How I Afford to Travel As A College Student

I get asked all the time about how I can afford to travel so much while being in college. Whether the question is asked by fellow students or people a lot older than me, everybody seems to think I have some secret I am not telling anybody. I promise I don’t have a trust fund, I am not a secret pop star that wears a wig and I don’t have a sugar daddy. The only daddy I have is named Paul and he is my biological father that told me he wouldn’t be funding any of my travel when I turned 18. Though my parents support my love of adventure, I completely fund it on my own. I have found that millennials get a lot of shit for wanting to travel the world all the time, but it’s honestly hard to not to want to when you see Instagram “models” jetting to  New York and  Bali every time you open your damn phone. I am here to tell and show you guys that it is possible to explore the world while still having the responsibility of working towards a degree. It can take a bit more finessing but it’s completely worth it.

Don’t buy useless stuff

This is honestly my biggest pet peeve with college students.They talk and talk about how they want to see the world so badly but can’t afford it. Yes, traveling does cost money but so does eating out every night, buying useless things off Amazon and blowing tons of cash at the bars every Thursday-Saturday. I have found international flights for less than $350 in the past few months. Make your own food, logout of Amazon for few weeks, cut down of the booze and I assure you you’ll have enough moola to scrape together for a trip.

Work at school

I have had various jobs at my university since I was a freshman. If you can, set your class schedule up so that you can work for a few hours a day, it can be super beneficial. I always recommend working for your school because even if the pay is minimum wage there are perks. This past semester I worked a desk job at the vet school 18 hours a week. I was paid a few dollars over minimum wage, had awesome coworkers, was able to get my homework done and got a ton of free food. Other options could be working in the dining hall (typically one free meal a shift), tutoring or working in the department your major falls in (great way to network). Being a residence advisor is another route you can take. Even though I have never done this, I know my school gives free lodging as well as a meal plan or a stipend for food monthly. It’s definitely something worth checking out.

Use your breaks

Going home and watching Netflix while drinking with your high school friends in the basement is cool and all, but so is laying on a beach, exploring new cultures and meeting people from all over the world. If you have the opportunity and enough money saved up, utilize your breaks! It doesn’t matter if it’s a roadtrip to the state below you or a cheap flight you found to Mexico, don’t  waste your time off!

Put your expenses on a travel rewards credit card

I put my groceries, rent, textbooks and all other expenses on my Delta or Capital One Venture card. Both of the bonuses that come with the credit cards are enough for a domestic round trip ticket and some international. Just last summer I was able to go to San Diego on Delta for $11. Once you get the bonus, putting expenses on your card is a great way to accumulate more miles.

Use websites that help you find inexpensive airfare

A few weeks back I had to go on an emergency trip with my Dad to Detroit. The hour and a half from Minneapolis to The Motor City cost $450. Even though this trip was an emergency, I cringed because for the same price I was able to buy a ticket to Lima for this spring and a ticket to Budapest for the summer. If you are flexible with you destinations, you can find airfare that is cheaper than a plane ticket to a few states over. I did a post of the best websites to find cheap airfare here:

Study Abroad

During my five months in Rome I was able to see an insane amount of Europe and get 12 credits (on a pass fail basis too thank god) . Not only did I get to explore Rome but I was also able to utilize Europe’s cheap airlines (I call them flying busses) and see cities like Athens, Krakow, Dublin and Paris for less than $50 a flight. Studying abroad may seem like it is insanely expensive, but most tuitions are actually lowered and there are plenty of scholarships available.

Here are 45 to get you started:


Stay with friends

Remember how I told you that I went to San Diego for $11? We not only did my flight cost less than today’s lunch at Chick-Fil-A, but I also stayed with a friend the whole time (thanks Christian). In all, my week long trip wound up costing me around $80. This trip included exploring San Diego, driving to Mexico and staying at my friends beach house and going to a music festival that featured the one and only “CoCo” singer O.T. Genesis.

My point is that staying with friends is an amazing option to save money, have so much fun and get to experience a place with a local. I have now stayed with friends in California, Peru, Italy and Germany.

Intern somewhere awesome

Maybe your parents would be disappointed like mine if you tell them that your dedicating your summer to travel to find yourself (for the 5th time). If you want to travel but also have a great resume builder, try to get an internship abroad. Paid internships abroad can be hard to find but if you manage to get one, you hit the goldmine. Not only will you be making money, but you will also be able to travel while getting experience for your future career.

So to all the people in universities that wake up every morning wishing they could see the world, I hope these tips show you that with a bit of work it is possible. You don’t need to be an heiress, a sugar baby or a celebrity; you just need to be strategic.


Disclaimer: I do realize that these tips don’t work for each and every students. I am just sharing what  I do that works for me.


  • Kelly Edgar

    This was nice to read, I get asked to question a lot! I had similar experiences as you, from studying abroad, working during University, and packing and buying minimal items to afford my travel trips!

  • Stephanie | Adventures in Aussieland

    I wish I was brave enough to travel when I was in Uni. It wasn’t until I was doing my Masters that I decided ‘screw it, I’m seeing the world” and actually made travel a priority. If only I had followed these pointers in Uni, I’d have seen more countries by now.

    • admin

      Everybody starts at a different time! All that matters is that you found something you’re passionate about and you decide to pursue it. Hope your future travels are amazing!

  • Julia Atkinson

    Great information. You may also like to read the “4 hour work week.” He goes indepth on traveling and saving money. I have listened to it o Hoopla as it is free with my library card. Happy travels.

  • Willow

    I am not in college, but many of these tips apply to anyone! Many times we stay with friends or take a road trip and go camping. It saves us a lot of money.

  • Nancy Johnson Horn

    These are great tips. You are supposed to travel in college, so it’s amazing that you are making it happen. I traveled in college (went on a Semester Abroad program to Nottingham, England) and it was amazing. That was in the early 90’s, before I even had a mobile phone or apps (no one did back then).

  • Miranda

    The first one is SO important! I’ve known so many of my friends in college that wasted their money away on alcohol—really a shame they missed out on great experiences!

  • Joanie @ One Dish Kitchen

    What a great post! My son is a junior in college and recently returned from a semester in Milan. He stayed a little longer so he could travel more in that area and also into England. He did this very cheaply through using Home Away, where he was provided room and board in exchange for doing work at the place he was stying.

  • Roxy Crenshaw

    These are amazing tips! I’m out of college, but clearly need to try a few of these tips. I’m really hoping to have an AMAZING honeymoon next year by taking advantage of travel deals and steals!

  • Tami Villa

    Fantastic advice! I especially love the piece about putting your expenses on a travel rewards credit card. That is one of the biggest mistakes I made in college – applying for a CC that gave me no rewards for what I was spending. Now I use the Chase Sapphire Reserve (although the Preferred version of the card is better for a college student) and it’s changed my travel game! Thanks for sharing.

  • Heather

    I’m not a college student anymore but always looking for tips for cheaper travel. 🙂 Good suggestions! I’ve been fortunate to travel to some great destinations by staying with friends or people I’ve met on other trips.

  • Marcie

    These tips are super insightful! I wish I would have traveled more in college. I love that you were able to study abroad and use Rome as a jumping off point to explore more of Europe. Brilliant!

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