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From where to stay and how to get there, here’s how to cross country.

The Cure for Your Wanderlust

From where to stay and how to get there, here’s how to cross country.

By Rebecca Friou, University of New Orleans


Sometimes you just need a break.

An extended break. Whether it be a quick, weekend camping trip with your homies or a cross country flight to an unfamiliar city, there are always, always opportunities for cheap, wanderlust satisfaction. If you can’t afford that spring break expedition sponsored by your university, the list of alternatives is endless. There are many types of travelers out there. If you consider yourself a pioneer or pilgrim, these tips might inspire your next adventure.

1. Take a Buddy

Not necessarily for safety as you might assume (although, that’s never a bad idea), having a friend or four tag along can cut the total cost of the trip by a lot. Splitting meals, transportation expenses and housing eases the burden of scraping together money, or worse, falling on your sword and asking your parents.

Plus, roaming around with your pals is the truest test of friendship there is. You’ll most likely return home with a stronger relationship and outstanding recollections.

2. Home Cookin’

When on vacation, the temptation to eat out is practically irresistible. Besides, food is half the excitement of traveling, isn’t it? To indulge your cravings without breaking the bank, try making breakfast at home some mornings, skipping the $6 dollar lattes and pastries downtown.

Take a trip to the local grocery store and experiment in the kitchen. Feel free to dine at a local favorite and enjoy the tastes of different cuisines — just not for every meal.

3. Do. Not. Procrastinate.

While it’s still (rarely) possible to stumble upon savvy flight deals as your departure date approaches, you most likely won’t be down to spend the equivalent of a ticket to Europe on a domestic flight. This is why you have to be proactive when it comes to Christmas break or spring break expeditions. Although you may not know where you’re going or who you’re going with yet, look ahead at different airlines and Groupon deals.

The cool thing is you don’t have to rely on planes as your single mode of transportation. Road trips can be cheaper, depending on your destination, car model and number of passengers. Pitching in gas money is an effective way to make it across borders without breaking the bank. In certain parts of the country, trains or busses can be the cheapest alternative to flying. The downside is that these two options typically take longer and can also be insanely expensive — however, they’re still worth checking out.

4. Air What?

Airbnb — it’s quick, easy and reliable. College students can save big bucks by crashing on someone’s couch or hammock. If you’re traveling with a group, many Airbnb’s will provide air mattresses and comfy couches to accommodate you while still maintaining an affordable price.

If you’re comfortable with bunking, hostels might be the thing for you. Through hostels.com you can search for your ideal sleeping situation in any country. Another smart idea is to make connections. Do your friends have vacation homes or do you know of family friends who have a spare room? Before booking, it’s always smart to see what free options you have available to you.

5. Uber is Cool, but So is Public Transportation

Since many students ditch their cars when they get to college, a road trip may not be the most practical option. Even when you have your car, sometimes your parents don’t want you putting tons of miles on it.

If you’re planning on getting around a city or town without reliable transportation, public is the way to go. Yes, Uber is affordable and consistent, but sometimes that pocket change of yours can get you to the same place for cheaper. If you’ve got time to kill, catch a bus and witness the city from a local’s point of view. Taking the bus can be similar to a cheap tour.

6. But Where Should You Go?

Now that you’ve got all the right ideas of how to explore in a money-saving manner, where should you go? If you’re truly trying to spend minimally, check into your family friend’s beach condo or mountain house. Save the big expedition for later and spend time in a familiar setting. However, if you can swing it, venture to a national park. The government-protected lands are some of the most underrated vacation spots in our country.

Going to South America or Europe might be exciting, but it’s also predictable. Plus, why go abroad when there are plenty of enticing options here at home? Whether it’s finally making it to the Grand Canyon or trekking into the Rocky Mountains, these locations offer activities for both adventure junkies and bystanders. Offering campsites, unique hotels, water activities and hikes, most parks can provide something for everyone.

8 Tips for Traveling Cheaply as a Student
Photo via Lonely Planet

7. Follow Your Favorites

Not an outdoors person? Already spend every summer with your family at a national park? Become a groupie. If you have open options and a more flexible bank account with no idea where to go, check out your favorite bands current tour. Pick one of their stops along the way, essentially a place you’ve never been, and meet them there. Get out of your comfort zone and experience a new city with a guaranteed night of headbanging.

8. Last but Not Least

If you happen to be a little courageous and open-minded, WWOOF is an outstanding organization that can make your free time impactful. Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a database that connects farms with people from all over the world who want to provide labor in exchange for free food and housing. Once you pay the initial cost of $40 for a yearly membershi, you can search for farms across the nation, pinning it down to the exact specifications you desire.

Want to sleep in a tipi in the lavender fields of Montana? There’s a place for that. The site allows you to read reviews about peoples’ experiences and also to contact the owners themselves. They can provide information about their expectations and living situations so that there’s no miscommunication when you arrive. The one catch is that you do have to get yourself there on your own, whether it be by plane, train or car.

At the end of the day, there’s no excuse for sitting in your dorm over spring break, dying of boredom — unless that’s your preference. Traveling will always be as open-minded as you are. There are plenty of places to see and people to see them with. It just takes a little effort and ambition.

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