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Travel Tips for the Broke MU Student

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.–Whether you are trying to get away for the long winter holiday or just getting a jump start on spring break plans, there is one issue that can always bring your wanderlust to a screeching halt: money.
We cannot all be like Alexis Ren and her rich beau, traveling from beach to beach in a private jet and designer underwear. But fear not, you can still get those Insta pictures that will make all of your friends jealous, even if you can only afford Fruit of the Loom. Here’s how.
1. Do your research. This is probably the most important thing. Do not expect to Google “hotels in Chicago” and find the best deal on the first site you click. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Search around, compare prices, and utilize travel websites such as Hotels or Skyscanner to find the best deal out there. It is definitely worth the extra effort.
2. While research, turn off cookies on your web browser. Once you start searching for hotels and transportation, those websites track what you look for and can actually raise prices for the destinations you are interested in. It is a sneaky tactic, but you can avoid being on the receiving end and keep those quotes down by turning off cookies and clearing your browsing history.
3. Search for free things to do at your destination. Most major cities will offer some sort of free tour of the area, where tipping the tour guide is recommended. There is also a plethora of free or cheap museums around the world, which can also have some educational value. Check out events in the area, and feel free to ask the front desk at the place where you are staying about the happenings of the town–they usually have the inside scoop. And, of course, see as many sights as possible. Most cities will not charge you to look at landmarks and other cool stuff. If they do, it is usually relatively inexpensive and very worth it.

Photo courtesy of Kelli Galayda
Photo courtesy of Kelli Galayda

4. Be smart financially. Watch your spending, and plan a budget. Going in with a general idea of how much you have to spend on what items will save you and your wallet a lot of future pain. It helps if you start budgeting awhile before your trip, so you can start saving money to meet your plans.
It is always good to have back up money as well, just in case of emergencies. Keep a hundred or two in your bank account on reserve, so you are never stuck without any money. Do not by any means spend money on things you do not absolutely need, either. While I am sure your mom would love that keychain with Pope Francis’ face on it, she would probably love it even more if you spent that money on a real Italian pizza that you can tell her about when you reunite after the trip. Trust me on this one.
5. Do not feel obligated to eat at a restaurant for every meal. Especially if you are going on a longer trip, check out local grocery stores and stock up on easy meals and cheap snacks. You can even get a better taste for the culture if you are going somewhere foreign when you shop at their grocery stores. Stocking up on snacks is also great when you are on the go, so you can keep exploring instead of waiting around for food.
6. Travel lightly. Checked luggage often costs money, which is something you probably do not have if you consider yourself a broke college student. Fitting all of your things inside a carry on will not only save you cash, but it will also reduce the number of things you have to carry.
You cannot always avoid a big suitcase. So, if you do need one, make sure it adheres to the weight limits of the airline. Fees for overweight luggage are disgusting, and can be even more disgusting when they surprise you at the airport. Pack only the necessities–and remember, you can wear jeans like five times without washing them. And shirts are only dirty if you sweat. Just saying.
7. Lower your expectations. When we think about traveling, we often picture ourselves flying first class, staying at hotels with jacuzzis, lavish champagne, and free hand towels. I hate to be the dream killer, but when you are a broke college student, it does not really work like that–unless you have rich parents, in which case I am not sure why you are reading this to begin with. Get back on your yacht.
Chances are, your flights will be sketchy and your hotels smelly. In the grand scheme of things, none of that will matter. As long as you get there safely and have a place to rest your head at night, your trip will be as amazing as you want it to be. Free hand towels will not matter so much when you are standing in front of the Grand Canyon with your best friends and taking in the entirety of the moment.
8. Going off that, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to stay in a hostel, do not be afraid to take a long train ride instead of a plane, do not be afraid to eat the cheap local food, do not be afraid to talk to people, and perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to explore.
The world may be full of scary people, but you cannot let the thought of something going wrong stop you from living life. Things will go wrong no matter where in the world you are, so experience what you can while you can. You will have the most fun when you step out of your comfort zone. In fact, when you look back on your experiences, that is what you will remember the most: the times you did things you would have never thought you would do.
See? Traveling the world is completely doable for any young broke college student. All it takes is a little planning and a large appetite for adventure.