15 Student Travel Hacks

spellbound travels student travel hacks

So you’re a student and you say you want to travel. But how badly do you really want to? As a student, the possibility of travel may seem quite far fetched to say the least. I definitely understand the struggle of wanting to explore the world but not exactly having the funds to do so. I started travelling on my own for the first time when I was completing my undergraduate degree, all while paying for my rent, food, tuition, books – the works. So luckily for you, I have a few tips up my sleeve … Read my top 15 student travel hacks below!

15 Student Travel Hacks

1. Study Abroad

study abroad spellbound travels
Walking through Hosier Lane in Melbourne when I studied there in 2016

If you haven’t already thought of studying abroad, now’s the time to do so! My travels started when I decided to study for a semester in Australia and I’ve never looked back. In a study abroad program, you often pay tuition to your home university like you normally would. This means that you don’t need to worry about additional costs there. Here are some of the benefits of studying abroad and how you can make it happen:

  • Travel scholarships – Believe it or not, most Universities provide travel scholarships that can help cover your flights to the country you’re looking to study in! When I went in 2016, my home University (McMaster) gave me $1000 just to be a part of the program.
  • Sublet your room – Why should you be paying rent twice when you can find someone to take your place for a few months when you’re gone and cover that financial burden? I personally had trouble finding a sublet right away. I eventually found someone to sublet my room from Kijiji (for all my Canadian friends). 
  • Live off campus – If you want to save money, living in res on campus while abroad is NOT a good idea. Take a little extra time to look for places online before you arrive. I’m so happy I didn’t live on campus when I studied in Melbourne because my school ended up being a lot further from the city than was ideal. I ended up finding a place in a much better location that was still cheaper than living on campus. 
  • Consider studying abroad TWICE – I unfortunately only found out that most universities allow you do study abroad for a second time once it was too late! I missed the memo while I was having the time of my life in Australia and didn’t think it would be possible. Look into that before you leave because chances are, you’ll catch the travel bug and will be kicking yourself knowing that you could’ve studied abroad again!

2. Prioritize 

If you truly want to travel while studying, you’re going to need to prioritize travel. To do so, you may need to give up a few things such as going out for meals/drinks with friends, shopping sprees, etc to save money.

It can be tough to hold down a job while in school but if you want to make travel a reality, you should consider getting a job. I personally didn’t have a job through most of university but I would hold down 2-3 jobs in the summer months and do all of my saving then. It’s really comes down to what works best for you.

There are many other ways you can save money to put towards travel while you’re studying. Sometimes you just need to get a little creative!

3. Internships

If you’re in College or University, chances are you’re thinking about how to get relevant work experience in your field. If that’s the case, why does it have to be at home? Look for internships abroad and you never know what you’ll find! Plus, international experience is always a win on your resume!

When I decided to get a working holiday visa for Australia after graduating, I knew I wanted to get good work experience. So to find an internship prior to leaving, I spent hours applying online and doing phone interviews. I finally found one that was happy to have me start for the last month I was home and continue it when I arrived. It may seem hard to get these internships at first but persistency is key!

4. Flights

When it comes to travel, flights unfortunately ends up taking up most of the budget. While there is no exact science behind getting a cheap air fare, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best rate possible at the time!

  • Go incognito – Make sure to go incognito and clear your browser history before booking! If you’ve been searching for flights days, weeks or months prior, the prices may go up and nobody wants that!
  • Check multiple flight searching portals – My favourites are Google Flights and ITA flight Matrix (need to know the airport code).
  • Take the least desirable route – Sometimes the cheapest flights come with a few longer layovers but that’s okay! See this as an opportunity to see another country or city within the same trip you originally planned! For example, save money on your flight home from Barcelona by stopping in another country in Europe. You can usually extend a layover for the same price or tack on $30 to see a new place for a few days! The best way to extend layovers is by using the multi-city option on flight portals like Google Flights.
extended layover spellbound travels
My extended layover in Switzerland

5. Work while travelling

It may not sound the most ideal to work while you travel but it doesn’t have to take up all of your time. Consider picking up a job at a hostel in exchange for free accommodation or look into the possible freelance opportunities that are available to you. 

Could you do some marketing for a business? Sell a product? Write a review for a business in exchange for money or free stuff? Take a look at how marketable you are currently and don’t be afraid to look for potential opportunities!

6. Volunteer

Not only will it look good on your resume but volunteering is a great way to give back and do some good for the world! A great time to do this would be during the summer if you’re at school during the year.

Be careful when looking to choose companies to volunteer with though, as many aren’t worried about the ethics or sustainability. For example, some volunteer positions actually take away jobs from locals.

7. Food

One of the best student travel hacks by far is to scrounge the free food sections in hostels. Before you head to a grocery store to get food to make at the hostel, see what the free food section has in store for you! There’s often lots of pasta, sauces etc lying around just waiting to be eaten.

Lots of people also leave behind large bottles of toiletries that they don’t want to take with them. If you’re running low on shampoo just grab the one someone left behind and refill your bottle!

Some hostels on the rare occasion will provide free meals on certain days of the week. If you choose your hostel wisely, you can cut down on food costs immensely! One of my favourite hostels in the Philippines had free meals twice a week and it was a God send.

8. Ditch the checked luggage

This is probably one of the most underrated student travel hacks when it comes to saving money. I’ve done trips with checked luggage and trips with a carry on only and I’ve come to the conclusion that carry on only is the way to go! Not only will you save money when it comes to paying for checking a bag (anywhere from $30 -$50) but you also won’t be stuck with unnecessary items and carrying around a large bag. 

You don’t want to come back from your trip and realize you didn’t wear half the clothes you brought! If you forget something, it’s not the end of the world. You can always buy things if needed.

9. Accommodation

Besides the obvious choice of hostels, couch surfing, housesitting and staying in an Airbnb, there are a few other ways you can save on accommodation;

  • Workaway – Do some work at a homestay, hostel etc in exchange for free accommodation (and oftentimes food as well!).
  • Overnight buses/trains – One of best tricks in the game. Get to your next destination while saving time that you would be travelling during the day and money for accommodation. It’s a win win in my books!
  • Friends/family – If you have friends or family living abroad, stay with them for a few nights!

10. Teach english abroad 

Teaching English abroad is a great way to travel the world on a student budget. Work during the year and teach during the summer! Some programs want a one year or 6 month commitment but there are still many options if you can only go for a month or two. I’ve been looking into different teaching options here.

11. Choose your destination wisely

Iceland backpacking spellbound travels
Backpacking in Iceland

Some countries are going to be more expensive to travel in than others and that’s just the sad reality. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible on your travels, look into how expensive each country is beforehand and choose one that won’t cut into your budget! 

If you do decide to go to a country that’s notoriously expensive such as Iceland, Switzerland or New Zealand, look into ways you can cut expenses! I did a week in Iceland for $1200 CAD including flights, so know that it is possible.

12. Grab all the freebies 

There’s no shame in looking up all the free events happening in the place you’re going to visit. After all, you’re a broke student!

I can guarantee that almost every city you may plan on visiting has a free walking tour. Free walking tours are a great way to get to know a new place and its history. Not only that, but if you’re travelling solo, it’s a good opportunity to make new friends! 

13. Stay on top of flight deals

Depending on where you live, there are many sites geared towards saving on flights. For all my Toronto readers YYZ Deals is hands down the best! They send you emails with updates regularly so that you’re always in the loop when it comes to getting the best deals.

14. Don’t fear public transportation 

Public transportation is your friend when you’re travelling as a student.  Don’t be afraid to hop on a train or bus to get to where you need to go. You’ll end up saving hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars in comparison to taking a cab or Uber everywhere!

15. Decide to travel more locally 

You can usually cut down on travel costs by travelling in your own country! In Canada it can be tough with expensive domestic flights but its quite easy to make road trip down to the States!

Start NOW 

If you’ve been thinking about it for a while, what’s stopping you? At this point it’s just yourself getting in the way. Stop making up excuses and go after what you want!

If you want more student travel hacks feel free to shoot me a DM on Instagram!


Amy xx

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