Scotland, amirite?). I’m literally sitting in the Edinburgh airport as I write this, about to fly to Portugal for Spring Break.
I also have a serious arsenal of student budget travel resources up my sleeve. And I’m about to share them all with you.
Get your wallet ready, because you’re about to start booking a LOT of travel—for a fraction of the cost you thought it would be.
P.S. Even if you’re not a student a lot of these budget travel resources will help you out, too!
The Best Student Budget Travel Resources
1. Student Universe
Student Universe is a budget travel resource that is directly aimed at students, so obviously it has to make the top of this list. If you’re looking for a cheap flight to somewhere specific, especially if you have flexible dates, then Student Universe should be your first stop.
Ryanair might just be the most well-known budget airline of all time, and for good reason. Even though there are a million different catches, Ryanair consistently and reliably delivers low plane fares throughout Europe, every time.
As long as you read the fine print and know exactly what you’re buying, you’ll be amazed at how much money you save.
Easyjet is another great budget airline in Europe, and I would say I prefer them to Ryanair, mostly because there is slightly less fine print. Also, the interiors of their planes aren’t bright yellow.
4. Eurail/Interrail Passes
If you’ve ever listened to your older relatives talk about how they backpacked around Europe in the 70’s, you’ve probably heard of Eurail passes (Interrail if you’re in Europe). These awesome passes allow for flexible and easy train travel within Europe.
You can buy travel passes for a set number of travel days within a time period, or for unlimited travel over a set amount of months for single and multiple connected countries or for all of Europe. Basically, it’s every backpacker’s wet dream.
However, the ease of Eurail passes can occasionally be overshadowed by the price, and you’ll sometimes be hit with reservation fees on top of that. When it comes to Eurail passes, it definitely pays to do a bit of research: check what prices of the trains you’re thinking about taking would cost if you’re buying point-to-point tickets, and compare that with the overall cost of the Eurail pass (plus reservation fees).
In general, if you’re traveling in a more expensive country—like Switzerland—a Eurail pass is going to be a crazy good deal. If you’re going somewhere less expensive, though, like many countries in Eastern Europe, you’ll be better off buying point-to-point tickets.
Busabout is kind of like Eurail for the modern day. Except, you know, with busses. They offer multi-stop passes as well as ‘link up’ tours to places that their network doesn’t cover.
Although it is a bit more expensive than other options, the really cool feature of Busabout is that it combines ‘the social atmosphere of a guided tour with the flexibility of independent travel’. This is because the only people who travel on Busabout busses have Busabout passes, and since Busabout stops are often outside of recommended hostels, you’ll generally be staying in the same hostel with a lot of your fellow Busabout-ers. So if you’re traveling solo, it can be a really great option.
I haven’t yet used Busabout to travel around Europe, but I’m hoping that I’ll get to soon. They also have routes in Asia and Africa!
If you’re traveling through Europe, then it’s a good idea to look into Flixbus as well. With tickets starting at just €5, you can get some amazing travel deals—as long as you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort to save money.
Personally, I don’t know if I would go with Flixbus for any long-haul journeys, but I used them when I went from Brussels to Rotterdam and it was completely fine.
7. STA Travel
STA Travel, or Start the Adventure Travel, are another awesome resource for finding great travel deals. They provide pretty much everything under the sun, but I’d particularly like to highlight their Blue Ticket Fares—exclusive airfares for students and under 31s.
They also provide great, cheap travel insurance (I currently have year-long, multi-trip coverage with them) and are issuers of the ISIC (which I’ll talk more about later).
Although there are a million budget flight finders out there, one reason I love Kiwi is the ability to search with multiple departure and destination airports. You can even just put in a whole country, if you’re not picky about what city you start in for a longer trip.
So if there are a few different places nearby to where you are/where you’re going that you could fly out of, you don’t have to search separately for each one of them. Instead, you can search everything in one go and Kiwi will show you the absolute cheapest combination.
You can also just put in ‘anywhere’ as your destination if you’re feeling adventurous. How cool is that???
Dohop is yet another one of my favourite websites for searching for cheap flights. Much like Kiwi and Ryanair/Easyjet, you can search the cheapest destinations from your home airport. What really makes Dohop unique, however, is that it also lists self-connect options, which can make your flight that much cheaper.
Where to Stay
Hostelworld is the number one place I go to once I’ve booked a plane ticket and am trying to find a place to stay. It is by far the best hostel consolidation booking website, and pretty much no matter where you’re going you’ll be able to find a hostel there with Hostelworld.
Within the search results, you can filter for the sort of room you want (female only dorm, private room, etc.), location, and price, so you can find the perfect hostel.
My number one suggestion for Hostelworld, though? Don’t actually book there. Because they take a small booking fee, it can often be cheaper to book through the hostel directly. So once you’ve found a hostel you’re in love with, find their website and book with them.
If you’re traveling with friends, then renting out an entire apartment can easily be cheaper than each person getting their own dorm bed in a hostel — and possibly a lot nicer. Airbnb is a great place to find awesome apartments, and you can also rent out a single room in someone’s place for a lot cheaper than a private room in a hostel, if you prefer a little bit of privacy.
If you haven’t yet signed up for Airbnb, be sure to do so via this link for $40 off your first booking!
Finally, if you just can’t do without the luxuries of a hotel (or your parents insist that it’s just too dangerous to stay anywhere else), I suggest taking a look at Priceline’s Express Deals tool, which allows you to book hotels for much cheaper by simply not knowing the name of the hotel before you book.
This is because hotels often don’t want people to know that they’re selling rooms at much lower prices, but they need to fill up rooms. Priceline will tell you how many stars the hotel has and where its located, and you can read reviews from past guests, so you’re not going in totally blind. And by taking a little leap of faith you can often make a serious profit.
13. YHA/HI Membership
If, while you’re doing your hostel research, you find that a lot of the hostels you’re interested are Youth Hostel Association or Hostelling International members, then you might want to consider buying a YHA/HI Membership. For only $18/year, you’ll get 10% off every time you stay at a YHA or HI member hostel anywhere in the world. If you’re planning on staying at more than one hostel in a year, then those savings can add up fast.
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While You’re There
I first discovered the USE-IT app when I was traveling to Belgium and I totally fell in love with it. Designed by young locals for young travelers, the USE-IT app provides awesome recommendations for loads of different cities throughout Europe. Best of all? It’s completely free!
15. Vist A City
Visit A City is another great app that has suggested itineraries for many popular travel destinations. What’s especially great is that you can take those suggested itineraries and customize them with things you want to do—or just start one from scratch!
16. GPS My City
GPS My City is a great resource for finding self-guided, themed walking tours all over the world. I used a walking tour of chocolate shops in Brussels, Belgium, to inspire my chocolate tour of Brussels last spring and it was by far one of the coolest things I did there..
Although offline functionality and walking directions are a for-purchase upgrade ($1.99 per article/$18.99 per year), you can get the list of destinations for free.
17. Free Walking Tours
I am a huge fan of free walking tours because, well, they’re free and I’m broke. Most cities in Europe have free walking tours companies galore, and many places in the rest of the world are starting to catch onto the trend. They’re a great way to get acquainted with a new city, or even see a side of it you might not expect.
Although the group sizes are definitely bigger than you might get on a paid tour, you still get the information and experience—just don’t forget to tip your guide!
18. Get Your Guide
Sometimes, free walking tours just don’t cut it. Or maybe you want to Treat Yo Self. That’s where the guided tour comes in.
While Viator is easily the most popular online booking site for guided tours, if you want to take a guided tour and save some money, then you’re going to get the most quality for the least amount of money from Get Your Guide.
For an extra budget tip, you can also try googling your chosen tour’s name to see if you can book directly from their website. Sometimes they’re a little bit cheaper this way, or may even have a student or youth discount that isn’t advertised elsewhere.
If you like getting off the beaten path and really getting the feel for the local side of a destination, then Withlocals is the perfect resource for you. Featuring unique tours lead by locals, it’s the perfect way to see a new place from a local point of view. And although they’re paid tours, they’re also reasonably well-priced. Plus, you know your money is going straight to the guides, so you won’t feel as bad about splurging.
I especially love that Withlocals (well, the locals on Withlocals) offers home-cooked meals in locals’ homes. I can’t think of a better way to travel!
20. Google MyMaps
Google MyMaps is my favourite way of keeping track of different attractions and restaurants while I’m researching things to do in a place. I just save everywhere that sounds interesting to a map of the city and then, while I’m there, I can pull it up on my phone to see what I’m nearby! It’s especially great for finding restaurants on the go (that you’ve already pre-approved!).
Keeping on Budget
21. Trail Wallet
Trail Wallet is my number one strategy when it comes to keeping a budget while I’m traveling. This seriously powerful app allows you to keep track of every single purchase you make while on the road. You can also sort them into different categories (e.g. accommodation, transportation), set a daily budget, and see costs in multiple different currencies.
Although the full version of the app is $4.99, I think it’s totally worth it.
22. ISIC Student ID Card
Although not totally necessary, you might want to invest in a ISIC— International Student ID card, as there are occasionally places which might not accept your regular student ID card. It’s definitely not necessary though, but I would consider it if you’re researching things to do and you see an explicit mention of the card (e.g. Busabout). One great place to purchase the card is from STA Travel, which I mentioned earlier.
23. Student Credit Cards with No Foreign Transaction Fees
Here’s a simple piece of advice: if you’re responsible with money, you should be building your credit score with a credit card while you’re still young. And while you’re at it, why not make that credit card one that has no foreign transaction fees? That way, you’ll save a bit of money every time you use your card abroad.
24. Travel Insurance
You seriously do not want to travel without having travel insurance. I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for World Nomads in my time, but they are definitely not the cheapest travel insurance out there. I suggest making a search on Compare the Market, which will show you loads of awesome travel insurance options that are a lot cheaper but still cover the same activities.
On the other hand, if you have a credit card there’s a possibility that you have travel insurance included — especially if it’s a travel credit card — so be sure to check that before buying!
25. Your Student ID
Really, it would just be silly to travel without your Student ID. Just like lots of companies at home have student discounts, so do lots of companies everywhere else in the world—including many museums, tours, and tourist attractions.
And there you have it! 25 awesome student budget travel resources. I hope this list helps with all of your budget travel adventures!