Traveling on a college student budget

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From the Golden Gate Bridge, sandy beach, crazy hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle, San Francisco was far from a disappointment. Theoretically, the 4 or 5 years most people spend earning their undergrad degree are supposed to be the “best years of your life.” Your time to be free and without any major responsibilities. This could be the perfect time to do all of the traveling on your bucket list. I know. I know it sounds bizarre and contradicting, considering how much everyone complains about not having money or having to live on a “Top Roman” kind of diet. However, I promise you; it really is achievable when you break it down and just play the game smart. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to have a small getaway trip to San Francisco with one of my good friends. It was amazing and a total thrill to be able to get away for the weekend and experience a fantastic city other than Alva. I took this opportunity to test my theory of traveling and how it can be done on a “college budget.” San Francisco for under $300.The first tip that I followed was travelling with a friend. We split the prices for everything making the idea of staying on a budget more realistic. Not to mention the safety aspect and just having someone that you can enjoy your vacation with. Tip number two is to look into “basic economy” flights. This is the path we took for our plane tickets out of Dallas, which allowed for our tickets to only be $89, round trip. With the addition of gas money to get to Dallas, total travel cost was around $110 after taxes and fees. With a ticket like basic economy, we were unable to have a full sized carry on. Meaning we needed to fit everything in an average-sized backpack able to fit under the seat on the plane. Some benefits to this choice included not having to pay the extra charge for checking a bag, and not having to wait at baggage claim. Giving us more time to get out and explore our destination. We faced this challenge head on and with a positive attitude. We strategically planned our outfits and made sure they all consisted of interchangeable pieces that could easily transition from day to night. We were considerate of things like toiletries, shoes and any extra things for the flight. We knew we would be doing a lot of walking, so a good pair of sneakers was a must and then a cuter shoe for going out. When packing our actual bags, we bagged each outfit in individual gallon Ziploc bags. This allowed us to keep it organized as well as being able to physically sit on them to get the extra air out before completely sealing them. Giving a vacuumed effect which made them as compact as possible. Tip number three, do not over pay for a place to sleep. You will not be spending much time there anyways, so think realistic. When booking a room reservation, we looked into three different options. First was hotels. Many of which were far too expensive for our budget. Second option was hostels or Pod Share. These group living facilities are usually filled with other out-of-town visitors. Unfortunately, there were no vacancies.

Finally, we researched AirBnB’s within the area. Local residents of the area rent out their extra rooms or living spaces for a fraction of what most hotels charge. We were able to find a little beach bungalow within walking distance of Ocean Beach. With such a great location, we were having to pay a little more but still managed to keep pricing realistic. When planning our days we ran into the situation of transportation and exactly how we were going to be getting around the city. This brings me to the fourth tip, use public transportation. Obviously, walking is a great way to get around free, but sometimes it is not always realistic. For those times when walking was not an option, we used Lyft and LyftLine, a personal car pool system, which will match you with other people who are going to the same location. For our second day of sight-seeing, we booked a hop-on-hop-off trolley ride. This was one of the smartest choices we made. It was $45 for the entire day of sight-seeing, transportation and a guided tour all in one. For food, we split dishes and ate at cheaper places. We budgeted for $20 a day in food and drinks. We refilled water bottles, had coffee at our AirBnB in the morning and ate off the appetizer menus. We utilized phone apps like Yelp to figure out what establishments in the areas were affordable and still held a good rating.

      For my fifth and final tip, do your research. Look up all of the places there are to see at your destination. Prioritize and budget accordingly. Do not waste your money on a spur of the moment idea. In every city, there are money traps designed to get unsuspecting tourists who most likely did not plan well enough. My budget for my weekend getaway was $300. My total cost for everything included was airfare ($110), sleeping accommodations ($85), transportation ($55) and food ($40). This resulted in a totalcost of $290 and some change for the entire weekend.

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