Traveling can offer an excellent perspective on life but often people are discouraged because it can get expensive. That's why you have to do it efficiently. Personally, I always expected to travel in my later years because it just seemed so out of reach. But luckily I took a risk and backpacked throughout Western Europe for three months. It's doable — you've just gotta plan and do it right.
Think In Practical Terms
Destinations in Western Europe (UK, Scandinavia, France, Netherlands, Germany, etc.) have a tendency to be a bit pricier but are also relatively safer and easier for English speakers to navigate.
Areas in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary) and Eastern Europe (The Baltics all the way south to Greece) offer a classic European feel and are still pretty safe and slightly more affordable. English is more common in the capitals.
While more expensive to fly to, trips to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, etc.) balance out based on how cheap everything is once you're there. You'll get to see lots of nature, eat good food and likely meet welcoming locals.
Choosing Central and Latin America as your destination is perfect if you want to practice the Spanish you've been learning in class; same with Southeast Asia, but do your research and keep safety in mind.
Lastly, Africa is expensive to get to but fairly inexpensive once you're there. To avoid surprises, always brush up on the local culture.
There's no way around it: International travel is pricey. Browsing sites like Kayak can offer you some insight as to how much you'll spend, while others like Skyscanner often list tickets that are cheaper. Better yet, explore the internet and find airlines (such as Aer Lingus, Volaris, Etihad Airways and Icelandair) that often offer affordable flights.
If you're traveling to Europe, Eurail offers students a discounted train pass that allows you to hop on certain trains and travel for one set price (exceptions being that certain trains require reservations and countries like France require reservations to be made while in the country). If your trip is on the short side, flights within Europe are relatively cheap on airlines like Ryanair, Spanair and easyJet. Those on a mega-low budget might consider buses or overnight trains, which can save time as well as lodging costs.
Bunk Beds For The Night
Part of traveling is living the hostel experience. This works out if you're traveling alone since you can meet people from around the world. Make sure to read the reviews for all of them and pick one with a kitchen (so you can cook onsite and save money) and a high rating. Use sites like Hostelworld or WeHostels for booking purposes.
Perks For Student Travelers
Apart from discounts on trains and transportation, you can also take advantage of free admissions to certain museums and other attractions with your student ID, but bring a letter of enrollment if your ID doesn't have an expiration date.
Be Safe And Smart
While this might be stating the obvious, always stay aware of your surroundings. Don't flash fancy jewelry. Carry your wallet in your front pocket. Don't leave stuff unattended or fall for street con artists. Having a designated sober friend also doesn't hurt (take one for the team and avoid getting taken advantage of or losing your wallet while drunk). Also take a business card from the hostel so you have the exact address and grab a paper map (phone batteries die). Before you go, scan your state ID card, passport, travel insurance and visas then email them to yourself. That way if you happen to lose anything, you still have a way to access them. Be aware of the nearest U.S. consulate in case of an emergency. Also consider joining STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) to get travel alerts and warnings.
Get Out Of Town
Don't just go to the typical places or capital cities. You might have a better (or more authentic) time in a smaller city instead. Last year, I wanted the French experience but I couldn't afford Paris. So instead I went to Lyon and had the time of my life.
Alone Or With A Group?
As a mostly solo traveler, I can say that the experience can be incredible. I've met some of the coolest people that I still keep in contact with. But remember if you are traveling solo there will be times when you might feel intimidated. To overcome that feeling, find a safe place to sit and take it all in. This will be taking you out of your comfort zone. Don't worry: You'll meet new people and other solo travelers so you won't be lonely for long. But if you choose to travel with a partner or a group, make sure everyone is somewhat compatible. Are they the type to walk around all day? Do they prefer going off the beaten path or sticking to touristy spots? Are they planners or would they prefer to go with the flow? Who is in control — or do you take turns? This might sound trivial but after joining a group of girls in Berlin, I learned that two of them didn't care for seeing every museum, but one girl did. Also having a non-negotiable or two works: Everyone pick an absolute must-do on the trip (or one thing per country, per day, etc.) to keep everyone happy.
Back It Up
Seriously, back up all your photos regularly (using Amazon Prime Photos or another cloud-based storage site). Getting a laptop or camera stolen sucks but losing all those photos of your travels sucks even more.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.