Every college student wants to go away on spring break, especially if they live in Wisconsin. By March, Wisconsin students are so bloody sick of the cold that a matter of ten degrees can help with seasonal affective disorder. As a college student, spring break usually falls around midterms, so there’s stress to go along with the freezing cold. As a result, we all want an excuse to get the hell out of the Midwest and get somewhere warm.
I’m a decently seasoned traveler. I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing things in my short but exciting 20 years of life. But I wouldn’t have been as lucky if my father wasn’t such a bargain hunter. He knows just where to look to find the best deals when going away. Because of this, I have always looked for cheaper and better ways to get around.
Every college student should have the opportunity to get away from the cold confines of Wisconsin, and see the country, and even the world. Here are some quick tips for bargain college travel:
1. Taking the Train
Amtrak is a great option for those who don’t want to pay a lot of money, but want to get somewhere quickly. Tickets range from $25 to $200 for a one-way ticket depending on how far away you want to go. A one-way ticket from Milwaukee to Oregon City is $177 for a coach seat, for example. Compared to airplane fares, it’s not a bad deal. The train is also an incredible way to see changes in scenery and meet people. There’s always a weird population that frequent trains. The downside, they’re never on time. Never.
2. The Ins and Outs of Road Trips
The problem I have with road trips is that they’re more expensive than they need to be. Gas isn’t cheap, cars aren’t cheap, tolls aren’t cheap, and parking isn’t cheap. I also tend to get sick of the people I’m with when we’re stuck in a moving box for days. The plus about road trips is the freedom that goes along with it. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want. If driving is something you’re interested in, I suggest buying an I-PASS. It’s a little device you put on the front of your car that lets you go straight through tolls in Illinois. It’s great for people who travel back and forth between Illinois and Wisconsin. If you do plan on going on a road trip, bring these things:
– A great playlist and car chargers
– Lots of snacks and bottled water
– Ear plugs
– Blankets and pillows
– Toilet paper and hand wipes (trust me)
3. Using Hotel Websites
Never book directly through a hotel. You will not get the best deal. Use websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak to find the best hotel deals where you’re going. I suggest starting with looking at three or four star hotels to see what kind of deals you can get. Inner city and vacation spot hotels will be more expensive, so try looking a few miles outside the city. Hotels usually have free shuttle services that will take you to the more popular areas in town.
4. Finding Restaurants
Yeah, Zagat guides work, but with cell phone technology these days, who needs them anymore? Apps like Urbanspoon and restaurant finders can help you find restaurants in the area and look at the menus online. You don’t have to eat at fast food restaurants when traveling on a budget, either. Restaurant finder apps will always help find cheaper places in the area that are better for you than McDonalds. When traveling, packing sandwiches and snacks will help cut down on food expenses too. Bring a cooler wherever you go!
5. What To Do About Airfare
Sometimes to get far away, you just have to fly there. Flying is expensive and there’s no way to get around that. But, there’s ways to get discounts on airfare that will make your wallet a little happier. I recommend planning and buying your airfare on Black Friday. If you don’t know your travel plans by then, buy your tickets 90 days out. That’s when they will be the next cheapest. As a seasoned flyer, I recommend packing light so you don’t have to pay for baggage claim. Carry-ons might be a hassle, but they are way less expensive.
Pack light! I’m a woman and I always think I need more than I do. Especially when going away to somewhere with a pool or a beach, you really don’t need that much. I find that bringing a few pairs of shorts/pants, a few shirts, sweatpants, and lots of underwear will do the trick. And a swimming suit if need be. If you do need to bring dressy clothing, bring a sewing kit. Besides what people normally bring, here’s a few things you might not have thought of:
-A water bottle
-A nail file
-A Swiss Army knife or some variation might come in handy
-Little shampoos and soaps (Walmart usually has them)
7. Doing Research
Thoroughly research the place you plan on visiting before going. Have a list of all of the places you want to visit, along with a few restaurants you might want to try out. While spontaneous travel is fun in some capacity, it’s better to have a plan so that you don’t get bored or confused.
Again, nobody should have to stay in Wisconsin because they can’t afford it. Use my tips, along with research you can do on the internet to find your best vacation options. My most important piece of advice for you… bring snacks wherever you go.