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8 Money-Saving Tips for your Dream Summer Vacation

Looking at spring beak photos on Facebook, I get super jealous when I see people who are in awesome places like Greece, China and Ireland. I always think, “How in the world did they pay for that??” I mean, we are all poor college kids, right?

That may be true, but there are still ways you can vacation with your friends or significant other on a budget! Here are some tips to help you plan a trip this summer.

1. Groupon.com

Seriously, this site is going to be your best friend. Groupon offers different deals each day from 50%-90% off. They have short trips like staying at a hotel at Niagara Falls for less than $35. You can also do trips overseas, like a five-day tour of Iceland for less than $600, including airfare. Groupon deals usually include a hotel, a tour, food, and airfare.

2.  Check Prices for Best Airfare

If you have a specific place that you want to go to, checking websites that sell discounted plane tickets may be your best bet. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that and would rather buy them directly from the airlines, you need to buy them at least 2 weeks in advance. Usually, the best day to buy is Tuesday afternoon because companies start putting tickets on sale Monday evening. By Tuesday afternoon, all companies are scrambling to match those deals. Another tip is to fly out in the middle of the week instead of on weekends or holidays.

3. Pack Light

Less stuff means less suitcases which means you won’t have to pay to have your bags checked. Most airlines that go overseas will make you pay for checked luggage. Try packing a backpack and a small carry-on instead. Roll your clothes to fit more. Anything you can buy when you land, don’t pack. Pack clothes that you can pair with each other to make multiple outfits. Also, pack for your vacation. If you are going hiking in the Alps or Rockies, don’t pack a dress. If you’re going to the Bahamas, don’t pack a coat. Less is more. Search “capsule wardrobe vacation” on Pinterest or Google for ideas.

4. Travel with an Organization or School Research Program

Many times, colleges and universities offer abroad research opportunities. Although it’s a “research trip,” there will still be a ton of time to explore the city you’re in. The OUR (Office of Undergraduate Research) at Pitt has programs, like the London Field Studies, where you can travel abroad for two weeks and conduct thematic research through the London International Field Studies program.  If you want to travel, but are anxious about finishing school, this is a great choice! Also, most of it is completely funded! Ask your advisor or professors for more information.

5. Study Abroad

You already pay to go to school, why not study in another country and get credit to graduate early?! You can also work and do an internship while abroad. Visit the study abroad website for the application and to view what programs are available. Make sure to check out the financial aid page to save yourself even more money!

6. Use a Family Vacation House

You probably know someone who has a beach house, cabin, or property that would be awesome to crash at for a few weeks. And if you don’t, one of your friends probably does. Having connections like this means you can stay at an awesome place for very little money (even for free!). Just make sure you are responsible and clean up before you leave.

7. Backpacking and Couch Surfing

If you’re more adventurous and want to hike your way through Europe, South America, or Southeast Asia, use websites like CouchSurfing.org to find places to crash for free. Oftentimes, the locals that you stay with will want to show you around and give you insider tips on the best ways to eat. If you have a home, you could even do HomeExchange.com, which connects people who want to house-swap (like in the movie The Holiday). There are so many websites that give you advice on how to backpack for free or next to nothing. Do your research to stay safe while traveling!

8. Refine Your Search

To get more ideas and tips on where to go and how to save money, search for where you want to go and add “on a college budget” or “for free.” You’ll find so many blogs and websites that will give you good maps, interesting places and coupons to help you have the best summer vacation ever. If you ever feel discouraged about your money situation, just remember that you aren’t alone!


Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sarah Churchman, HC Pitt's Senior Editor, is a super senior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Computer & Information Science with a specialty in User Design! She is the reserach lead in CyREN, the school's cybersecurity lab. Along with InfoSci, Sarah is minoring in Creative Writing with a focus in poetry. She is an editor at Forbes & Fifth, a student-run magazine. She is also part of H2o church. She's obsessed with tacos, Tommy Hilfiger, and ordering things off Amazon Prime!
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