Archive for the ‘Budget Traveler’ Category

College Savings: How to Afford a Study Abroad Trip as a Broke College Student

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Whether my friends ask me if I want to go to the movies or out for an expensive meal, my answer is always the same: “I’m a college student.” This is the universally known phrase meaning, “I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m broke.” College expenses can really weigh down on my desire to have a social life. Between tuition, books, Metrocard fare, and food, there’s really no wiggle room for anything extra and I’m always trying to find college discounts wherever I go. When I learned about study abroad options through CUNY, my friends asked me where I wanted to go. “China,” I replied smiling. “But I’m a college student.”

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Studying abroad, although costly, is not necessarily as impossible as one might think for the ‘poor’ college student—and it certainly has its perks. One way to help pay for your study abroad trip is to get scholarship money. Just like when you were applying for college, scholarships are diverse, obscure and available to a multitude of people. You just need to be willing to look for them. One great place to start is CEA Scholarships, which are scholarships specifically for students who want to study abroad. There are multiple merit based scholarships available and also financial need based scholarships.

Often times when applying for these scholarships you are required to write a personal essay. In order to get the money you need to make yourself stand out. Write several different essays, share them with your writing major friends, revise, and edit. The more work you put into your essay, the better chance you’ll have at getting that money. Other scholarships to look into for studying abroad are the SIROCS scholarship and the SASA Travel Abroad Scholarship.

You never know when you're going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

You never know when you’re going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

Don’t be afraid to go and contact the financial aid office at your college. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, go anyway. Sometimes the financial aid rules and regulations differ for certain study abroad programs and it never hurts to ask! Taking out student loans might also be a viable option to look into. Loans are a really great way to give yourself some time to save up your money after you take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Start saving up now! Even if you get fully covered by scholarships or financial aid, there’s still the matter of having spending money in a foreign country. Whether you want to buy a cheap bowl of noodles, or a memorable souvenir, you’re going to end up wanting to spend some cash on your trip. In Shenzhen, China I came across an amusement park called Windows of the World. I was definitely glad that I had some cash to pay for the admission. Get a part time job while you wait for the start of your program and put that cash aside. You’ll be happy you did once you get to your new temporary home. You want to be able to take care of yourself while you’re away and have some fun too!

 

 

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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College Savings Experience by Studying Abroad

Saturday, September 13th, 2014
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Photo op with some monks my friends and I met on the Great Wall of China.

I like chicken soup. Wǒ xǐhuān jītāng.

It’s probably one of the only phrases I learned to say correctly in Mandarin while studying abroad in China and it still makes me laugh one year later.

No matter what college you go to, even if it’s only a few psychology courses online, everyone should go on a study abroad program at least once in their lifetime. Study abroad is a rite of passage and the college discounts you get is worth the experience. It’s the ability to say that during your young adult life you did something different and learned about a new place. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go. What’s important is that you get out, see the world, and learn about a country that isn’t America.

One of the best benefits of studying abroad is that your early 20s is the best time to travel. Besides school, and maybe a part-time job, you don’t have that many obligations. Once you’re working the 9-5 grind you’ll find it’s extremely difficult to snag any vacation days right away. Studying abroad provides you with a way to get college credits without sitting in a classroom for an entire semester. Study abroad programs usually offer a variety of courses that range from common core classes to specific credits that can be used towards your major.

Studying abroad through your school is a great way to make friends that will be there after the trip. Most of the people that go on study abroad trips go to the same school. It’s very easy to form close friendships in a short amount of time on these trips. Walking across campus and seeing a familiar face is always a nice surprise in the middle of a hectic day.

 

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New friendships only grow stronger after hours of hiking the Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan) in the southern Anhui province in eastern China.

People don’t just travel because of the boredom from living in the same place. People travel because they thirst to see something new. It’s one thing to see a picture of a famous landmark; it’s quite another to actually see that landmark with your own eyes. Ask anyone that’s ever traveled anywhere, or ask anyone with a smartphone camera; no photo or Instagram filter can truly ever beat the real thing. When you go home and change your profile picture on Facebook to a picture of yourself standing on the Great Wall of China—that’s something to brag about.

To learn about a culture that is foreign from your own is a truly important experience. There are so many different cultures in the world that it is impossible to count. To go through life ignorant of the world around you is a foolish mistake. Hear a different language slide past your lips. Eat a food that you can’t identify. Engross yourself in a way of living that you’ve never experienced.

A study abroad trip is more than just a trip. It’s a chance to take an adventure, fill a scrapbook with memories, and tell stories to your loved ones that will last a lifetime.

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Group picture of the 2013 Summer CUNY China trip in front of the Monk Xuanzang statue in Xi’an, China.

Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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Finding the Perfect Place to Stay

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Accommodations

One of the biggest costs of a trip will always be the housing costs.  Food costs, the second biggest enemy to a wallet, will seem small compared to the daily rent payment to a hotel.  This creates a big issue to all travel plans.  So how can one overcome this obstacle?

Hostels

Being a youth and a college student, hostels and guest houses are the cheap option to hotels.  Hostels and guest houses are cheaper living alternatives which might sometimes include shared rooms and bunk beds.  Shared bathrooms, shared showers, old living quarters and poor guest services are sometimes the tradeoff for a discount living accommodation.  Normally, hotels costs range from $100 to $300 per night while a stay at a hostel or a guest house would only cost 1/3 of that!  Although definitely not as luxurious or as comfortable as a hotel, remember that the goal of travelling is not to live in a luxurious hotel but to rather see a new place.  Check out hostels.com to find all the housing options hostels have to offer!

Hotels and Inns

Hotels and Inns can be a viable an option for many travelling.  Although a little more expensive than hostels, hotels are usually more enjoyable and comfortable.   Sometimes there are discounts and deals which might cut some of the high costs which come along with staying at a hotel.  Search for discount deals and promotions online for great discounts.  Call a hotel beforehand and asking the management if there are such options can open doors for discounts and deals!  There are many low priced hotels, usually ranging from $50 to $70 a night, but risk being a very poor accommodation (bed bugs anyone?).  Of course, if there really is a desire to stay at a hotel while being budget conscious, travelling with a buddy or two can easily cut hotel costs.

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Staying with Friends

Remember that one Swedish exchange student or that person from California in that Statistics class from a year ago?  Well, go and call them up!  A great option to budget travel includes staying at a friend’s house.   Staying at a friend’s place cuts down on so many costs that sometimes it is downright stealing! Not only that but friends can prove to be very good tour guides.   However, remember to be courteous and not to overstay your welcome.   Be considerate of the friend’s own schedule and remember that they have their own lives to worry about.  Even if a friend offers to provide free lodging, bringing a gift and leaving behind a small token of appreciation (like $20 a night) can make a big difference from being a friend and a great friend.

Couch Surfing

Although I have never actually done this before, another option for the budget conscious traveler is couch surfing.  Couch surfing is a way to stay at homes for free by allowing travelers to “”surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.”  Usually free of charge, couch surfing is the least stable of most accommodations as there are many risks associated with it.  Conflicting schedules with the host, potential creepiness, awkward situations or unsafe situations might arise with this method.  However, if this is an option for consideration, check it out here.

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

With these options to consider for a trip, don’t forget to be flexible!  If the stress of living in poor living conditions or urge to sleep on a really comfortable bed does come up, a plan for 4 nights in a hostel and 1 night in a hotel during a week vacation can be an option!  Don’t forget, travelling is an experience, not a chore!

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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The Costs of Traveling

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Travel Costs and Options: Trading cost for comfort

With a schedule all printed out and plan all prepared, it is time to mark down the expenses.  The first two most important costs will be the travel costs and the accommodation costs.   As a general rule, there is a trade-off between cost and comfort; cheaper options are usually less convenient and less comfortable.

Buses
When travelling within a country, buses are one of the most reliable and cheapest forms of long distance travels.  Although it is not always comfortable, buses are always at least half the cost of other forms of travel.  There is no doubt that trains and cars will always be faster than buses but buses cost much less than other forms of transportation.  Where it would cost at least $100 to travel from Washington D.C. to New York round trip through driving or trains, it only costs about $60 if a bus is taken.  In North America bus companies like Megabus or Greyhound usually have travel deals as well.  If late bus rides are not a problem, there can be even more savings on top of the already low prices!

Peñafrancia Tours and Travel Transport Inc.

An example of a bus company which can take you to far

Car Pooling, Large group discounts

Choosing to travel with a large group can cut the costs of travelling by a huge amount.  Generally the more people there are, the cheaper it becomes to travel.  If there is a good amount of people opting to travel to the same location (usually around 4 people), it can be cheaper to split the gas money and take turns driving.  A trip which would normally cost $100 now becomes $25!  Sometimes, there are bus tours and trips which provide a group discount for larger groups.  Being able to travel with more people provides security and economic safety as well.  However, the more people there are during a trip, the more likely it is for the trip to become disorganized.  Make sure to pick the right people!

Discount Deals-Airplanes

One of the best things about traveling is looking out for some discount travel options.  Once in a while, travel sites such as Expedia.com or Orbitz.com might have discount plane tickets to many often travelled locations in the world.  A round trip from Los Angeles to New York can sometimes only cost $89!  However, the fine prints of these amazing deals come with a fixed flying schedule.  So although there is a cheap ticket option, it severely limits the flexibility of travel dates and forces a schedule around those times.    

Studying Abroad and School Sponsored Programs

Sometimes it is almost impossible to find the funds to travel alone.  That is it can be a great idea to check out what programs a college or school has to offer for travelling!  Colleges often have a multitude of programs which allow students to travel to many different locations for low prices and high security.  Club trips, after school programs, study abroad programs, exchange programs and competitive trips can all be a gateway towards a cheap travel trip!  Although options might be limited on a trip sponsored by an organization, it is still a great option to travel (with accommodations provided) for low costs or sometimes even for free!  For example, I was able to travel to place such as Washington D.C. and Princeton just because I was part of the Mock Trial Team in college.  Not only was it a memorable trip but it was also free!

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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Locating the Right Schedule

Monday, April 14th, 2014

    It was 7A.M. in Niigata, Japan.  I had written down my destination for the day and how long it was going to take.  I had planned everything, wrote down all the things I needed, made sure there was plenty of time for all that I wanted to do.  There was going to be a major card tournament that I was not going to miss.  Despite being a location over 6000 miles away from my home, I was able to find my destination and have a great time.  Because of my careful scheduling and planning, it was one of the best days I had in Japan.

    Scheduling is the next step of the travel process.  Using the list of goals and locations of interest as a guideline for your trip, creating a timetable based on these lists will save lots of time and money.

Location

    When there are areas of interest close to one another, this allows for the chaining of activities.  For example, Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, and Saint Mark’s Place are cool locations which are within a reasonable distance from each other.  Because these locations are all so close to one another, someone can set up a route between these locations and visit all of them within a few hours.  If one were to make a trip to lower Manhattan, they can go to Chinatown to buy some souvenirs, grab lunch at Little Italy, shop for some clothes at Soho and then finish it off with some dessert at Saint Mark’s Place.  In this example, creating a route lets planners visit three major tourist destinations while saving a bunch of  time due to their distance.  Furthermore, it can be advantageous to list down extra routes in case plans backfire.  Leaving an area early, road construction, closed locations and such problems can hinder a route.  Don’t forget to make sure the neighborhood is safe as well!

A map route created using Google Maps

Look at the Times

    Always check down the hours certain locations are opened.  Imagine travelling for an hour just to see a closed sign hanging on the door of the museum!  A few simple Google searches can provide the times and dates for many locations.  Calling a restaurant, museum, store and hosts can save a lot of wasted time.  Not only that but the staff can give recommendations to cool events in the area!  Finally, it is my advice that plans should be given an extra hour for breathing room time.  Sometime it just takes a little longer than an hour to eat lunch.

Travelling with other people

    Travelling with friends and other people can create great and lasting memories; however, doing so can also create terrible experience.  Different people can have conflicting ideas, personal preferences and conflicting interests can cause a good plan to go bad.  While one person might want to check out the ancient castles of Europe, another might want to spend a day on the beach to catch some rays.  Despite all this, travelling with many people provides great company, security and can cut costs.  Travelling by yourself can get pretty lonely and dangerous in a foreign area.  Having friends to lean back on in case of trouble can be worth all the possible drama by itself.

Sometimes it's hard to get along

 

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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The Decision Making Process

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Now that the goals for a trip are set up, it is time to get into the gnitty gritty details on how to plan for the trip!  So the question being raised now is where should I go?

Deciding where to go

Now, this is normally not a hard question to answer because people usually have destinations in mind when they want to travel, but what about those who have no idea where to travel?  What about those who don’t think they have enough money to travel?  Well, here are some tips to consider:

-There is always the option to travel locally.
-Make sure the travel plans are within a reasonable budget.
-Use goals to help decide where to go.

For those who have never traveled before, the first suggestion I will give is to travel to somewhere close by.  Whether it is only fifty miles away or just to the next state over, short distance travelling is also travelling.  Travelling a short distance allows people to get a feel on how it is to travel.  If your hometown is New York City for example, travelling to Long Island and staying there overnight can give one a new outlook on how different somewhere so close can be.  Even going to Philadelphia and checking out their town hall and market can be an amazing travelling experience!

For those who wish to travel some longer distances, it is important that the location is within budget range.  Being a college student strictly increases the financial impact that money has on travelling.  When planning for a trip, one must always take into account how much money is available.  Realistically, it is near impossible to plan a trip to India with only two-hundred dollars.  Travel costs, accommodation costs and food costs are some of the obstacles that might get the way.  My rule, although not always applicable, is to add two-hundred dollars to a trip costs after making it.

 

Remember the goals list?  Use that to help create the best personal plan.  A list of goals is the first step in creating the skeleton for a good travel plan.  It is the foundation and first step in creating a good travel experience.  Don’t forget that Tripadvisor is a great tool when looking for places to go.

Deciding where to go will ultimately depend on the individual.  Do not forget that although travelling can be a great adventure, the process will have some expenses on way or another.  Traveling takes time, effort and energy.  As other issues are delved upon, it will greatly impact the trip and help solidify the need for planning.

 

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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Planning Ahead

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The most important thing a traveler can do before a trip is to plan.  Planning beforehand allows for the optimization of options and efficient use of time.  Taking out two minutes of the present can save hours of hardship and disappointment in the future.  Two essential steps of planning are having goals and being able to properly prepare.

Goals

Although sometimes it is fun to mindlessly wander around a new and foreign area, I found that the most rewarding feeling came from checking off something from my to do list.  Having an idea of what to accomplish during a trip creates the sense of fulfillment and duty.  Simple things like taking a picture with the Hachiko statue in Tokyo, spinning the big Cube in Astor place or taking a stroll in the botanical gardens in Singapore can make for a great story down the road!  Even simple things such as using up a coupon booklet can be something to work with.  Unlike those dreaded bus tours, creating a personal itinerary won’t have people staring into the air for hours.

When writing goals, two big questions should which should be asked are what do I like and what interests do I have? 

Preparation

I cannot begin to convey the many hours I have wasted because I made the mistake of traveling without being properly prepared.  When I travelled to Japan, I made many small mistakes which could have been avoided had I properly prepared for the trip.  In fact, I had to walk aimlessly in the humid town of Chiba for three hours because I forgot to print out the address of my hotel.  Had I took ten minutes out of my life to print out a piece of paper before I journeyed to Japan, I would have not only saved three hours of my life but also avoided the blazing heat of the sun.

 

     With proper preparation and research, savings can be had on many expensive things such as Broadway shows!  Did you know that certain Broadway shows hold lotteries and have discounts on certain days and times?  Another example of how research can help increasing savings while traveling can be seen through the admission fees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Upon entering the museum, many people examine the admission fee and pay $25.  However, did you know that the admission fee is actually a suggested donation?  Small little tidbits of preparation and research can open up amazing new routes and doors for the voyage ahead.

 

Of course, knowing where to look for information is a very vital part of the planning process.  Although a Google search can provide many possible locations to visit, having a second point of view on an area provides a lot of valuable insight for planning.  Always cross reference and visit more than one page about a certain location in order to get all the details.  Sites such as Yahoo Travel, Yelp, Trip Advisor), or even one of these travel blogs can help you find out if a place is the perfect fit.  By doing this, more developed opinions can be made by using past experiences of other people.

 

Gary Chen Stony Brook University

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Starting a New Adventure

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

For the past decade, tuition across the spectrum has been increasing every year globally.  Over the past three years alone, college tuition has increased on an average of 3% a year! Although many college students are saving all those pennies and quarters to pay for their college tuition, it doesn’t mean there should be a ban on globe-trotting.  Travelling is one of the best things that a young adult can do for themselves.  As people get older, settle down, get a job and have more commitments to fulfill, traveling becomes harder.  Young people should seize their youth and travel to their heart’s content; many articles have shown that one of the biggest regrets dying people have is that they never got to travel while they had the chance.

College Funds can even be found in cookie jars!

Every inch of this earth holds an experience of a lifetime that can help meld one into their perfect future self.

Travelling to foreign lands can be a real eye opener to all the different things the world has to offer.  Like being tossed straight into the fire, travelling throws people into the heart of culture hotbeds different from home and forces them into new situations.  Finding new friends, uncovering new flavors, and scaling mountains higher than skyscrapers are only some of the situations which might be encountered!  Such experiences are memories that many travelers hold dear for the rest of their lives, even to their deathbed.

Having been a poor college student myself, I know the very troubles that might come along with travelling.  Accommodation, food and travel costs can take a heavy hit on a college student’s wallet.  On top of that, with the heavy course load that comes along with being a college student, students may be discouraged with their ability to travel.  In the end, these problems are nothing more than excuses.  With proper planning and guidance, traveling can be done without breaking the bank.

The process before traveling can be as daunting as travelling itself.  Still, with hard work and proper preparation, travelling is well within the average college student’s grasp.  These series of articles will show some of the best means and methods I have discovered on my travels to get the most college savings even while travelling the world.  Having traveled to South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan this year alone as a college student, I have learned not only important lessons which to build my life upon but also some of the most efficient ways to travel.

 

Gary Chen Stony Brook University

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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