As an off-campus study traveler, you’re charged with the daunting task of exploring as much as you can within just four months, while maintaining that student budget. Rent, utilities, food, and transportation can add up quickly.
But there is hope! Using some college-student resourcefulness and a bit more planning, you can still experience your destination without blowing the bank. After much of my own “research,” I’ve pulled together a few tips I’ve come up with on how to go sightseeing on a budget:
- Don’t ditch the Student ID. Some adult independence and freedom taste good, but ramen noodles don’t after you’ve just eaten your fifth bowl in a week. Having the status of student is just as useful off-campus as it is on-campus, and opens the door to a range of activities you may not have otherwise had. Discounts and promotions are all over – just keep an eye out and be willing to trade your email address for a free cookie. Take advantage of the free museum day, the t-shirt handouts, and the $2 College Iceskating Nights every Thursday.
- There’s a reason it’s called Happy Hour. Nothing makes people happier than a $5 plate of mussels paired with a $2 beer. Weird combination? Supposedly. But what can you complain about when everything is so cheap? Most restaurants offer a happy hour 6 out of the 7 days of the week, and even during normal dining hours. Train yourself to get hungry between the hours of 4 – 7, and you may even treat yourself to some dessert, too.
- Part of sightseeing is living to see the next day: so learn how to eat on a budget too. Most big cities offer a farmer’s market on the weekends where fresh produce is sold at incredible prices. It’s not only going to save a few bucks, but fruits and veggies are going to be a lot fresher than at the local grocery store. Do a little research to find out what’s in season, and be prepared to snack on whatever you get your hands on.
- Become your own tour guide. Chances are, the info the tour guides are charging for is the same stuff you’ll find in that pamphlet floating around at the Visitor’s Center. I recently learned of someone gathering their friends together to go on their own version of a “Ghost Tour” through the streets of Philadelphia. Consider it a D.I.Y. Experience (for non-Pinterest frequenters, DIY = Do It Yourself). We can access the internet’s information in seconds… use it!
- Like I’ve said before… location, location, location. Whether you’re choosing a hotel location or the apartment to lease, position yourself in an area that is close to some great sightseeing areas. Not only will you save money on transportation, but you will be able to experience a culture first-hand from living right in it. I live on South Street, and it’s claim to fame is that “South Street Never Sleeps.” Yes, lots of shouting, bumping music, and pedal crawlers. But, I’ve been able to experience life in the city in a way that many others have not.
- Make local friends. You may be wondering, what does that have to do with saving money? Friends don’t let friends fall into the tourist traps. Just like living in your own town, you know the local joints where you’ll have the most organic experiences. Thanks to a local friend, I was told about the way to get the absolute best view of a city… and not the one they charge you $15 for. Better.
That old saying, “you get what you pay for,” doesn’t apply here. You can get so much more than just those things you’re handing out paper for. Be creative, be resourceful, and be grateful [financially] that it really is only four months of the year. Spend them wisely!