With winter break just around the corner and spring break on the horizon, visions of vacation grandeur may be dancing through your head. However, in light of the current economic slump the possibility of travel may seem slim. But don’t let your dreams of sunny beaches and urban adventures grow dim. There are still plenty of deals out there to make your ultimate vacation a reality without breaking the bank.
Typically, the most expensive part of travel is the cost of transportation, but there are myriad resources out there to find a cheap lift to your destination. For low-priced airline tickets, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com and Expedia.com seem to be the go-to sites, but I prefer Kayak.com and Cheapoair.com. If you stalk these sites like you stalk Banner during registration you are sure to find a good deal. Anne Jensen ’11 uses Expedia and Orbitz because they offer cheap, easy-to-find tickets at comparable prices. Nonetheless, as a student your first stop should always be Studentuniverse.com. Student Universe offers deeply discounted tickets to students on major Airlines, both domestic and international. And if a European adventure is in your near future you should check out Ryanair.com, Easyjet.com and Vueling.com, which run specials on flights for 10 Euros or less.
If your travel plans are domestic there are still plenty of ways to save on transportation. Amtrak is often a convenient option, and it offers routes all over the country, although tickets can become pricey. With the purchase of a $20 Student Advantage card, however, you can save 15 percent on all Amtrak and Greyhound tickets; and yet, I find the Chinatown bus to be the ultimate deal in regional transit. Companies such as Megabus, Apexbus and New Century Travel — known as the Chinatown bus lines — typically leave from urban areas and offer inexpensive transport to major destinations up and down the east coast, including Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. While these bus lines sometimes get a bad rap for their cramped quarters and sketchy pick-up points, they offer tickets as low as $1. From personal experience, they also provide adequate service. When you arrive at your destination, don’t shy away from public transportation. Always choose the metro over a cab; it will be more affordable and give you a better feel for the local culture.
Finding affordable lodging can be the next major obstacle to a successful trip. When it comes to a locating a place at which to crash you must keep an open mind. When searching for an inexpensive place to stay, Hostelworld.com is a great site to use. Although typically associated with European travel, there are hostels in almost every major city across the United States. The great thing about Hostelworld is that it allows you to select between hostels — which typically offer communal lodging — and budget hotels, which are a bit safer if you are traveling solo. Airbnb.com allows you to book rooms with locals at a relatively low price.
After you have arrived at your destination and found a place to rest your head, food is the next item on your list of necessities. A great way to save money is to eat at a restaurant for one meal a day, then turn to neighborhood farmers markets, street vendors or local grocery stores to satisfy your hunger. Not only will this help you stay on budget, it will also allow you to experience more local culture and cuisine.
The most important thing to remember when planning a vacation with limited resources is to keep an open mind. While you may not be able to stay at a luxury suite in Grand Cayman, you can explore an exciting new place and experience an unfamiliar culture on any budget.