I’ve found that packing smartly, shopping around for flights, and bundling flights and hotels into one efficient travel package make instant savings that can be used for more important student expenses.
Parents who are about to send their kids off to college, those planning campus visits, and students planning a semester abroad have several ways to save when booking their travel arrangements. While you might vote to spend it on tuition, books, or maybe a nice dinner out, we’re sure the kids would use that savings for some dorm decor.
Packing Smart Tips
Before we look at the concept of packaged travel, we want to steer you and the kids to Mike Murray’s Tips on Packing for College. Bringing too much stuff is one of the most costly mistakes freshmen travelers can make. Using Mike’s space and weight-savings ideas can save you time, money and aggravation in setting up a new home away from home.
Save Money by Packaging Travel
Booking a flight and hotel package (car rental if needed, too) can instantly save you money that can be better put to use elsewhere.
Keep in mind that “package booking” on one of the online travel agencies doesn’t mean your family has to choose a vacation that is pre-packaged or that the selection of flights and hotels is limited. Instead, savings are possible on almost any combination of flights and hotels.
Okay, here’s an example of packaged travel that Expedia.com uses as illustration: Mr. and Mrs. Smith sent their son Stephen to college across the country. Rather than book their flight and hotel in Boston from their home in Los Angeles separately, they can book them at the same time and Expedia will provide them with deeply discounted rates — a $450 savings in this case — from airlines and hotels that cannot be shown if booked separately.
Shop Efficiently for Airfares
If you or family members have a place to stay or are traveling for extended time periods, save with smart flight planning. By running hundreds of thousands of queries, the Google Travel team has found that purchasing flights between 30 and 21 days ahead is probably the best value. One-way fares are also not the challenge they used to be — you can sometimes save more by buying two one-way fares than buying a round trip ticket; good to know if your travels are open ended.
Yes, there is always a chance to snag a last minute bargain flight, but usually it involves extremely early or late departures and one or more stopovers, more of an issue for parents than students.
Student Travel Agencies
You students under 26 (and some fares are available to any age passenger) should shop first with STA Travel which is offering $10 off any student/youth airfare with a minimum base fare of $250 when you use promo code BREAK. Along with Student Universe, it’s one of the largest U.S. based student travel organizations. The Abroad Guide recommends Student Universe for its big discounts, especially when flying to small foreign airports that require a layover and change of carriers — that’s where costs can skyrocket… or fall.
STA Travel also has good fares and a very helpful staff who know all the tricks in finding airfares. Google Flights is another very useful tool because of the ease of sorting results by preferences such as number of stops, flexible dates and more. By the way, they don’t sell tickets, they just direct you to the sites that do.
There’s no Free Lunch
If you’re headed to Europe or Asia, I can tell you the low fare airlines will have surprisingly cheap prices in comparison with major carriers, but there are extra charges for everything. Expect to pay premiums for carry-on luggage, more than one checked bag, and not printing out documents such as boarding passes before arriving at the airport.
Convenience has a price, albeit a lower one for students than for parents.
Many of the low-cost carriers fly into secondary airports that can be very far away or inconvenient to public transport, therefore costly for those who need to get to a city center. But it always pays to shop around. Momondo is one of the best flight price comparison options for European fares because it features such a wide range of carriers, many of which are not listed on site like Kayak.
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