by Jill Robinson with Greenheart Travel
If we waited until we were financially stable and debt free to travel or study abroad, we never would. That doesn’t mean maxing out credit cards or begging parents for money is acceptable, but there are ways to keep costs reasonable while exploring new countries. To get you started on a travel budget that is within reach for your next trip, here are five ways to save money without compromising your cultural experience.
1.) Accommodation can take a huge chunk of change from your travel budget. Hostels are a best bet for cheaper rates. Keep in mind that you are cutting costs because you are most likely sharing a room with at least 5 more people. If this is not worth it you can book a single or double room for a little more, but it will still beat the expense of a hotel. Good online sources to scope out locations, reviews and pictures include Hostelworld.com, Hostelling International and Hostel Bookers. You can also get a Hostel International membership that offers savings on loads of hostel accommodations, attractions other travel perks.
2.) If you are studying abroad, an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is a good purchase to make. Recognized in over 120 countries and offering 40,000 different discounts in travel, accommodation and attractions, it is a valuable card to carry. Any full-time student 12 years and over qualifies for the card. If you are 26 years or younger but not a student, you can take advantage of the International Youth Travel Card that offers similar benefits. Ful-time teachers and professors also can benefit from savings with a card of their own.
3.) Spend other peoples’ money. Well, not exactly, but there are many scholarships and grants available for those who do their research. Sites like studyabroad.com, IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding and school web pages like Michigan State University‘s offer great resources to hunt down potential funding.
4.) When you reach your destination, enjoy the simple things. Cities like London and Berlin are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to experience them. The point of traveling is to learn about a culture and there is no better way to get to know a place than by walking. Cabs and rental cars are pricey, and there is only so much to see when you are blurring past architecture in a back seat. Some places even have free walking tours, where you can get the knowledge of a guide and an insight into the area. If you can, visit farmer’s markets, cook your own meals, read the local papers for community events or enjoy a coffee while people watching. All of these things require minimal amounts of cash, but are big on cultural authenticity.
5.) Travel with a buddy. Yes, this can also hold potential for disaster if you and your friend aren’t on the same spending wave-length, but if you set out a budget before you travel and communicate the expectations for they types of “luxuries” your are willing to go without, this can safe you a lot in costs. Accommodation can be split, and eating family style and sharing meals can stretch your money. If you don’t have a partner, take advantage of online travel communities to tap into fellow backpacker experiences for money-saving ideas. Matador, Glimpse and Lonely Planet are all sites I can’t get enough of and provide a supportive group of people willing to offer advice.