• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

How to really afford student travel

ByAisling Kelly

Nov 7, 2023
passengers board an easyJet plane at Edinburgh airport

As students living in Edinburgh, we are spoiled. We live in a historical capital city. People travel
thousands of miles and endure sleepless red eyes just to walk around the cobble streets we aimlessly wander down on a night or take photos of the very buildings we have lectures in or streets. Yet life becomes life, and we all need a bit of a change of scenery.

And what better way to do so than hoping on a plane and ending up in another European city? Plane tickets, much to our lament, are not free. Neither are hotels. Or dinners out. Or taxis to the airport. Or museum tickets. Or the Aperol Spritzes you order for the table. Or the perfect black leather jacket you find in the hidden vintage shop. Travel comes not only with upfront costs but also hidden traps that one can easily get sucked into with the justification: “well, I’m on holiday.” While I aspire to this level of financial freedom, as a third-year university student, I’m not quite there. However, cheap travel in Europe is by no means impossible – it just takes a bit of extra planning.

First tip, stay in hostels – Hostel World is a great app I’ve used which allows you to see a significant
amount of ratings from past travelers, which from a safety perspective is great. The ratings are also
broken down by category, so you can find the hostel which matches your priorities (proximity to the
centre, safety, cleanliness etc.) in addition to cost.

A second big spending area is food. For breakfasts and lunches, I think having something more casual here is great. Head to the local supermarket and get some things for breakfasts and lunches: granola bars, fruit, and some things to make a sandwich. Now take your little packed lunch and eat it on a park bench!

Additionally, I always try to see if there is a local food market to grab some pre-made hot meals or even snag my lunch ingredients here. However, after your long day of running around and seeing the sites, I do think being able to go to dinner, digest the day, relax with friends, and experience the local cuisine is one of the best parts of travelling. While dinner could come with a massive cost, I often have found the best meals I’ve had travelling aren’t from the five-star, Michelin-star restaurants with plates that look like works of art, but the small hole-in-the-wall local spots. With this, social media is your friend. Look at travel blogs, TikTok reviews, or Time Out Magazine’s list of restaurants. I tend to put in “hidden gems” or “local favourites” for my search. Don’t be afraid to go one street over where it’s a little quieter!

Third department – activities. Don’t get sucked into ‘tourist activities.’ While ghost tours, jet skiing, and
masterclasses are fun, you can easily drop $40 on an hourlong experience. And often, these won’t give you the proper authentic experience of the country. Instead, opt for cheaper options such as museums
(always see if they have a student rate), touring churches, and walking around certain neighbourhoods.
While you’re passing all of these shops, definitely explore them, but make sure to set a specific budget
before travelling, so that you don’t go overboard on the vintage shops (and then get charged because your bag is overweight).

Fourth and final area – flights. This is where the bank account can really take a hit if you’re not careful.
Simply put, book far in advance, and be open. While we all want to hit the major cities like Rome, Paris, Berlin, etc., not only can flights here be really expensive, but the general cost of all your activities, meals,
etc. will likely be higher there as well. So, be open to some lesser-known cities or countries. Eastern
Europe tends to be much cheaper than the West as a general point). SkyScanner is also a great website I
exclusively use, which helps you find the cheapest dates and cities to travel to.

Head in with a budget, book flights on Skyscanner, hostels on Hostel World, head to food markets and
local spots for meals, and soon enough you’ll be taking a massive deep breath, getting lost wandering the streets of some, beautiful new city.

@easyJet plane at Edinburgh Airport” by Karen V Bryan is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.