If you're like most of the people in our generation, you want to travel. A lot. Everyone today has been captured by wanderlust, the deep desire to see new places. But when your budget is bogged down by student loans and the ever-increasing number of bills to pay after high school, it can seem impossible to go anywhere besides your campus. But travel doesn't have to be expensive, especially not if you're okay with being just a bit untraditional. Without further ado, here are seven tips to have a fun spring break adventure on a student-friendly budget.
1. Start planning early.
I know spring break seems so far away still, and plenty of people probably haven't even started their second semester yet. But to get the best deals, you HAVE to plan early if you want to travel during a busy time like spring break. There's more availability in transportation and accommodation, so you can choose the cheapest options long before they're sold out. Plus, many companies, including Southwest, have sales at the beginning of the year to jump on everyone's budding wanderlust.
2. Do a work exchange.
When you're on a break, working seems like the last thing you would want to do. But there are several websites such as Worldpackers, Workaway and WWOOF (each with a small yearly fee) that will connect you with hosts that need a few extra hands in exchange for free accommodation. And more likely than not, you'll get free meals and other local perks as well. Depending on the work you're doing, you might even be able to put it down as an internship on your resume (or go back again and do one in the summer!).
3. Stay local.
If you're somewhere in the tundra (my school is in Minnesota), then being anywhere except sunny, sandy shores for spring break may seem like a death sentence. But traveling locally is rewarding no matter where you live. If you go to a school in a small college town, chances are that it advertises "a short train/bus ride" into the nearest metropolitan area. But have you even explored that area yet? Staying local makes sure you don't have to pay as much for transportation, and your ecological footprint doesn't take quite as much of a hike.
4. Consider alternative transportation options.
If you don't have a car on campus, your first thought when traveling away might be to take a flight. But if you're staying somewhat in the same geographic region as your school, why not try something else? Going by bus or train will take more time, but it will be cheaper and give you a view of smaller towns and countryside that you might not have seen before. You can even look at certain routes and plan a trip in a loop, traveling for just a few hours a day (or part of the night) and using the rest of the day to explore a destination before hopping back on.
5. Split the costs with friends.
The more the merrier, and the easier on your wallet. You can get an Airbnb or a private hotel room to share, and if you're driving you can split the cost of gas. And whether you're buying food from a store or a restaurant, you can share and split the costs. You can also split up research on your destination, and actually take enough time to find the best value accommodation, transportation and attractions.
6. Visit the tourism center.
You may not want to be "touristy," but usually, a city's tourism center has information on free and cheap stuff to do. All it takes is an extra 15 minutes and a conversation with one of the workers to get great recommendations. Many restaurants and attractions will even give coupons to tourism centers, so it's an easy way to get better deals at places you might even have been going to already.
7. Use social media.
Almost every college student knows social media to be a great way for communicating with others, but have you ever used it to seek an opportunity? Between your class Facebook group and your network of family and friends, you might be able to find someone willing to open up their home to you for a short time. Since spring break is a very popular travel time, you could offer to pet-sit or house-sit for someone. You'll just have to prove that you're responsible enough (and won't throw any parties while they're gone).
Spring break doesn't have to break your budget. We should all be allowed to travel and expand our horizons without feeling guilty about the cost. And if you use these tips, you're sure to have enough money left over for a few more adventures during the semester!