There was a time in my initial days as a student here in USA when I used to say no to every trip I was asked to join, thinking first – I am here on a loan, my dad is paying for my expenses so, I must save every penny and should not splurge on outings, and second – if I go out it will affect my studies. If I stay at same place same environment every day it really stresses me out. I can not study, read and do assignments continuously everyday of the year. I am sure that is practically impossible for anyone really. So, soon enough I changed my mind and found ways to manage trips on a really affordable budget and balance studies as well. I mean it would have been shame to miss on all those amazing California beaches and long drives. I understood that the break is essential. It is essential to clear your mind and start fresh. Monotonous way of life can really bog you down. I think small trips during education actually fuel your progress. They not only refresh your mind but also help to make your friendship bond stronger and add to your experiences.
No matter which city you are in, if you are a student and thinking that I should wait until I complete my education and then I will start exploring – stop!. This is the time, you never know what future may bring. So, please please never miss on opportunities. Plan your trips while you are a student, and I promise you those trips will create perfect memories for you that you will want to re-live these moments again and again.
So, here are my tips and suggestions which I have gathered from our own little adventures. I am sure they can help you while planning your next trip.
1. Make a group
Bigger the group more the fun! Yes true, but also, bigger the group lesser the expenses. I have learnt a thumb rule in America that bigger the quantity lesser you pay. Same goes. Actually when you have larger group, fuel, food, living everything gets split and it really gets very very affordable. Even in Airbnb, if you compare private houses for 2 or a hotel room vs. big houses with many bedrooms, the prices get really low for the later.
2. Choose destinations wisely
While you are student, pick destinations which fits your budget. Destinations like beaches, hikes and trails cost nothing except commute expenses. So, pick these destinations over amusement parks, theme parks or museums. Speaking of museums, most museums offer student discounts. Do ask at every counter if they offer discounts for students. I remember one of my first trips we went to 17 miles drive which is a scenic drive by the Pacific ocean by Zipcar’s free credits with roommates.
Choose one day destinations
If you are on tight budget, chose one day destinations to save on living cost. No brainer right? If you are thinking, oh I live in a far off corner and there is no one day destination near me. You could not be more wrong! There are always some parks, peaceful trails, hikes and many more options just a google/Yelp away.
Use Airbnb to the fullest
I always love Airbnbs over hotels. Not only for cost purposes but the places are lived in and give you feel of the actual vibe of the city than sophisticated hotel rooms. Private rooms offered in Airbnb are really affordable. Even if you go for entire houses when you have a bigger group, total cost gets much lesser than a hotel room. I have found a lavish huge home for 8 guests in Hollywood Hills, LA just for $500 by a certified Airbnb host. I remember our Lake Tahoe one night trip in a cute little 3 bedroom cottage. It was not only comfortable but so much homely and most important – affordable for us “student on a budget”. We took groceries with us, and cooked some pasta while enjoying our first snow.
3. Plan Commute
Use public transport
Some places are so easily accessible with public transport and it costs so much lesser than driving. The first time I went to Santa Cruz beach, we took a bus, and it cost us just $10! While I was in Boston, the “T” (subway) took me about everywhere in greater Boston area. I took full advantage of it and that cost me so much lesser over uber or any other taxi. So, do consider public transport to save on some money.
Rent a car
Now for those destinations which are not accessible by public transport, renting a car and driving yourself is a best way. If you have a big group, cost comes down to as equal as public transports. Just you have to leann to drive and get a license. Or find someone who already has it 😀
4. Control yourself from splurging unnecessary
Say no to souvenirs. Special warning for girls – new city new place and gift shops are so inviting that you can not stop the urge of buying something thats totally unnecessary. You can pack some non-perishable food like khakra, chiwda etc. instead of eating out. Outskirts restaurants can get really expensive. So save on those. Do not spend money unless absolutely needed.
5. Carry documents and do not loose them
And lastly the important one. Carry your student card, driver’s license &/or state ID card if you have, and xerox of your latest i-20. Leave one set of xerox of all your documents at home and let someone (roommate or any other friend) know about that. And always keep scans of all important documents on your phone and also upload on a drive or dropbox. One rule – better to be safe than sorry.
6. Pack a bag a day before
Last minute packing is always a fiasco. Pack your backpack one day before. Must haves – phone charger, powerbank, USB charger, headphones, a water bottle, napkin/ handkerchief, snacks , wallet, ID card, xeroxes as I said before and some cash. According to weather pack a jacket, scarf, cap, umbrella etc. If you are packing food, double wrap it in a ziplock and keep it ready to go.
And never forget that camera. Capture every possible moment!
Hey ! What is in your bucket list ?