This is the best time in your life to travel! You have time and...little money. But with a little creativity and a lot of dedication, you can get anywhere you want, even around the world for minimum greenbacks! Look below for how-to:
Everyone has heard about the big airlines; Continental, American, Delta. They have hundreds of destinations around the world, and tout their comfort and service. But what do college students care about comfort! Where ever you are going, check for Low Cost Carriers (LCC). These are airlines specifically in the business to cut costs and compete on price. The most famous recently is in Europe, Ryanair. But we have some here in the US as well:
- US Airways
- Virgin American
- Skybus (now bankrupt)
- Allegiant Air
- Frontier Airlines
- Fly Globespan (Canadian)
Look online for more!
Searching for and Acquiring Cheap Tickets
Many people have heard about ticket search engines like Cheaptickets.com, Orbitz, and Kayak (only the last one is hyperlinked because the others suck). But if you are truly committed to saving money, you have to do more than simply search on these sites. Here is the process:
- (1) Look at ticket prices for your destination and dates on Kayak.com. If you sign up with them you can see prices for up to 3 days before and after the date you choose. This is a good idea. Take note of all the airlines that have reasonable prices. Also note if the ticket is being sold by the airlines website or by another search engine (like Orbitz or Vayama). Avoid buying off these websites if possible.
- (2) Now, go to Google. Search for "(destination airport) wiki". Every airport has a Wiki page with all the airlines that land there and where they fly from. See if there are any airlines that Kayak did not come up with that are on that list. Keep in mind that you could travel somewhere to catch a cheaper flight (i.e. if you are searching from Boston, but there is a LCC that flies in from New York, go to New York). Do the same for your departure airport, keeping in mind you can travel somewhere else as well.
- You should also investigate whether the city you are trying to get to has other airports. For example, Dubai has an expensive airport that is 30 minutes from the city. The Emirate next door, Sharjah, has a much cheaper airport (home to Air Arabia) that is 40 minutes away from Dubai.
- (3) Fully informed of all the airlines you could potentially board, go to each of their websites and search for your flight. You must go to an airlines website to get a good fare because they block search engines (like Kayak) from getting at their best fares. Hey, its their airplane, play by their rules! But don't buy the ticket yet, look below!
- (3.1) Another tip before we continue. If you are not sure about your dates, times, airline, destination, etc. but do all this research anyways, don't waste it! Call up the cheapest airline you found and reserve your ticket. Most airlines do this free of charge. Just tell the representative that you want to reserve a ticket and pay for it later and give them your information. Some airlines hold this for 24 hours. Others, like Continental, will hold it for 3 days. This way you won't be surprised by a fare change! Warning: reserving over the phone usually costs an extra fee. If the next day you are ready to buy and the ticket is still the same, just book it online. If the fare changed, then the extra fee is probably worth it.
- (4) Now, to really save money. This takes a little risk, but its worth the savings! If a United States Airlines (i.e. American owned, like Continental) is on the top of your list, go to Google once again and search for "craigslist (insert airline) voucher". Try it again with "credit" instead of "voucher" as well. All the posts that come up should be advertising savings on an airline's credit or vouchers.
- Search around and find a good deal. The best are those that expire soon. $50 is an average saving, and taking less is not really worth the risk. Contact the poster and arrange payment through Paypal, but be careful. Some people may offer to book the ticket for you and then you pay them. This explanation requires a whole other article.
- (5) Enjoy your flight
use Airhitch or a like program. Airhitch gets you across the Atlantic for under $300, though you have to be flexible. Basically fills the role of what used to be standby for flights (although airline worker family members can still fly standby, but for a bit cheaper).
Warning: Airhitch requires you to show up at the airport without knowing if you are actually going to fly that day or not. The reviews are not very positive, but if you do/did it explain the process here!
Eating and sleeping are the most costly activities on any trip (looking around is free). Basically there are two types of places to sleep; the ones you pay for, and the ones you don't. And that was not meant to imply anything.
Free Accommodations Use CouchSurfing. Here is a New York Times article about it. You sign up, get a few references from your friends that are already couchsurfers, and then search the place you want to go. Europe seems to be a particularly great place to Couchsurf. The advantages are
- You sleep for free
- You meet people who can show you around.
- Sometimes, you end up good friends with the people you stay with
Paid Accomodations Well, there is not much to share here. Everyone knows how to book an hotel. Lets just say, definitions of sleeping accommodations vary from country to country. For example, in South America a hostel has rooms with two beds, maybe private bathrooms, and a laid back, "backpacker" atmosphere. In Europe and the United States, a hostel means you stay in a room with six bunk beds and there are no facilities. In Puerto Rico a hostel means a room with mirrors on three sides and the ceiling, a double bed without sheets, and posters for condoms, alcohol, and breakfast. You get the picture.