I suppose you could say I was bitten by the travel bug at a fairly young age. In fact, I was 11 years old the first time I traveled out of the country. We went on our third trip to Disney World, then stayed at the beach in Florida. From there, we took a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas, where we learned the art of bartering, tried to sell my dad to pirates, and made jokes about McDonald's being right near the US Embassy. I had saved my babysitting money for months so I could get my hair braided, and buy a faux designer purse (or 3 or 4... Hey, I was a fashionista!) Since then, I have traveled quite a bit. At 13, I went on my first mission trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico; We took a road trip to Canada the summer before high school; Cruised to Belize and two cities in Mexico a few years later; I even took a week my freshman year of college, and went to Cozumel! For every trip, I saved for weeks beforehand so I could have some extra spending money because my parents always booted the travel costs. Then I decided to study and backpack Western Europe this summer.
I had wanted to go to the UK since I first read Harry Potter in the 3rd grade, so when my major's department advertised a study abroad trip to London and Edinburgh, I jumped on it. The school trip was 9 days, but I stayed an extra 8. The trip, including my airfare, ended up being a little over $2,900. Had I had the option to stay in hostels, it would have been even cheaper. But alas, I, a poor college kid with maybe $100 in the bank managed to do it. Here's how you can, too.
1. Work Frequently During School Breaks.
I am a CNA, meaning I make a little over minimum wage. At my home health job last summer, I was on the clock nearly 50 hours a week for a month. After bills, rent, food, and gas, I had a little left over for travel costs. I also participated in paid surveys such as PaidViewpoint, as well as paid search engines such as SwagBucks.
2. Work Weird Shifts.
After losing my main client at my home health job, I picked up work in a nursing home... And then another. I found that I really enjoy working night shift. Not only are the people awesome, but it pays more. With shift differential, I make 50 cents more than my day shift counterparts. This may not seem like a lot, but it's an extra $4 in my pocket every time I work. If I have 5 shifts in a pay period, I have $20 more than someone working day shift. This definitely adds up!
3. Clean Out Your Closets!
Remember what I said earlier about being a fashionista? It's added up to a LOT of extra clothing throughout the years! I just go through my closets and clear out things which don't fit/I don't like anymore. You can do this, too. Just clean out your closets and take clothes to local resale shops, or host a garage sale!
4. Scholarships are Key.
The less money I need to spend on school, the more money I have in my pocket. In fact, I just earned over $1,000 in scholarships for next term. I'm thinking of using some of the money I budgeted for school, and using it on a plane ticket to Peru! Speaking of budgets...
5. Make One (And Stick to It!)
The website I used to purchase my airfare allowed me to make payments. One month of study abroad and airfare payments equaled out to about $400/month, or $100/week. When you think about it, that's not that bad for nearly 3 weeks of international travel!
6. Sign Up for Miles Rewards Programs.
I flew to and from London using Virgin Atlantic, and also took two Virgin trains while I was abroad. I now have over 8,000 miles I can use to purchase the same trip I just took, but at half the price of my original ticket!
I'll admit that my GoFundMe page wasn't entirely successful. In fact, I received zero donations until a comment was made on my page, telling me to get a job and earn the money myself. Fortunately, my friends and family came to my aid, and I earned around $100. This may not seem like much, but it ended up being one fewer shift I needed to work!
I also asked for help funding my trip for Christmas and my birthday. I ended up receiving my travel pack, travel accessories, and a few hundred dollars (spent on my airfare.) My parents also gave me money a few times when my hours were low on my paychecks, and they even got me food, water packets, and gum for my trip! Thanks, Mom and Dad!
8. Work Until the Last Minute.
I suppose I'm fortunate in that one of my jobs allows me to work nearly anywhere I am in Missouri and Kansas. I worked home health and at the nursing home until the day I left for my brother's graduation near Kansas City. Whilst on my way to the northland, my boss for my promotional job asked if I could cover a fill-in. I said "Of course!" and managed to make an easy $60. This tactic allowed me to be paid thrice while abroad, and twice upon my return.
9. Use Websites Designed for Inexpensive Travel.
Personally, I used STA Travel for my London airfare. I paid $250, then another $200 or so each month. This helped me budget my trip, get a great price, and not worry about never having $1,200 in my bank at one time.
10. Be Flexible.
My favorite deal by far was getting to Germany. You see, my group study ended in Edinburgh, from which a flight to Dusseldorf to visit my exchange brother was $214. I quickly learned that a Glasgow-Dusseldorf flight was $47, and to get to Glasgow by train was a mere $12. Add in 25 pounds for a taxi to the airport (and two sweet old ladies who helped me find my terminal,) and I saved about $153!
All in all, I spent about $3,700 exploring Paris, London, Scotland, and northern Germany for 17 days. With a little flexibility, hard work, and planning, you too can travel some of the most expensive cities on a college budget!