Education is supposed to pay off in the long run but what do you do in the short term, when you’re studying, skint but desperately need a break from the books? From backpacking to brochure breaks, there is a world of opportunity, but how do you find it affordably?


Fancy getting away for a holiday on the cheap? These tips can help.
The digital revolution has opened up an entirely new world of travel for those with a keen eye for a bargain, a sense of adventure and the knowledge of where to look. The most important thing you can do is choose whether you’re going to plan ahead or respond to an opportunity immediately.

Cheap flights


The most obvious thing to do is find cheap flights, and booking in advance can help make it really cheap. Most travel websites will notify you of flights to your favourite destinations – check out places such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, Beat The Brochure and Travelocity.

Search for the cheapest flight anywhere and plan your trip around that destination. Check around for alternatives: these days some airline credit cards offer free flights – so long as you repay what you buy immediately, you could be off for nothing but taxes and baggage fees.

If you’re looking to take advantage of a last-minute opportunity you could try package holidays – sometimes when the flights aren't full the operator will sell off flight-only at low rates. Many airlines will let you sign up for sales notifications, which can be a handy way to keep your eye on what's coming up. Always remember to check what you’re signing up for though, additional charges, allowances and meal costs can add up.

Find cheap city-to-city travel


Trains can be expensive and buses can prove a lot cheaper. An alternative is to sign up to one of the growing number of ride-sharing sites such as carshare.com, carplus.com, mylifts.com and blablabla.com.

Carshare.com helps you find others travelling to the same destination, so you can share the price of the journey. If someone has empty seats, you can sign up to travel with them, share the costs or even the driving. Blablabla.com operates in Europe too and allows you to offer or access a lift at a price that suits you – and it even offers ratings for drivers and passengers alike.

Find the right hostel.


Just like flights, booking hostels in advance will help you save cash. Booking in advance can mean cheap stays with hostels.com, and there are other similar services. But just in case the hostel is being economical with the truth, always check out physical addresses on Google Maps so if it says it’s in the city centre, you can check if it’s true.

Home away from home


An alternative to the hostel route is the home exchange. If you’ve got a place of your own and the rent is covered, why not check out home exchange sites, such as exchangeaway.com or homeswapper.com. Today it’s a growing service, with Gumtree and the Guardian offering such exchange platforms. Swapnfly even caters specifically for those with a small student flat.

See the sights cheap


Check out ahead of time what’s free or cheaper to see if you make an effort. Why pay €14 for the Louvre when it’s free the first Sunday of every month? Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art museums are free after 6pm. In London, check out the street art or hit up the British Museum, while in Berlin visit the Hackescher Markt, or the East Side Gallery, a Berlin Wall section that's become a gallery of free-for-all art.

Speaking the language


It’s always easier to make the cheaper choice if you can understand what’s on offer. For those of you who are linguistically challenged, iTranslate and Google Translate work well. The app Jibbigo can translate what someone says to you in over 20 languages into English, and it works without being connected to the internet.

Pack everything you need and nothing else


When packing, take just the essentials - making sure you pack for the weather and your plans. Jeans and t-shirts should cover most things but plan ahead, you don’t want to suddenly need something when you’re away. Try to make sure you take clothes in the same colour tones, so you can mix and match with a small number of clothes.

If you’re travelling abroad, make sure you’re carrying your International Student Identify Card (ISIC) to make sure you get the discounts available to you. If you’re travelling in Europe, take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which you can order for free.

Figure out your phone


Always make sure that you’ve sorted out whether your phone will work overseas and whether there are special deals you can get for roaming. Find out if you can get a set data feed for a set price and, if not, turn off your data roaming. If you’ve got a laptop or other device, it might even be easier to leave your phone at home, phone using Skype and take advantage free Wi-Fi whenever you can.

Find free Wi-Fi


Speaking of free Wi-Fi, JiWire makes a difference by identifying all the Wi-Fi zones available to ensure you can get connected to free or paid zones. Obviously your own phone will tell you what’s in range, but this app gives you a map to get you right to the nearest zone. And it can be searched by specific address, country, state or city – with 150,000 locations in 135 countries.

Don’t worry


If you plan ahead and have access to Wi-Fi you should be OK. With a credit card or access to a bit of cash (PinPin ATM will help you find a cashpoint machine in over 220 countries), as well as a bit of planning ahead, you should be able to scrounge your way around. And if things don’t work out according to plan, just roll with it and take it as the adventure it is. Remember, some of the worst experiences to live through make the best stories at the bar…

The Student Room provides guest spots to external contributors. This article has been provided by Peter Panteli, general manager at Beat The Brochure


Photo Credit: garryknight via Compfight cc