By Carly Blatt:
As college students return from springbreak and begin to daydream about their next trip, here are a few tips for planning summer break travel:
Travel in May or September
Many schools finish classes in May and start again in August, or wrap-up in June and begin again in September. If this applies to you, consider planning a trip in May or September. You’ll often be able to take advantage of shoulder season deals and won’t face as many crowds as you will during the height of summer.
Ask about student discounts wherever you go, and consider investing in a student discount card. An International Student Identity Card (known as the ISIC card) costs $22 and allows you access to student discounts on flights as well as museums and attractions, both at home and abroad. For domestic travel, the Student Advantage Card costs $20 and offers discounts on American Airlines, Greyhound and Amtrak, plus much more.
STA Travel and Student Universe are good resources for finding student flight discounts. Student Universe recently launched a feature called FarePlay that offers up deals based on the city you’re departing from. You can even narrow it down by themes like casinos, party spots, European cities, etc.
When checking student airfare rates, don’t forget to also compare regular flights since student rates may not be the best for every itinerary. And if you have enough frequent flier miles saved up, call your airline to see if using those is an option.
Check out travel pass options on the local rail or bus network since they’re often cheaper than purchasing point to point tickets. You’ll usually have a choice between unlimited travel for a certain number of days, or the option to travel on a specific number of days in a certain time period. Unlimited travel passes are ideal if you’re not planning to stay long at each stop and they provide the ultimate in freedom. Passes that allow you to travel a specific number of days in a time period work well if you’re planning long stretches of travel in a single day, and if you’re good at planning ahead. Traveling on local transportation is the best way to get a feel for the country and its people.
Hop-on, Hop-off Backpacker Buses
Hop-on, Hop-off backpacker buses are a great compromise between a regular train or bus pass and joining an organized tour. You buy a pass for a specific route or a certain number of days, and the backpacker bus will drop you off directly at your hostel. I’m a fan of these because they’re good for easily meeting other backpackers and you don’t have to worry about finding your way from a train or bus station to your hostel. They usually have more limited schedules than a regular bus or train line, so be sure to plan ahead. Examples of hop-on, hop-off buses are the Oz Experience in Australia, the Kiwi Experience and the Magic Traveller’s Network in New Zealand, the Baz Bus in South Africa, BusAbout in Europe and many others.
Tours are a great option for students who want to see highlights of an area, but would prefer to leave the planning to someone else. The tour company researches the routes, plans suggested activities, provides transport and accommodation, and generally takes care of all aspects of a trip.
A number of tour companies offer trips geared toward younger travelers, so you know that you’ll have like-minded folks on your adventure. And they’re perfect for solo travelers since most companies will pair you up with a same-sex roommate so you don’t have to pay for a single supplement. GAP Adventures recently launched a new type of tour called YOLO (You Only Live Once), which is geared toward 18-39 year-olds. Contiki offers adventures for 18-35 year-olds, and Tucan Travel features a trip style called Budget Expeditions that’s targeted toward 18-35 year-olds.
Before you book any type of tour, talk with a travel agent or do your own research to find out about the company’s reputation and what kinds of travelers gravitate toward it. Some companies are known for attracting partiers, while some focus heavily on adventure activities and others are more centered on cultural experiences. There are a number of tour companies that offer trips geared toward travelers of all ages, but I suggest calling before booking to find out other ages of travelers on your planned departure date. One departure could have primarily single twentysomethings, while another could be peppered with retired couples.
One good one-stop shop for finding tours is Adventure Center. They offer a search feature that allows you to specify your preferences, and they also have an Adventure Travel Deals section featuring discounted tours.
For the ultimate experience abroad, mix a little work into your travels. Working abroad allows you to experience a country’s culture firsthand while earning money to cover many of your travel expenses. And working abroad looks good to future employers and can often be more impressive than an internship in your home country.
Companies like BUNAC can help you obtain an official work permit before you arrive. Work abroad jobs often include bartending, temp work, working at hostels and other options.
Enjoy Having More Time Than Money
Summer breaks in college are one of the few times in our lives when we typically have more time than money. Embrace this and set off on a longer adventure than you’ll be able to once you have a full-time job. Go the slow route. Experience the adventure of a long bus ride. Take a scenic train ride instead of a flight. Treat yourself to the luxury of not being in a rush.
Check StudentTraveler.com for Deals
StudentTraveler.com frequently posts student travel specials on their site and has a wealth of information on studying abroad, working abroad, volunteering abroad and more.
- ISIC card
- STA Travel
- Student Universe
- Oz Experience
- Kiwi Experience
- Magic Traveller’s Network
- Baz Bus
- Gap Adventures
- Tucan Travel
- Adventure Center
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York-based freelance writer Carly Blatt has extensively traveled, studied and worked abroad, covering 26 countries on six continents. Her travel adventures include swimming in Antarctica, bungee jumping in New Zealand, diving with sharks in South Africa, paragliding in the Alps, caving in Belize, mountain boarding in Colorado, camping with locals in the Australian Outback, and helping confused-looking tourists find their way in Manhattan.