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How to Budget Traveling and NOT Break the Bank

As a college student, coming abroad was a bit of a concern financially. As someone who doesn’t work during the school year and really likes to buy stuff regardless, I went into my semester abroad with a bit of a meager account balance for all of my big plans. I knew traveling over here was cheap, but I also knew that with all my “Europe Bucket List” destinations, all the purchases would add up.

So, I had to do the good adult-ing thing, and budget my trips. Unfortunately, I was not smart enough to set up mobile banking before I left, so I have to completely rely on subtracting from my guesstimated account balance to know what I have left to use.

Pro Tip: make sure you have access to your bank account while abroad. It will make your life a whole lot easier, and you won’t have a long note in your phone subtracting every amount you spend when you use your card or withdraw money.

For me, the most important thing while coming abroad was traveling in my free time. The world is a very, very big place, and I want to see as much of it as I can, while I can. And there’s no better time than in your 20's to travel: no permanent job, no family to take care of, no “settling down” yet.

So, I decided to travel as much as I could and drain my bank account along the way, all while budgeting to get the most out of every euro. And so far, it’s been very successful and very fun.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned so far while planning several weekend trips (Malaga, Barcelona, Portugal) , my spring break trip next week (I’m off to Paris, London, Dublin, and Doolin, Ireland), and beginning to plan a late-April excursion to Brussels, Budapest, and Prague.

Do your research. Don’t just settle on a hostel because it’s “cheap and good enough” (Unless you’re crunched for time—then book it quick!). Compare prices, check out AirBnb options, make sure the hostel has everything you want provided, and weigh in on the price with the location. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra to be in the city center than having to ride the metro into the city every day, but sometimes it’s okay to stay in a suburb than pay for an expensive bed. Which leads to my next discovery..

 Sometimes, however, you get lucky and find free entertainment, like the modern art museum in Barcelona.

Accept that sometimes, cheap means inconvenient. On my trip to Portugal coming up in April, I have to take a 3 a.m. bus to Sevilla to get to a 10 a.m. meet up time with the group. When I went to Barcelona, we had an overnight bus totaling 12 hours of travel time. Sometimes you luck out with a great flight for cheap, but sometimes the cheapest, budget-friendly travel plans requires a little sacrifice of sleep. Do this enough, though, and you’ll learn how to sleep in any vehicle, anytime, anywhere.
 Sleep deprived after an overnight bus, but the views in Barcelona were worth it!

When planning and budgeting a trip, don’t forget to include food and “extra” funds. When you book a trip, it’s easy to not factor in money for food or entertainment. Although often times getting there and accommodations on your travels is the most expensive part, you don’t want to omit other price estimations. Look up how much museums or tours will be, research highly rated restaurants and look at the menus, or maybe opt for a hostel with free breakfast to know that’s taken care of. Trust me, it’s not fun when you think you have everything planned perfectly, and then get there and have to spend more than you expected (I’m looking at you, Barcelona. Thanks for gobbling up all my cash way too quickly).

Treat Yourself. Unless you’re REALLY crunched for money, don’t be afraid to splurge a little! Buy yourself that big cone of gelato, you deserve it. Buy a fun souvenir, pay to go in a random museum, take a bus tour around the city—do all the touristy things because hey, when else will you be able to do this? Experiences are worth far more than any money, after all, and traveling is part of learning, too.

 Malaga was just too pretty to leave after just one I treated myself to a night in this beach town with some friends!

Money can be tough, and dealing with a college student budget abroad is even worse. But with a little math, a few Google searches, and some patience, traveling on a budget can get you a lot farther than you expected.

Darby Hennessey is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in Granada, Spain. She is currently a junior at the University of Mississippi

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