A lot of people ask me how I can afford to travel the world while in college, but to be brutally honest with you, I can’t. Whenever I decide to go on a trip I start planning about eight months in advance. I have to think about my destination, the time, and most importantly the cost. Everything I do is calculated and I fund almost all of my trips.
The first thing that I do when planning an excursion is sit down with a calendar and look at possible dates. The two things that I keep in mind are my desired duration and destination. For example, I don’t want to travel to Asia in monsoon season, nor do I want to go to Africa for only a week. To me, in order for a trip to be enjoyable it should last anywhere from 10-30 days.
Europe is typically cheaper in the fall and winter months (November to March), while Asia and Africa are cheaper in the summer months (May-August). That being said, make sure to research the weather patterns during the time in which you wish to travel. Cheaper flights typically correspond to a less picturesque experience.
Guesstimating The Cost
Once I have settled on a place and time frame I check lots of websites in order to estimate the cost of the flight, living, and potential adventures. I find that one of the easiest ways to keep track of everything is to make a spreadsheet listing the cost, activity, and website link– just in case I accidentally close out of something or forget where I saw a coupon.
I typically start my search by using an incognito browser. I’ve read articles in the past that explain how an airline company tracks your interests and can potentially raise the cost because they know you’re interested. That being said, I’ve also read articles that debunk the myth, so to each their own– but I personally like feeling stealthy.
With my incognito browser open, I first go to Skyscanner or STA Travel. Skyscanner/STA are some of my favorite tools because you can set a range of destination dates (Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually cheaper), which allows you to see a range of flights for all different prices. It also helps you get an idea of layover lengths/locations. In Skyscanner/STA, I play around with various departure locations as well. Sometimes flying out of JFK vs. YUL can make a $500 difference and it would only cost you $50 to take a train/bus or you could opt for a 7 hour drive. Once I’m satisfied with the departure location I take my search to other websites in order to find the best deal.
In addition to Skyscanner/STA Travel, I like browsing other travel websites in order to find deals. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing your ticket from Skyscanner, you could from STA but in my experience I always find a slightly better deal on the other websites. One of my favorite websites to visit is Student Universe, they have endless deals for people who are trying to fly frugal. I also really enjoy Kayak and Google Flights. That being said, do not forget to check the host airline company’s website. Sometimes you’ll find that they are providing the same deal and you can earn miles for future trips!
All in all, the key to flyin’ frugal is patience and research. The more research you do, the better deals you’ll find. Rome wasn’t built in a day, meaning I don’t know how you thought you could plan a trip there in one either.