How I afford to travel as a college student

Longing to travel the world is just a figment of the imagination until you do something to make that dream a reality. You shouldn’t let any excuse keep you from experiencing all the different visions of the world. Especially money, it’s just paper.

As a full time college student, we are often discouraged that we won’t get to experience the fun, spontaneous traveling aspect of life until after we graduate; after we stop having to pay for tuition; after we pay off student debt (if you have any); after we pay off a car; after we get a “real” job etc.

And those are some fair points. As humans, we are REALLY good at making excuses. Sure, living off that college budget is a legitimate reason as to why you may not travel as often as you’d like, but there are some ways to improve you’re quality of life and allow your self to adventure out more. You just have to want it.

“I can always make more money; I can’t make more time”

Set your priorities

For starters, you have to figure out what is most important to you and what you want to get out of life. For me, intangible experiences are more important/worthy of my money than materialistic things. I’d rather experience the culture in the Caribbean than go on a shopping spree at the local outlets.

Where do you spend your money vs. where do you want to spend your money? A lot of college kids get carried away spending money eating/drinking out a lot and living beyond their means. Of course you’re going to have no money to travel when your whole paycheck goes to your brand new sports car or you get margaritas every other night with girls!

Now I’m not saying you can’t have nice things or “treat yo self” every so often to be able to travel but it’s all about perspective. Last fall I had to make that decision when I found out my Jeep was on it’s last leg, and financially it was better for me to sell it and buy a newer, more reliable car than what it would have cost to fix it. But I bought a car that I could afford and still live the way I wanted to. (Best case scenario you don’t have a monthly car payment, because then that’s more money for trips!)

Have a goal

Personally, my life goal is to travel every opportunity I get and fly over any hurdles that get in my way of that. Now I’m not saying traveling while in college is financially easy, but to me it is worth it. Traveling is a lifestyle expense anyone is capable of.

Like any great goal, it’s going to take some hard work and passion to achieve. Figure out exactly what you want. I want to travel to Europe by the end of next year. I know that seems far away but I want to go for like 2-3 weeks and need to graduate first so I have the time and can start saving now!

You can have more than one goal and they can be of any size, we do not discriminate. Goals are motivation, the light at the end of the tunnel, the push we need, and what help us grow in many aspects. Without a goal, you don’t know where you’re headed, what you need to do, or when to start.

Make sacrifices & save money

Sometimes having goals means you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. You get out of life what you put into it. If you aspire to visit every edge of the world (like moi) it’s going to take some planning and from the wise words of Elizabeth Gilbert, “to travel is worthy any cost or sacrifice”. I couldn’t agree more. So here’s the meat of this post, how I really afford to travel as a full time college student.

Live at home as long as you can

Most kids can’t wait to move out as soon as they graduate high school, and believe me I was that girl. I’ve always been very independent and was counting down the days until freedom when I could live by myself. It sounds great in theory, until I saw a couple older friends do it. Sometimes you have to think logically instead of rationally. Most people end up moving back home at some point anyway.

Moving out = bills. Some of these college kids work full time + a part time job and still struggle to make ends meet. I don’t want that kind of stress in my life and I save thousands a year by having my own little apartment in the basement of my parents. I commute to college and it’s not that bad; I’d rather drive 20 minutes to school than pay a couple hundred a month for rent.

Some people may argue that you are missing the “college experience”. But I have no regrets missing out on the small, basic dorms, cafeteria food, thin walls, overcrowded campus, and any other “experience” of college.

I don’t know why people are in a rush to grow up, you’ve got the rest of your adult life to pay off a mortgage and bills! But don’t end up that 40 year old that still lives in the basement.

Cut monthly expenses

Thankfully, by living at home throughout college, it’s pretty easy to cut bills. I don’t have to worry about rent, water, garbage, trash, cell phone, electric, etc until I graduate college!

However, it is very easy to get carried away with month subscriptions…cut them off! Yes, I am talking about Hulu, Ipsy, Birchbox, FabFitFun, Spotify, and any other monthly commitment that is not a necessity. Except Netflix, everyone needs Netflix.

You may be thinking, how will I survive without my new accessories every month? Ask yourself, do you really use those things sent to you, they’re probably sitting on your shelf remaining unused. And is that how I want to spend my money? These things add up quick and I’m sure if you sat down and added them all up you’d realize you spend 100+ a month on these things! That’s 2 plane tickets through Southwest! (If you didn’t know, they promote $49 one way tickets fairly regularly).

And that’s how I view money. You may see a $200 designer purse; I see a round trip road trip to the beach. You see a $25 shirt; I see a baggage fee. I see the value of money in relation to travel. It makes it easier to save when you think like that.

This ones going to hurt…cut your cable. I haven’t had cable in 7 years and I’m fine, I don’t miss it. It’s background noise and it’s not healthy to just sit there watching it all day. I get the local channels for free and that’s all I need. It’s like having an unused gym membership. Which is another thing you can cancel, you don’t need a fancy gym to workout! YouTube has great tutorials for at home stuff and I have access to a gym through my college and in my basement!

These are small lifestyle changes that will make a huge financial difference.

Take every opportunity you get

There are plenty of chances to travel, try new things, and get your adrenaline pumping. Although, you do miss out on 100% of the trips you don’t take.

One way that has enabled me to experience so many things is through the support of my friends and family. Whenever they ask me what I want for my birthday or holidays, I say I want an experience over something materialistic. And I am blessed to be surrounded by people who know me so well and support my dreams by gifting skydiving vouchers, plane tickets, luggage, and many other unique chances as gifts.

If you are planning a really big trip, get an extra side job for the weekends. Then all the money you get from there goes towards your travel fund and you don’t have to save/pull from your normal paycheck.

Do the research

A lot of the time, people spend more on vacations than they need to. They get so excited about where their going or what they’re doing they jump right in with buying tickets and reserving hotels.

Check to see if you have family or friends where you’re going that wouldn’t mind letting you crash or make a deal with them.

It’s worth it to take the time to research prices and places to stay. A lot of the times I use Airbnb instead of hotels because of cost or location. It’s typically best to buy plane tickets on a Tuesday 3 weeks before departure. Sometimes flying to a further airport or catching a connecting flight is cheaper. Don’t just throw your money away!

I’m signed up to get emails from certain airlines so I always know when there are promotions! That makes it easy to compare rates!

Pack your lunch

From the time you start driving, you start eating out more. A lot of it is social and a lot of it is laziness in the kitchen or lack of preparation for busy on-the-go people like myself. Convenience is a lot of peoples excuse for eating fast food all the time.

But you should practice meal prep and planning ahead. You’ll save so much money buying groceries and preparing meals than you will eating out every night for dinner. After just a week of doing this you’ll see how much you’re saving.

Between work and school, I’m out of the house from 8:30 am until 10:30 pm Monday-Thursday most weeks. I pack an abundance of snacks and meal items to make it through the day and save money I can later use it to eat spaghetti in Italy!

This is also a way to eat healthier and feel better but that’s a whole other blog post!

Create a budget for extracurricular things

Now you work hard every week for that paycheck so it’s okay to spend some bucks on yourself as a reward. Of course, your friends are going to ask you to go out to dinner to socialize and maybe a movie you’ve been waiting to come out is finally here but you need to do these things in moderation (if you’re trying to save – whether it’s for traveling or not).

I’m going to say the B-word now…Budget! It’s not that scary and you don’t have to cut off all means off extracurricular activities but do the math to see how much you should spend to keep saving for that goal you set earlier.

It gets easier the more you practice a budget. Budgeting can also be full of cheats. Like when I go to the movies I don’t spend $20 on movie theatre food, I bring $5 worth of snacks from the dollar tree, but who doesn’t?! It’s all about getting the most for your dollar and setting limits for the greater good.

Feed your savings account

Money is worth more than materialistic things. Use it to grow, explore, and learn! It’s easy to see where you aren’t spending your money until you realize where it all actually goes!

You have to invest in yourself with each paycheck by putting some aside for savings. By doing that you are capitalizing on your future, setting some money aside for traveling goals, and overall security. Don’t end up one of those people living a lifestyle they can’t afford.

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer”

This is where some of you still reading are going to question if the sacrifices are worth the travels. And that’s up to you. For me, it is.

It’s worth not having my own place right now; not shopping weekly for the latest trends; not spending $50+ a month getting my nails done; not driving a fancy sports car.

Once you simplify your life for the greater picture, you’ll realize how much you don’t care about those things.

College is important and expensive, but it’s also important to learn from travel. As a college student, or anyone trying to travel more, making these lifestyle changes will lead to a happier life. Trust me you won’t regret making these sacrifices when you’re looking over the sunset in the Caribbean with an umbrella drink in your hand. What are you waiting for?

“I would rather own a little and see the world than own the world and see a little”



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