All work and no play makes The Struggling Graduate a Dull Graduate.
Let’s be honest: when you first graduate, it can be practically impossible to save money. Any disposable income you may have will most likely go to entertainment with friends, whereas the biggest chunk of your pay check makes a smooth transition from your checking account right to your bills – paying off student loans, rent, gas and car insurance payments, and other spontaneous expenses.
And while I don’t condone living your life looking forward solely to your next vacation, I do believe that travelling is good for the soul – breaking routine and enriching yourself culturally is essential, especially at the time in your life where you are *hypothetically* the most flexible. You have no homework or kids, in other words: once you’ve booked your vacation days, you are out of here.
So here are some tips on how to travel on a budget:
Finding a Cheap Flight
My absolute favourite website for finding cheap flights is https://www.skyscanner.ca. (P.S. you can choose your country and currency in the top right corner). Not only do they offer breakdowns on which day is cheapest to fly to and back from the destination you choose, but they compare prices from all kinds of airlines and travel agencies so you can choose the best option for you. Another thing I love about Skyscanner: if you’re flexible, in the ‘destination’ bar, you can select ‘Everywhere’, and it will show you the cheapest destinations from your location. Need to get away but think you can’t afford the flight? Think again!
Another option would be to go to your personal bank and get a version of a travel visa which allows you to earn points – generally either with Expedia or Aeroplan. Then, if you choose to book your flight and hotel with those travel agents, you earn points, and can eventually earn enough points to book entire trips!
Finding Cheap Accommodations
My favourite site for searching for hotels is KAYAK. It actually gives you potential dates and the costs for those dates, including flight and hotel! It also sorts hotels by price, showing you some rare affordable gems. You can also find good deals for accommodations on Airbnb, specifically if you’re travelling in a big group. When you split the costs, it’s often much cheaper than a hotel, and can sometimes be much nicer.
If you’re willing to rough it up a little and really want to save on accommodations, https://www.hostelworld.com is a wonderful site to find hostels. It has a blog section which discusses top cities to travel to and why (if you’re in need of inspiration) and generally, hostels are located in the heart of the city. Making it to the National Museum in under five minutes? Why not!
I don’t believe in spending a lot on where you’re staying – if you plan your trip well, you won’t be spending time in the room anyways, except to catch some Z’s.
Finding Cheap Things to Do
This will always depend on where you’re going, but if you’re not going to an all-inclusive or beach vacation, my first go-to thing to look up is free walking tours – especially in European cities. I’ll take a look at the itinerary, and book a walking tour on my first day in the city. Then, if I feel like I was interested in seeing something more closely, I’ll return to it afterwards on my own. The tours usually last about 1-3 hours.
Trip Advisor is my favourite place to find activities – they often offer many expensive activities, but most you can do on your own, for free, or for under 20 Euros. You can also read reviews and see if the castle or boat ride is worth it.
Although they can be expensive, I also love the ‘Experience’ section on Airbnb. There’s something special about someone in their element, sharing an experience with you that they are experts in. There is nothing more authentic than that.
So remember, fellow graduates: in the first couple years where the pressure to be self-sufficient and independent and be a saver trumps all, remember that these are the golden years – although you have expenses, you can still squeeze in a weekend getaway, even somewhere close. As the legendary Fergie said: A little travel never killed nobody!
(Or something like that).