Traveling on a budget?

“I can’t afford it”, is often the automatic response by a student when it comes to travel. Studying full-time, or even part-time, usually prevents students from earning as much money as they would like. Many students disregard travelling altogether as they struggle to even pay for groceries each week. However, there’s a common misconception that travelling is a luxury that only wealthy students can afford. Although travelling isn’t free of cost, students often postpone their travel plans whilst they are at university, assuming that it’s not an ideal time to travel. The World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation aims to promote and develop opportunities for students and young travelers. Their 2015 Millennial Traveler survey established that young people and students were benefitting from the reality that travel is now much easier and less expensive than in previous decades. They also found that young people have a deep desire to travel and “deepen their knowledge of the ‘authentic’ and ‘real life’ outside of their own cultural borders” (WYSE, 2014). Blogger Amanda Machado states that it makes perfect sense for young people and students to travel now, instead of planning travel in a future that is in no way guaranteed (2014). Yet, when you think about the cost of flights, accommodation and not to mention the extra spending money, it seems virtually impossible that you will be jet setting off to a tropical holiday destination any time soon. Then, what if it was possible?

I, too, felt that travel was out of the question whilst I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree at Griffith University.  I constantly saw photos online of my friends in Europe or America on contiki tours, spending money and making fantastic memories. Meanwhile, there I was, procrastinating on social media whilst I should have been writing my assignment. I didn’t even consider being able to plan my holiday until I saw a cheap sale for return flights to Thailand. The low-cost of the flights got me thinking, and I began to research Thailand as a holiday destination. The more I researched, the more I started to realise a low-cost overseas holiday was possible. I spoke to friends who had visited South East Asia, who all highly recommended the trip. It didn’t take much convincing, and before I knew it I began putting cash aside for my holiday. Instead of eating out, I would opt to eat in. Instead of spending money on clothes, I would put money into a savings account that went towards my trip. The amount of money I was saving made me realise how much unnecessary cash I was spending. Within five months, I had more money than I thought I would, and flights were back on sale. I purchased one return economy ticket to Thailand.

After booking my ticket I began looking into accommodation options. As much as I would have loved to spend my holiday in five-star villa’s lounging by the pool, I ruled this out straight away. Although the cost of living in Asia is already inexpensive in comparison to America or Europe, I wanted to spend as little money as possible. I searched through many incredibly cheap hostel options, before making my reservations based on their location. I had quite low expectations due to the low price I paid. However, upon arrival at the hostels, I was pleasantly surprised with the condition of the rooms. Another way I saved money was by not booking transfers to the destinations I planned to visit. I was given this advice by a friend who learnt from experience that hiring a scooter or taking public transport was a cheaper option. I am very thankful for all the advice I was given prior to planning my trip, as it’s what influenced my decision to travel to South East Asia. Not only is it a short flight, but the cost of food, drinks and entertainment is remarkably cheap. Frequently, I find it’s not the funds that are stopping people from achieving their travel goals, it’s their mindset that overseas travel is too expensive. Once I started seeing all the cheaper options, my outlook changed and I realised I didn’t have to break the bank to afford a holiday.

One key strategy I used during my trip was budgeting. I only allowed myself to spend a certain amount each day. This stopped me from splashing out and buying unnecessary gifts. Another thing I was thankful for was my decision to travel with friends. My two friends I booked the trip with were also students, and in the same financial situation as myself. Being able to share cabs, and split all our accommodation costs proved to be a money saver. If you are planning to travel, I highly recommend checking to see if any of your friends want to join you, as you can not only share the memories together, but also share the expenses. I found travelling with other students to be of great convenience, as we were all in agreement when it came to making decisions on our trip, and choosing how to spend our money. Unless you are working full-time whilst studying part-time, university provides you with ample holiday periods. Most casual jobs are quite lenient with taking time off for a holiday, which is what I did when I went on my trip in the June-July university holidays. The abundance of university holidays provides plenty of flexibility when it comes to travelling as a student, which is why I believe it is the perfect time to plan a trip. Managing Director and Founder of Ever Thought of Trying, Ben Lee similarly believes the best time to travel is whilst at university. He states that travelling before starting a career is a good way to avoid breaking any employment commitments down the track. If you are keen to travel and see the world, he also suggests using travel as a way to continue learning.

These days, there are many organisations which have overseas volunteer programs. Many of these programs offer free accommodation in exchange for your unpaid services. If you aren’t planning on travelling with friends, or if you are interested in using travel as a way to build your résumé, an overseas volunteer program could be a suitable option.  On top of this, nearly all universities offer exchange programs that count towards your degree. This provides another great opportunity to travel, as it allows students to continue their studies in an overseas country. While exchange programs do come at a cost, they deliver not only world experience and knowledge, but also an unforgettable experience to add to your résumé. However, if you want to use your trip as an escape from study, I recommend planning your own overseas trip like I did. After graduating university and now working full-time, I realise how hard it can be to take the time off for an overseas holiday. I am thankful I made the decision to travel whilst at university. Looking back, it cost a great deal less than I imagined and the memories I made were priceless. For those students who think that travel is too expensive, its not! All it took was a change in my mindset, and I was able to afford the holiday I was longing for.

23 years old and based in Brisbane! My love for writing led me to study Journalism at Griffith University. I'm passionate about animal rights and the environment.

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