I am honoured to provide my readers with my very first guest post here at Wanderlust. This article was written by a fellow young traveller and I absolutely agree with the content. Please leave a comment if you like the post so I can be sure to pass along your kind words to the author. Happy travelling xoxo Siobhan.
Between meeting deadlines for homework, working to pay tuition, other bills and applying for internships and jobs, being a college student can be pretty stressful at times. Fortunately, it’s also a time in life when most people aren’t tied down by jobs or family and are free to travel if they want to. Traveling can be expensive, especially if you’re looking to go international, but it’s definitely not out of reach for a college student who has the right knowledge and tools. There is no reason why a student cannot cruise through Europe on a cheap dime. Using the tips and tricks below, you can travel cost efficiently and make frequent getaways a great way to give yourself a break from the college grind.
What to Bring
To begin, you’ll want to travel light, especially if you plan to frequently move around and stay in a new hostel every night, but there are a few must-haves that you’ll be glad you brought with you. I try to travel with less than ten pounds in my backpack, so I have this down to a science. First, I searched Amazon and found a roomy backpack that was lightweight. Why just a backpack? You don’t want to be the obvious tourist walking around on a museum tour with a roller bag and a camera; that’s how you get mugged very quickly. Next, I invested in dry fit clothes. These are invaluable because they dry quickly if I get caught in the rain and I can easily wash them in a public sink anywhere I go and they will dry quickly. They’re also lightweight, don’t take up much space in the backpack and do not wrinkle easily. They’re great! I always pack at least one collared shirt and a nice pair of shoes, too, since a lot of clubs in Europe have a dress code. I was once asked to leave a club because my shoes were too “sporty,” so trust me when I say, bring some decent shoes, too. However, when I’m on the move, I’m always wearing some comfortable tennis shoes to avoid blisters and sore feet.
Besides clothing, I always make sure to pack a lock because most hostels offer lockers for you to keep your things in overnight or while you’re walking around the city. A secure ID wallet is also a must. I always keep mine on my body at all times. Losing your identification and credit cards, or having them stolen, can pose all kinds of problems when you’re in a foreign country. I use a wallet that zips, and I always keep it in a zipped pocket in my pants or shirt. You can also find travel wallets that hang around your neck and can be hidden underneath your shirt. I know these seem goofy and annoying if you’re buying things or paying for dinner, but I would rather do that than be pickpocketed on the train or in a busy market. This is not meant to scare anyone, just be aware that people do pickpocket tourists and mug them if they are leaving themselves wide open as a target.
Where to Sleep
Overnight plans are always the most important because many hostels close at 10:00 p.m. and can fill up quickly. You don’t have to stay in hostels, of course, but it’s really the most cost-effective plan for a first time traveler or college student. Most hostels I’ve stayed in were less than $40 per night. Many of them even offer student discounts on food and drink, which can help you save big time! Most of my meals were at cheap fast food places, markets or my own hostel because of the discount. If you’re at a good hostel, their food will be great and it can also give you some local flavor. Try to find places that have 24/7 check-in, since you never know what time you’ll arrive after a day of traveling. There’s nothing worse than being exhausted after traveling all day and being late to your check-in and finding yourself homeless for a night, despite already paying for a room. If there is one piece of advice any experienced backpacker could give anyone, it would be this: make sure you have a plan B, C and D. I use a great app called Hostelworld when I’m planning a trip and it’s really helpful in determining the best, cheapest and safest places to stay. It can also tell you which hostels have free Wi-Fi, which is nice if you want to send emails, blog about your travels or upload pictures to a Dropbox account in case your phone/camera is stolen or broken.
Financing Your Trips
If you work during the academic year and you’re able to save a bit of extra cash, that’s great. If you can’t do that, you’ll have to look into borrowing. Instead of borrowing as a loan (don’t do that), I did a little web research and according to Credit Card Insider, there was a travel credit card that I qualified for. I use it all the time at restaurants and small businesses overseas; it’s great because I can easily buy everything I need and then just make small monthly payments when I get back home so I don’t need cash up front before going on a trip wherever I decide to venture off to. The only time a credit card isn’t useful is if you’re at a produce market and some small, local pubs, which will usually require cash payments. I would not recommend having large quantities of cash on your body while roaming through different parts of the world. If you do happen to come across the wrong person, you don’t want to hand them hundreds of Euros. I would also highly suggest that you contact your bank before you leave for your trip and let them know you will be traveling, otherwise, they will suspect someone has stolen your card to buy food at McDonald’s in Paris and cancel it; thus, leaving you frustrated, hungry and trying to explain to the worker that you think it worked anyway.
KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.