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Wanderlust: Travel on a budget


If you’re a twenty-something who was bitten by the travel bug, you might have a dilemma on your hands. How is it possible to repay student loans, quench your thirst for adventure, and still have enough left over for rent and groceries?  If you take some time to plan and follow these tips, it’s possible to do it all.

First, if you’re still a student, look into study abroad opportunities so you can earn college credit and get resume-worthy international experience for your travel.  Many programs offer scholarships and grants based on both need and merit.  Once you find the right program for you, apply for every scholarship that you’re eligible for – these can cut the cost of your trip by thousands of dollars.  In my experience, study abroad programs can also help with budgeting because everything is typically planned out for you already, meaning that there are few unexpected expenses that pop up.

If you’re a student who prefers independent travel, then you should take advantage of your student status by using student travel websites or agencies, like STA or StudentUniverse.  You can go to them for transportation or lodging needs, but many of them also offer travel packages and tours.  Not a student anymore?  You can take advantage of many student travel discounts through these companies until you’re 26.

Another cheap option for travel is couchsurfing, where you find a person in the place where you’d like to travel, internationally or domestically, who is willing to share their couch with you.  All hosts are background checked and they typically have reviews from past guests, so you can be sure that you’ll be staying in a safe place.  The cost obviously varies from host to host; some may expect a bit of money, but most are happy with a small gift.  The coolest thing about couchsurfing is that most hosts are willing to show you around – it’s like a hotel with a built-in travel guide and new friend!

If you’re set on international travel, then one of the best and most overlooked ways to make sure your trip is as inexpensive as possible is to check exchange rates.  For example, it’s a great time for Americans to travel to India right now because the dollar is strong against the Indian rupee.  However, the dollar is depreciating against the Euro, making travel in Europe very expensive.  Paying attention to exchange rates and traveling to places where the dollar is strong is a great way to make sure you return home with a few dollars left in your pocket.

Other ways to stick to your budget are to travel in the off-season, when airfare and hotel prices are significantly lower than in peak season, or to split fixed costs by traveling in a big group.

If international travel isn’t in the cards for you now, you can quell your travel bug by traveling in your area to national parks, going camping, spending the weekend at the beach, or visiting a nearby city.  Short and sweet trips like these can be quite cheap and you can still have an adventure while you save up for that big, life-changing international trip.

Photo via GeoVisions

About the Author

Natalee Desotell

Natalee graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a triple major in Political Science, International Politics & Economics, Languages & Cultures of Asia, and a minor in Global Public Health. After a couple years in the working world, she recently returned to her alma mater to study Cartography and Geographical Information Systems. A self-proclaimed public health nerd, her dream job is to communicate epidemiological information visually through beautiful interactive maps and graphics. She enjoys iced black coffee, punk rock music, and surprising people.

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