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Traveling on the Cheap: Budget Vacation Tips for College Students

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With the weather warming up and summer just around the corner, the millions of college students who are busy cramming for finals may be finding it hard to keep their minds from drifting into daydream mode. Whether your idea of the perfect vacation is a stay on the beach, a backpacking trek through a rugged mountain range, or a wild week in a popular party town, there’s just something about this time of year that can kindle a chronic case of wanderlust.

But with your bank account balance hovering in the low double-digits and no windfalls looming on the horizon, it looks like you just might have to spend another boring summer working behind the counter at your favorite hometown diner, right? Not a chance. If you think you need big bucks to indulge your summer travel dreams, think again. When it comes to college vacations, exhilaration doesn’t have to be expensive.

Think Outside the Box to Get the Most Bang for Your Travel Buck

Most people think that it takes big money to fund a dream vacation. In some cases, this is true – if you’re talking about the kind of conventional, upscale travel that’s suitable for families or older adults. But most college students are willing to sacrifice a lot in terms of comfort and convention in order to make their travel dreams a reality. If you can handle a bit of flexibility and unpredictability in your travel agenda, you’ll be able to gain access to million-dollar travel experiences for mere pennies on the dollar.

What’s the trick? Well, you have to let go of some of your ingrained beliefs and attitudes about traditional travel, cultivating a broader view of what constitutes a “vacation” – and what you’re willing to do to make your travel dreams a reality. Begin by making a list of the places you’d like to see this summer – and then put on your thinking cap and dream up some not-so-traditional ways to help you get there. Before you know it, you’ll be spanning the globe like the savvy traveler you’ve always wanted to be. Here are few budget travel ideas to help you get started:

•Consider a working vacation. If you’re willing to give up some of your spare time each day in order to check out some of the world’s most amazing scenery and locales, why not seek out summer opportunities that combine work and travel? Cruise ships and group tours are great places to find entry-level positions that will allow you to see the world while collecting a paycheck. If you’re good with kids, check out international nanny agencies for summer positions overseas.

• Earn college credit overseas. Check with your college counselor to find out about any study abroad programs available at your school. You might be able to commune with a new culture while you cross a few foreign language credits off your required course list. Many summer programs offer discount travel deals for participating students.

• Volunteer for your vacation. Community service is catching on in a big way with the college crowd, and opportunities are popping up all over the world for students who want to dedicate their summers to the greater good. These programs – which are often paired with low-cost travel packages – allow students to help developing countries while still spending some free time checking out the local culture.

• Don’t forget hostels and youth exchange programs. These options are both long-time favorites for college students looking to see the world on a limited travel budget. With rates as low as $15 a night in some regions, it may be worth putting up with the shared bathrooms, bunk beds, and rowdy, all-night parties.

Do you have a budget travel triumph you’d like to share? What are your favorite cheap travel techniques? Do you have travel plans for this summer? Tell your story in the comments section.

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