Laquavia Smith/ Staff Writer
The end to spring break doesn’t spell the end of traveling. Take my word as an amatuer- “professional” student traveler: the best trips are hidden treasures.
I am 22 and before November 2016, I had never stepped foot out of North Carolina. But, I’ve recently found my life calling and now go on at least one trip every three months. My snapchat geotags have ranged from “downtown LA,” “Midtown,” “Atlanta” and even “Wall Street District.”
As a frugal girl, I’m here to give you the do’s and the don’ts, the go-to’s and every single tip in the book when it comes to traveling on a budget.
First things first, you need to know where you want to go. To jumpstart a traveling spree, try searching countries, cities and landmarks ideal to your age range. One thing that helped push my own journey forward was googling, “Where to travel in your 20s.”
These lists will usually include Las Vegas, San Francisco, Thailand and even Costa Rica. Once you know where you want to go, it’s time to figure out when.
The second tip is to travel off-season and go through a list of travel times. Use keywords such as “cheap flights,” “best time” and “cheapest time,” on different search engines to find your destination’s off-season. Traveling can get expensive, but buying a $100 round trip flight versus a $500 round way trip to New York makes a huge difference. Once you’ve scrolled across your ideal time of travel, it’s time to plan.
Planning is key, and as cliche as it sounds, it’s important to break it up into three categories: where to go, how much to save, and when to buy.
First and foremost, you need to know where to go. Los Angeles is the destination, not the activity. Planning how you spend your time is essential. Try searching, “hot spots in LA” or if you’re a foodie like me, “best restaurants in Los Angeles.”
Setting yourself up with a list of places to eat, drink, party and sightsee will save time and money. If you’re not too Microsoft Word savvy, tools such as Inspirock.com are available to “create a fully customized day-by-day itinerary for free.”
You also need to know how much to save. Traveling on a budget is one of the most fundamental aspects of traveling. The trick to booking a hotel is going through a third-party. My favorite hotel search engines include Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Kayak.com.
You can filter your search by price, hotel stars and even distance. One way to save money is by booking a hotel that is less than eight miles from the airport. This will not only save you time, but money on Uber costs. Some hotels also offer free airport shuttles. Aside from your hotel, calculate how much you would like to spend on tourist attractions, souvenirs and eating out.
As a full-time student and a full-time employee, money is something I like to hold on to. To plan a trip, I ensure at least a month in advance of money is set aside. Try utilizing a budget calendar and/or tracking sheet. After picking your hotel and managing your budget, try searching for perks.
When I went to New York for the first time, I stayed in the Courtyard Marriot near The World Trade Center, which was $100 less a night, compare to Manhattan and Soho. Also, ask the front desk if they have any complimentary cards and/or coupons to eateries or tourist attractions. The Courtyard Marriot, for example, provided me complimentary “bar bites” at Morton’s Steakhouse
Third, you need to know when to buy. Buying flights over the years has changed drastically, from airfare to airline perks, and unfortunately, many of the amenities that were once accompanied with your seat are no longer offered.
So go for budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit and choose a personal item (included with seat) rather than a carry-on or a checked bag (+$35>.) I recommend studentuniverse.com, the Hopper app and skyscanner.com. They are my go-to search engines for any and every flight. Hopper predicts what time is best to buy—price wise and delay wise—and best of all, it notifies your phone when there is a drop or rise in pricing.
So, happy travels!
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Photo taken from Flickr.