How To Travel Cheaply In Your 20’s

how to travel cheaply in your 20's

Traveling is a great way to immerse yourself in a culture that may be different from your own, learn new things about other countries, and get a couple of cute, artsy photos for Instagram. Your twenties is a great time to travel around — whether it’s a couple hundred miles from home or a couple thousand — because you have fewer responsibilities, there may be more discounts available to you, and you might still be discovering yourself and what you want to do. I don’t know about you, but I’d jump on a chance to have an adventure for less money. Here are some of my tips for saving some dough on your next trip!

1. Look for student rates. 

Websites like StudentUniverse help college students save hundreds of dollars on their travel plans, and you might as well take advantage of being a college student while you’re still in college! You can find deals on flights, hotels and other living accommodations, tours, and more. Don’t be afraid to really dig around for the best prices. I used to think that searching around was really tedious, but it’s definitely worth it if it means you get to keep a couple hundred dollars in your pocket.

2. Book travel packages. 

I really love going onto EF College Break to browse through all the travel packages they offer, even if I’m not planning a trip immediately. They allow you to take trips to multiple cities around the world for a certain number of days. You must follow the itinerary they provide, but most of the trips include transportation between cities, breakfast, and city passes. This is a really great way to see multiple cities for one price. Sometimes, you can find packages that include trips between different countries, too.

Related: How To Be Money Smart While Traveling Abroad 

3. Apply to be a volunteer. 

Volunteering abroad is a great way to do something that’s bigger than yourself while also getting to see different parts of the world. Some programs may only provide you with living accommodations and food, so you may have to pay for your own ticket. You may have to check really early for programs, though; application processes could close earlier than you might expect. Lots of college campuses also have clubs/organizations where students travel to different countries to volunteer. My school has Students Helping Honduras and Alternative Spring Break Outreach, for example.

How To Travel Cheaply In Your 20's

4. Get a job or internship abroad. 

This is often easier said than done…getting a visa to work in another country is only one part of the process. You’ll also have to think about where you’re going to live and how you’re going to eat, and whether your compensation at work would be enough to cover these costs. I guess this one can sometimes work out to be a little more expensive than you might expect, but I really wanted to put this one on here. I think that this idea is so extremely life-changing if you can swing it. Sometimes local universities will host interns, but be sure to call ahead to ask.

Related: 6 Terrible Cover Letter Mistakes To Stop Making

5. Check out Groupon.

You never know what you might find on Groupon! My friends booked an all-inclusive trip this summer for less than $800 through Groupon, and I was blown away by the amount of money they saved. I had no idea that Groupon could help you save on trips, so I really wanted to put this one on here in case anyone else wasn’t aware of this.

6. Find the cheapest destinations. 

What better way to travel cheaply than to visit a cheap destination! basically shows you this map with some of the biggest cities and the prices for flights there, so you can easily pick a destination that suits your budget. This is a super handy tool!

7. Book your tickets ahead of time. 

As much as I love spontaneous, last minute adventures, booking ahead of time is an important step to securing your travel plans for cheap. The closer you get to your intended departure date, the more you’ll likely have to pay for the tickets and any other accommodations. I know sometimes you might get that random urge to get out of your city and go somewhere else, but try to keep this in mind.

8. Use Amtrak. 

Who says travel means only going by air? If you’re trying to travel to other states, it may sometimes be cheaper to book Amtrak tickets, depending on which state you want to visit. Be on the lookout for those Amtrak ticket prices, especially if you don’t plan to spend longer than about a week in another state.

9. Stay in a hostel. 

I didn’t have great experiences when I lived in hostels in Ireland, but I will admit that they’re great ways for travelers to have a roof over their heads for a short amount of time. I wrote a slightly sassy article about my experience in hostels over on Thought Catalog if you’re curious about what that was like (p.s. it got over 600 shares and I’m super excited about that!) If you aren’t too keen on living and sleeping with complete strangers at night in a foreign country, I recommend traveling with a small group of friends and booking a room in a hostel that’s just big enough for your group.

10. Stay with friends or family. 

Time to call up your father’s stepsister’s great aunt and ask her if she wants company in England this summer! If you have friends or relatives who live in another city or country, staying at their house would be a great way for you to save money on your trip because you won’t have to worry about paying for a hotel or hostel. And when they want to visit you in your city, you can return the favor.

What are your tips for cheap travel? 

9 Things You Must Consider Before You Leave For Study Abroad

9 things to consider before studying abroad

I’m studying abroad in Ireland this winter (yay!!!) and it’s going to be my first time traveling outside of the country since I was four years old, and I’m pretty darn excited. I’ve heard so many things about how life-changing study abroad is and how it’s “the experience every college student should have.” You’ve probably heard the same spiel that I have. I recently had my study abroad orientation at school and we covered so many things that I didn’t even think I’d have to think about while abroad. Honestly, the only things I prepared for prior to orientation were purchasing my ticket, converting the currency, and buying some travel essentials. If you’re studying abroad in another country in the near (or far) future, DON’T even so much as pack a suitcase without considering these things.

1. Your health insurance while abroad.

I got that “oh crap” feeling the moment the presentation turned to health insurance because guess whose mind insurance never even crossed…My school puts study abroad students on a special health insurance plan because accidents can happen and you need to know how much and what costs your insurance will cover. The plan makes it easy for us to report and check claims from our phones, and we can also find other services this way. Ask your school’s study abroad office if they offer an insurance plan that you can be put on.

2. Can you get your prescription medication in the country you’re traveling to?

One important thing to note is that while you’re abroad, you should not be changing anything in your routine. Some people who travel abroad during intersession think that it’s okay to not take their medicine because it’s “only three weeks.” Make sure you bring your medication and also see if you’re able to get it in the country you’re traveling to in case you lose it or something. This website called the Drug Translation Guide is great for figuring this out. Your medication may also come under a different name and dosage, so figure this out before you board a plane.

3. Your passport expiration date.

Did you know that if your passport expires within six months of your return date to the United States, you may not be able to get back into the country? Yeah, neither did I. I’m not travel expert, but this may be an important detail to take into account.

4. Currency conversions and payment options while abroad. 

Converting your currency is a huge thing to consider before traveling — how will you pay for meals and other things you’re going to purchase? You can convert your currency at your bank, but be aware that you may actually have to order the conversion in advanced, and the rate may change daily depending on your bank. Also inquire about any conversion fees. You definitely don’t want to just pick yourself up two days before your departure and go to the bank to try to convert your money. Another thing to consider would be whether or not you can use your debit card or any other cards while abroad. Be sure to find out which cards are accepted in that country. Leave yourself with enough time to consider money matters for your trip.

5. Packing a voltage and plug adapter. 

My heart practically fell when they told us not to bring straighteners on the trip because using a U.S. flat iron in Europe could practically set a floor on fire. Even with an adapter. The current isn’t the same in every country, so make sure you know what items you need in order to be able to use certain electronic devices. Essentially, you need a voltage adapter for anything that heats up — hair dryers, curling irons, and computers if they don’t have a built-in voltage adapter. This is probably one of the biggest items (besides your passport) that you can’t get away with not bringing with you. If you have any doubts, ask your study abroad office what electrical items are and aren’t allowed in the country you’re visiting.

6. The other country’s social etiquette. 

Another really surprising part of orientation came when we were discussing the social do’s and don’ts while abroad. What may be appropriate behavior and attire in your country may not be appropriate in another country. The professor my group has been traveling with has been taking students to Ireland for many years now, and is of Irish decent herself, so she was able to tell us a lot about what to expect and what not to wear. Let me tell you, I probably would have packed a couple of clothing items that I wouldn’t have been able to wear if she hadn’t told us otherwise. Getting a feel for the country’s social norms can really help you decide what to pack and what to leave at home, so do your research! Also research what gestures are considered rude in the other country. A peace sign with your fingers may be cute in your country, but in another country it can be highly offensive.

7. Alcohol. 

We were told that with a lot of students, alcohol consumption nearly doubled while they were abroad. This can do with the drinking age being different in another country, and everyone else around you may be drinking so you might think “why not?” I know that talking about alcohol isn’t all that fun and I like to talk about fun stuff, but it’s still something to be aware of. Make sure you continue to do what you need to do in order to look out for yourself and keep yourself safe.

8. Class materials such as textbooks. 

It is still STUDY abroad, aka you’re not on vacation and you still have classes to take and probably homework to do. Find out what things you’ll be expected to bring for class time. The only things I’m required to have are a textbook and a journal for documenting the trip, but make sure you know in advanced if you must order the textbook or if you can rent it or get it from your school’s bookstore.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Buying Textbooks In College

9. Preserving the memories you make. 

Do you plan to bring a fancy DSLR? Will you just stick to using your phone? Do you want to have instant prints using an instant camera? Consider how you’re going to take photos while you’re away. I hope to purchase an instant camera from FUJIFILM before I leave so I can have adorable, tiny prints for my travel journal, so definitely let me know of any good deals on an Instax mini! Preserving memories isn’t just limited to taking photos. You can also start a free blog, a vlog on YouTube, a scrapbook, or a journal, to name a few.

What other things should you do before leaving for study abroad? 

The Awkward Traveler’s Guide To Manhattan Part Two

Ah, Manhattan. It sounds so prestigious, bright, sophisticated and just a little bit…intimidating! In case you didn’t already know, I’m an awkward manhattan traverser; I don’t go to the city often even though I’m from the boroughs of New York because the subway platforms confuse me, I’ll start off walking in one direction and realize it’s the wrong direction so I turn around only to realize that I was right the first time (sound familiar?) oh, and everyone but me seems to know exactly what the hell they’re doing. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, thus “The Awkward Traveler’s Guide To Manhattan” was born, except this is part dos, so if you haven’t read part one where I cover basics and Battery Park, be sure to check that out!

So back to part two…I’ve been getting out to the city more, thanks to this series I created, so I’ve been learning new things about handling myself and traveling through the city like a boss (or at least like I kind of know what I’m doing). Just the other Friday, I was in Chelsea and after an…interesting…time with the subway and the LIRR, I learned quite a few things about understanding transportation. Then the day after that I took to Broadway for another adventure.

On Friday in Chelsea…

Pay attention to the LIRR schedule. Because it really is a schedule! If you aren’t familiar with the LIRR service, trains from Manhattan to Huntington station and Port Jefferson Station only come once per hour, so if you don’t plan accordingly, you might be arriving at your destination — a job interview, class, work, a professional conference — much later than you intended to. My group nearly forgot that the LIRR had such a specific schedule, and we were trying to get back to our school! If you ever need information about any of the Long Island train services, you can download this free app, Train Time, which provides very accurate time schedules for all the LI trains.

Always have an extra MetroCard handy. If you’ve ever used a city bus service in the boroughs of New York, you know that the buses accept change as a form of payment. Well the subways don’t, so you need MetroCards to get around. Quick story about my group’s experience on Friday: We thought the MetroCard we had would’ve been just enough for all five of us, since the card had quite a large amount of money on it. Well we thought wrong, because it turns out the card only had about $6 left on it, which is clearly not enough for five people! So we had to buy new ones from the card machine, only the machine only accepted credit or debit! If we didn’t have a debit card, well…we’d be in some deep crap! The safest thing to do is to have an extra MetroCard, even if you think you still have like $5 on your old one!

If you’re confused, ask for help. So on our way back to school, my group took a train from Penn Station, thinking that we had to get off at Jamaica and then transfer. Turns out we were completely wrong! We should’ve stayed on that train and taken it right to Huntington, but we didn’t know that and we were super confused about the next train we had to take, so we asked someone at the info desk on the platform for help. Basically, we got off the right train to take the wrong train! What a life. Asking a knowledgeable person for help is the smartest thing you could do in our situation. Don’t go to a random stranger if an info desk is in sight! People at the info desk can tell you exactly what’s going on and point you in the direction of the correct train, so you’ll be completely un-confused.

Not sure which platform you should be on? Think about the general direction you need to head in. If you’re trying to get from Manhattan to Long Island, but you don’t know if you should be standing on the platform for the Jamaica train or the World Trade Center train, BUT you know that Jamaica station is on the way to your destination, chances are the Jamaica train is the correct train. If you see all these trains pulling up to your platform and they’re heading further into the city, that’s not the platform you need to be on! Sometimes, just thinking about the general directions of destinations can really help you decide between two tough directions.

Think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to interject. This is more for if you’re traveling in a group of people. Don’t just leave it up to someone else to plan the trip and take you on the subway; figure it out for yourself so you can contribute. Plus, in the off chance that the ‘leader’ of the group actually doesn’t know where to go, you might be able to offer some valuable direction.

On Saturday On Broadway…

Pay attention to signs in the subway. These signs tell you what exits you can use to take you to your closest desired street. You might want to end up on 50th street, but if you take an exit that takes you to a different street, you might unknowingly set yourself back. I used to think that all exits were the same and that (somehow) they all took you to the same exact place on the block. I know that subways tend to be packed and everyone’s rushing to get somewhere, but taking a few seconds to slow down and look at the signs in the station can actually help you stay on schedule. 

Don’t suddenly stop walking in the middle of the station. If you need to stop to tie your shoes, check your phone, or pull something out of your pocket, step to the corner. This is more about being considerate to your fellow subway goers. I’m pretty sure you hate running into people just as much as the next guy, so if you have to pause for any reason while navigating the subway, step to the side where you won’t be in anyone’s way. This will save you from many angry glares. 

Don’t be afraid to slightly stray from your path. Especially if you’re going to the city to explore and have fun! I had only planned to go to M&M’s World and the Hershey Shop, but ended up exploring other blocks in search of clothing stores and happened upon American Eagle near Times Square. Really, if you remember what street the subway for the return trip is on, you should be completely fine to explore the area for as far as your legs will carry you. Which brings me to my next point…

Know the street numbers. This sounds really stupid and obvious, but if you’re on 30th street and trying to get to 32nd, you don’t want to walk in the direction of 29th…This is literally as simple as looking up at the street signs. Also…

Don’t feel awkward about turning around. If you just realized that you walked halfway down the block in the wrong direction (which I’ve done before) don’t think that you’ll look stupid for turning around and going in the right direction. You might think that people think you’re foolish for not knowing which direction to go in, but honestly, most people are too busy trying to get where their going to notice that walked in the wrong direction. At least you’ll still get where you’re going. 

I can’t wait to go back to the city for another adventure! I have my eyes on a few restaurants and eateries in the city, so be on the lookout for blog posts about surviving Manhattan dining on a budget!

What are some of your subway experiences?