Our very own jet-setter, Darina from iQ Kingston, explains how to save money on your travels and trips while you're at uni...
Think you can't afford to go travelling as a student? Think again! The UK is a MAJOR transport hub, with more airports and low cost airlines than you can shake a stick at. You can bag a £14 flight to Ireland this month. Or, how about a £60 round-trip to Italy INCLUDING accommodation this weekend. After all, who doesn’t love a bargain?
The travel possibilities from the UK are endless. In one year alone I visited Dubai, Sydney, Budapest, Lanzarote, plus a few trips back home to Ireland. Easier when you’re working full time, but still very affordable if you’re not. And here’s why...
Shop around. Take your time. It sounds like the most basic thing, but don’t be tempted to jump on the 50% off for one day only bandwagon. Generally the flights on that day are a little more expensive anyway, so it may seem like more of a bargain than it actually is. Make sure you're actually getting the best deal. And did you know it’s cheaper to book online on certain days? Tuesdays are normally the cheapest day to book your flights. Skyscanner is your friend.
Go incognito. You know your cookies? Yeah, they are keeping tabs on your searches. It’s simple... your computer or laptop has an IP address, and the more often you visit a website, the more an airline will bump up the price. Sneaky but true! Some internet browsers offer an "incognito" mode, which means you can search flights and travel options without the prices going up.
Travel off peak. This is a real advantage to being a student. It goes without saying that peak times like school holidays are the most expensive to travel. So search Wednesday-Wednesday, late night flights, or very early morning travel options! Avoid school holidays for cheaper travel.
Alternatives? For the ultimate budget traveller, there’s always an alternative to flying. Weigh up the options. You can get a bus to loads of European destinations; France, Holland, Germany, Ireland. If you're staying within the UK, why spend over £50 for a train when you can get on the National Express for £6? It’s not glamourous, but it has free wifi!
Where to stay
Hostels. As a student, hostels are the best option for either solo or group travel. Cheap and cheerful! They’re sociable, open, safe, and a great way to meet people. Generally speaking people staying in hostels are travelling and looking to explore the local area and are happy to make new friends. So get involved!
Couchsurfing. This is a good option for the more seasoned traveller. And I highly recommend it. www.couchsurfing.com is excellent and safe - just make sure your host is verified and has a lot of reviews/recommendations and ensure you always tell someone at home where you're staying. It’s a seriously cost effective way of travelling!
Stay with friends. The majority of my travel planning time is spent working out who lives where. Best friend teaching in Dubai? £300 for flights. Perfect. Best friend moves to Sheffield? Bus is £6? Wonderful. Or... find a cheap travel option and then work out who lives there that you can go and visit!
Eat like a local. Top tip! Avoid the touristy areas... you don’t have to go far off the beaten track to find a cheap alternative. On one trip, we walked around the corner from a restaurant charging £10 for a main course and found another that offered three courses and a bottle of wine for £15! Why? Because one restaurant was in the centre of a tourist hub. Guess which one...
BYO! If you're accustomed to long haul flights that offer in-flight catering as standard, remember that short haul, low costs airlines do not offer this service. Often, cheap and chearful flights actually charge a lot for in-flight food. So have your own food prepared for the flight. Just don’t forget that you can’t bring liquids in excess of 100ml through security.
Of course, depending on where you are staying, you may have the option to save money by buying some of your own groceries so you can make your own food before setting out for the day!
Choose your travel buddy wisely. This is why I prefer to travel solo! You can go at your own pace and budget effectively. Plus, you won't have to splash out for the crazy extravagent things that your friends want to do. So, pack your selfie stick, designate a certain time every day where you check in with a friend or family member, and enjoy! But if you prefer to travel with a friend or partner, have a chat about spending before you head off to make sure you're both on the same page.
While budget travelling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is a lot of fun. Whether you decide to interrail across Europe, backpack across Asia, or couchsurf through the USA, there is always a way of doing it on a thrifty, student-friendly budget.
Share your tips for cheap travelling in the comments section below...