Saturday, July 13, 2024

28 Cheap Travel Destinations for College Students on a Budget 

See the world without breaking your piggybank. 🌎✈️

Are you tight on cash but itching to have your own version of a fancy European ski trip or tropical adventure after seeing your classmates’ vacations on Instagram? 

You’re in luck! There are plenty of cheap travel destinations perfect for college students looking for a fun and reasonably-priced vacation. 🌍 

Catch some waves on spring break or spend a weekend exploring another city as you visit 28 of the best travel spots for college students on a budget. 💸

1. New Orleans, Louisiana 🎭 

Experience a vibrant culture sans the jet lag by visiting New Orleans — the home of Mardi Gras, fried chicken and gumbo, and jazz. 

It’s a one-of-a-kind destination that pairs a bustling nightlife with strong booze, good music, and a little touch of creepy with voodoo. It’s no surprise why this city’s a popular destination for college students. 🎆

A college student wearing a Mardi Gras mask during her cheap travel to New Orleans
The burst of various cultures and attractions fitting every budget makes New Orleans one of the best cheap travel destinations for college students. Photo: Thomas Park/Unsplash

Munch on New Orleans’ signature beignets for less than $5 and jam to live music at the French Quarter where you’ll find a series of nightclubs, historical buildings, and soul food diners. 😋

There’s no need to bust your budget on pricey hotels when you can stay in cheaper accommodations in the Central Business District or the Marigny neighborhood (which are still close to the best attractions). 🏨

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, music lovers, and history buffs
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $85

2. Daytona Beach, Florida 🏄

When looking for a wallet-friendly trip, hearing the words “free attraction” will instantly make you giddy. 😀 Daytona Beach has plenty of these around, making it one of the cheapest travel destinations for college students. 

You don’t need to spend a dime at the “World’s Most Famous Beach” or the North Peninsula State Recreation Area to swim in the ocean, play beach volleyball, or just soak up the sun (don’t forget your sunblock!). ☀️

Male college student holding a surfboard during his budget vacation at Daytona Beach, Florida
Catch some waves at Daytona Beach, Florida without burning a hole through your wallet. Photo: Freepik

Cap off your day at the beach by watching the sunset with a glass or three of happy hour drinks (we’re talking one-dollar whiskeys and two-dollar tequilas😉) from the bars lining the beachfront.

👍 Best for: Beach bums, party animals, spring breakers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $76

3. Andalucia, Spain 👑

While Andalucia isn’t the fairytale kingdom from the hit film Enchanted, it’s still a magical place to visit (and one of the most affordable regions in Spain!). ✨

The Andalucian capital of Seville makes you feel like a royal with its architectural wonders, like the Plaza de España and the 15th-century Palace of the Marquises of La Algaba (and they’re all free). 🫅

Female college student backpacking on her budget vacation in Seville, Andalucia in Spain
How to enjoy Seville on a budget? Explore free attractions, chow down on cheap tapas, and splurge on hostels downtown after a long day of activities. Photo: user13680918/Freepik

Seville is tourist-friendly since you can explore the city by foot or by bike, especially the hip district of Macarena (an area littered with vintage shops and student-priced tapas bars) near the Santa Cruz historic quarter. 🚶

Note: American citizens traveling for up to 90 days don’t need a tourist visa to Spain (and selected European countries) because it’s a signatory to the Schengen Agreement

Without needing to spend for a visa, keep an eye out for discounted flight fares during low peak seasons to get the best bang for your buck on this overseas trip. ✈️

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, history buffs, artsy students 
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $43

4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina ⛵

Worn out after a college hell week? Escape to the popular Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, which is a paradise that fits every tourist’s budget. 🍹

Plan a picnic spread by the seaside with grub from affordable supermarkets like Aldi and the Walmart Neighborhood Market instead of giving tourist trap restaurants the time of day.

Five college friends walking and laughing during their summer vacation at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Book a trip with your friends to enjoy the fun and free activities at Myrtle Beach during school breaks. Photo: master1305/Freepik

Looking for free entertainment? The Barefoot Landing has live music on selected days, and the Great American Summer Nights event offers live shows and fireworks at Broadway at the Beach. 🎆

👍 Best for: Beach bums, novelty seekers, spring breakers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $61

5. Porto, Portugal 🌉

Compared to tourist hotspots like Barcelona or Paris, you can find cheaper round-trip flights in Porto that leave you with leftover pocket money. 😊

Hit up the affordable riverside neighborhood of Ribeira (which is also a UNESCO heritage site) located in this city’s old town, munching on fresh sardinhas assadas or grilled sardines served by cheap bars and watching the sunset while sipping this city’s world-famous port wine. 🍷

A smiling female college student poses for a photo during sunset at the Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto, Portugal
Picturesque views while eating cheap, good food makes Porto perfect for college students traveling on a budget. Photo: natabuena/Freepik

After a day’s activities at the Ribeira, head over to the enchanting library called the Livraria Lello and purchase a book as a souvenir (or pay the $5.50 admission fee instead).

Tired from touring around? Check-in at affordable hostels and guesthouses for around $35 a night. 😴

TIP: Get a Porto Card from the airport or tourist offices for discounts or free entrance to Porto’s attractions and commercial stores. If you plan to travel as the locals do, add a travel card for unlimited access to public transportation. 

Don’t forget to snap a photo of yourself with the famous blue-and-white tiled chapel called Capela das Almas in the Rua de Santa Catarina (and maybe sneak in some shopping) to complete your trip.

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, artsy students, foodies
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $47

6. Savannah, Georgia 🍸

Is relaxing in a laidback city with Southern hospitality your perfect getaway? Sounds like you can use some time in Savannah, Georgia. ✈️

Book dormitory-styled rooms at the local inns for around $25 to $30 a night with your friends, then slurp down happy hour oysters at Common for less than a dollar each or sip on three-dollar rosé glasses with a view at the Top Deck. 👯

A group of college friends holding beer while taking a selfie around Savannah, Georgia
Your student budget can go a long way in Savannah since it’s filled with cheap inns and local spots with discounts. Photo: zunateranaskote/Freepik

Carrying alcoholic drinks around is possible in the Historic District because of its open-container policy. Cheers to drinking responsibly, right? 🍻

After filling your tummies, freely stroll through scenic spaces made famous by movies. You can step into the Forrest Gump bench scene at Chippewa Square or visit the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at Lafayette Square, found in the 2019 version of Lady & The Tramp. 🎬

👍 Best for: History buffs, party animals, novelty seekers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $53

7. Denver, Colorado 🍺

Soothe your study-induced stress by hiking and drinking (but not at the same time, okay? 😅) in Denver without busting your student budget. 

Nature lovers can take the scenic route along the 40-mile paved Cherry Creek Trail or stroll along Denver’s Botanic Gardens during Free Days, like Earth Day on April 22.

Four college friends relaxing outdoors with craft beers at Denver, Colorado
Sipping beer with your friends outdoors in Denver is one of the best ways to unwind after a tiring semester of schoolwork. Photo: master1305/Freepik

Parched from your outdoor activities? Quench your thirst with the local craft ales on the Denver Beer Trail, with around 100 taprooms to choose from. 🍺 

This city has plenty on offer for art lovers, too! Catch some of the limited free admission tickets at the Denver Art Museum or stop by the RiNo, the hub for creatives and a go-to place for a hip nightlife scene. 🎨

👍 Best for: Outdoorsy types, novelty seekers, artsy students
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $71

8. Belgrade, Serbia 🚍 

We’re out here proving that Europe shouldn’t be feared by tight-pocketed students. From historic palaces to modern entertainment hubs, Belgrade is one of the most accessible and affordable go-to travel spots. 👍

You may have to spend around $870 for roundtrip airfare, but your stay in the city is easier on the wallet with $4 authentic Serbian fast food, less-than-a-dollar bus fares, and $20-a-night accommodations

A female college student checking a European city's public transportation map
Being street-smart with transportation can save you money, and you might even discover Serbian gems usually hidden from tourists. Photo: Freepik

Are you a sucker for street art, concept stores, and hole-in-the-wall coffee shops? Take your pick of attractions while wandering around the trendy neighborhoods of Dorćol and Vračar, which are around 30 minutes away from each other by bus. 🚌

TIP: To save on transportation, pay for bus, tram, and trolley rides using an electronic card purchased from city kiosks or stores with a “Bus Plus” sticker. 

Despite the modern culture taking over, you can still see traces of the age-old city in places like the Belgrade Fortress (which was built in 279 BC), the old citadel, and Kalemegdan Park — all with free access 24/7.

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, history buffs, artsy students 
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $14

9. New York, New York 🗽

The bustling Big Apple may be known as a city with high price tags, but it’s also got diverse attractions for every budget if you know where to look. 👀

Trade your hours spent studying indoors for a good ol’ stroll around Central Park or join free walking tours to Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown, giving you a glimpse of NYC’s melting pot of cultures. 

Note: While these tours are advertised as “free,” it’s customary to tip the guide. 😄

A female college student walking along the streets of New York during winter
There’s plenty to see for college students traveling on a budget in the city that never sleeps: New York. Photo: Freepik

Art and architecture buffs will have a field day inside the Guggenheim Museum (which has Pay-What-You-Wish Saturdays) and the Museum of Modern Art (free admission for students of selected schools). 🖼️

Lastly, don’t forget to drop by Times Square for cheap pizza slices and street performances

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, artsy students, foodies
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $87

10. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 🌭

A vacation in Philadelphia — the historic heart of the American Revolution — can feel like a front-row seat to our nation’s history.

Head toward the Liberty Bell at the Independence National Historical Park and the Independence Hall where the 1776 Declaration of Independence was signed. 📃 Admission is free but may require a dollar fee for ticket reservations. 

Four college friends eating burgers from a Philadelphia's farmer's market
Munch on Philadelphia’s iconic sandwiches, the Philly cheesesteak and hoagie, to get a taste of the city. Photo: Freepik

Walk around 17th to 18th-century American buildings and colonial alleys (all for free) at Elfreth’s Alley, a national historic landmark. 

Make sure to stop by for some famous Philly cheesesteak at Pat’s King of Steaks or grab student-budget-friendly meals from the food trucks in the hundred-year-old Reading Terminal Market. 🌭

👍 Best for: History buffs, foodies, novelty seekers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $65

11. Placencia, Belize 🐆

College stress will be miles away as soon as you’re nestled within this beautiful coastal village in Belize. 🌅

Who has time to worry about grades when snorkeling in clear waters and walking barefoot along the sands is freely accessible in Maya Beach or Seine Bight? 🏖️

Male college student breathing in the beach air in Placencia
Stare in awe at nature and breathe in the clean air when you visit the seaside and the forests of Placencia, Belize. Photo: Freepik

A two-for-one attraction can be found in the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can hike and spot jaguars for around $5.

Let your hair down and fill your stomach with affordable authentic food from local eateries like Carmen’s and taprooms like Barefoot Bar (which has a Traveller’s Tuesday Happy Hour!). 🥳

👍 Best for: Beach bums, outdoorsy types, spring breakers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $32

12. Zagreb, Croatia 🎨

The Croatian capital of Zagreb is bursting with old-world and avant-garde attractions, making this a fun but cheap travel destination for college students on a shoestring budget. However, keep in mind that a visa application will be an added expense

Marvel at 17th-century buildings in the oldest part of Zagreb: Gornji Grad (Upper Town). Then, grab an affordable sandwich with pršut at Pingvin while strolling along the busy Donji Grad (Lower Town). 🥪

A female college student walking around the cobblestone streets of Zagreb, Croatia looking for budget street food
Grab your most comfortable pair of sneakers for a day of walking along Zagreb’s historical landmarks, followed by hitting nightclubs or art events once the sun goes down. Photo: user21473825/Freepik

On the lookout for something out-of-the-ordinary? Visit the quirkily-themed Museum of Broken Relationships displaying discarded items from ended relationships. 💔 It’s open every day, and you can enter for around $6 using your student ID. 

In the summer, the culturally curious can soak up street festivals involving artists and performers scattered around the city. Otherwise, a stroll down the art-splattered alleys of Branimirova Ulica will do just fine. 🚶

👍 Best for: History buffs, artsy students, novelty seekers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $28 

13. Portland, Oregon 🌹

Beautiful scenery? Check. Bike-friendly? Check. Iconic food carts? Check. Stressed college students can come for a breather in Portland. 🍃

So, what can you expect in the “City of Roses?” You can stop and (literally) smell the roses for free at the International Rose Test Garden, then bask in nature at the Hoyt Arboretum. 🌹

Two college tourists bike in a Portland green park
Biking outdoors in Portland is one of the healthiest (not to mention cheapest) ways to explore a different city. Photo: prostooleh/Freepik

Next, stuff yourself silly at the numerous food carts around the city, where even vegan meals come at student-friendly prices. Drop by The Saturday Market in Chinatown for some artisanal crafts shopping and take Instagram-worth snaps at the Alberta Arts District. 📸

👍 Best for: Outdoorsy types, foodies, novelty seekers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $57

14. Cancun, Mexico 💃

Get ready for a sand-sational vacation in Cancun, Mexico! After being buried in schoolwork, you might just find the relaxing break you need in this tropical fun zone. 

Sunbathe at the free-to-access public beach Playa Delfines during the day and party all night in the Hotel Zone’s (Zona Hotelera) nightclubs, such as La Vaquita.🪩

Note: While American citizens don’t need a visa to fly to Mexico for leisure purposes, they may need a valid Mexico Tourist Card called Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM). Check out the instructions from the US Government and Mexico for updates.

Two female college tourists partying during spring break at a beach in Cancun, Mexico
Despite its reputation as a party city, Cancun still has affordable options for a fun vacation with its local markets, public beaches, and student-oriented hostels. Photo: kroshka__nastya/Freepik

Grab souvenirs to remember your trip from the Mercado 28 flea market, where you’ll find locally-made handicrafts, like a Mexican or Mayan-style hammock, for just a few pesos. 

Save on your accommodations by choosing to stay in budget hostels at El Centro (downtown Cancun), which have the added benefit of being close to the beaches and attractions. 🏨 

👍 Best for: Spring breakers, beach bums, party animals
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $40

15. Phoenix, Arizona 🏜️

This desert city is more than just the gateway to the Grand Canyon; in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll find everything from A to Z. 😉

Time to get acquainted with stunning desert flora at the Desert Botanical Garden for free every second Tuesday of the month. As it is one of Phoenix’s top tourist spots, make sure to reserve your tickets in advance. 

Hiking on Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak to enjoy the views is also a great way to spend your day. ⛰️

A female college student posing for a picture inside the Grand Canyon in Phoenix, Arizona
Bring your default desktop wallpapers to life when you make a trip to Phoenix, Arizona’s desert attractions. Photo: prostooleh/Freepik

If the heat becomes unbearable, cool down at the Phoenix Art Museum and be inspired by haute couture exhibitions, Latin American art, or Old Master paintings. You can pay whatever you like on Wednesdays. Otherwise, bring your student ID for sweet discounts. 💸

TIP: Plan your trip to Arizona on the first Friday of the month because this is when the streets of Roosevelt Row and Historic Grand Avenue districts come alive with art, food, and music. 

👍 Best for: Outdoorsy types, artsy students, novelty seekers 
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $68

16. Boston, Massachusetts ⚾

Buried in schoolwork and daydreaming about the day you can take a break? Boston might be the place to go, and you don’t need to be an avid Red Sox fan to know that this budget vacation is a home run!

Multiple Boston attractions in the Freedom Trail can help you unearth the city’s and America’s histories without spending a fortune through a free walking tour. 🚶

A male college student happily walking along the Boston downtown on the way to his free tour meeting place
Satisfy your curiosity about Boston’s history through food and attractions while sticking to your student budget. Photo: Freepik

Along the way, look for the red-bricked buildings and cobblestoned road of Acorn Street to provide the best backgrounds for Instagram. 🧱 Then, you can visit the Institute of Contemporary Art for free every Thursday from 5 pm to 9 pm. 😄

Hungry after all that touring? Find locally sourced food (and specialty souvenirs) at the Boston Public Market

👍 Best for: History buffs, artsy students, foodies
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $80

17. Raleigh, North Carolina 🌳 

Dubbed the “Smithsonian of the South,” Raleigh in North Carolina is abundant not only in museums but also in pleasant city amenities and attractions.

You can wander for free at North Carolina’s Museum of Art, Museum of History, and the Museum of Natural Sciences. 🦕 Prefer something outdoors? Wander into the floral wonderland of the JC Raulston Arboretum at absolutely no cost. 

A male college student taking a selfie in one of Raleigh's museums during his vacation trip
Take photos of all the cool Raleigh sights you’ve seen to share with your friends. Photo: Freepik

The City of Oaks is also great for walking or biking around. 🚴 If you’re looking to get off the beaten track, hike or bike at the Capital Area Greenway Trail System

After all that sightseeing, grab a bite at the Morgan Street Food Hall and other local haunts like Sup Dogs that offer delicious food at student-budget-friendly prices. 😋

👍 Best for: Museum-goers, art lovers, foodies
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $66

18. Albuquerque, New Mexico 🌮

Did watching Breaking Bad change your life? It’s about time that Albuquerque should be at the top of your list of places to visit. It’s also one of the cheapest travel destinations for college students!

More than just the filming locations for the iconic TV show, this New Mexican city is rich with cultural gems. Visit the Old Town to munch on enchiladas, buy locally-made trinkets, or watch the latest free events at the plaza, like flamenco and salsa dances. 💃

A couple of college students looking for Albuquerque attractions to take a photo of during their summer vacation
Take pictures of local attractions while you load up on cheap yet yummy Mexican food in Albuquerque. Photo: jcomp/Freepik

Check out the Albuquerque Museum (which is free on Sundays and the first Wednesday of the month) to learn about how this multicultural city was influenced by Native Americans and Latinos, among many other cultural groups. 🖼️

👍 Best for: History buffs, foodies, outdoor enthusiasts
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $46

19. Austin, Texas 🎸

As the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin hits all the right notes to become one of the top cheap travel destinations for college students. 🎵

Pub crawlers and music fans alike will love walking down Sixth Street (Austin’s entertainment district) that’s bursting with live entertainment venues boasting cheap drinks. 🎶

Three college students play guitar and sing on the top deck of a bar in Austin, Texas
Jamming along to live music in Austin, Texas under a sunset sky is bound to be a magical moment during your trip. Photo: standret/Freepik

In the morning, get some fresh air at Austin’s famous Zilker Park and head over to Lady Bird Lake to enjoy an afternoon of kayaking or canoeing (equipment rentals are priced from $15 to $25 per hour).  

All this exploring will definitely make you hungry, so stop by for some affordable chow at The Picnic, a food truck trailer park. 🚚

👍 Best for: Music lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, foodies
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $55

20. San Juan, Puerto Rico 🤿

San Juan might just make American college students feel like they’re on a European vacation with its Spanish architecture, but there’s no passport required as Puerto Rico is considered a US territory. 🌎

Travel back in time at El Morro, a fortress completed in the 1700s used to protect this city. You need to pay a small admission fee of $10 per head, but certain holidays let you in for free.

A male college student on summer break poses for his San Juan vacation photos
Look like a million bucks without actually spending a fortune at one of the cheapest travel destinations for college students: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo: alexeyzhilkin/Freepik

Instagram-worthy photos are within reach in the Old San Juan historic district with its cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses. 📸 You can also find cocktails for around $10 at La Factoria, a hidden gem of a bar located in the same district. 

And, what’s a trip to tropical San Juan without hitting its free-to-enter seasides? Sunbathe on the Condado beach and go snorkeling at Escambron. 🤿

👍 Best for: Spring breakers, history buffs, party animals 
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $70

21. Kraków, Poland 🥨

You don’t need to shell out big bucks to take in the beautiful architecture and UNESCO world heritage sites when you have a crack at visiting Kraków, Poland.

First order of business: saunter into the Old Town and the Rynek Główny (Main Square), where you can enter Cloth Hall to buy handicraft souvenirs or visit the 13th-century St. Mary’s Basilica. ⛪

Two happy male college students ordering cheap beers at a bar in Krakow, Poland
Cheap drinks and affordable authentic street food at Kraków lead to a happy tummy and a healthy wallet for college students. Photo: drobotdean/Freepik

The bustling nightlife doesn’t disappoint since any of the pubs in Kazimierz (a former Jewish quarter transformed into a trendy neighborhood) offer cheap beers and Polish vodka. Then, doze off after a night out in decent accommodations for around $25. 😴

Find yourself full for less than $10 with authentic Polish street food like obwarzanek (a cross between a bagel and a pretzel) or a zapiekanka (an open-faced sandwich made using a baguette). 🤑

👍 Best for: History buffs, novelty seekers, party animals
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $19

22. Prague, Czech Republic 🧑‍🎨

From beautiful buildings to hearty meals, Prague is a city that you will definitely love to czech out. 😉

Getting to walk around Prague’s Old Town and across the iconic Charles Bridge while munching on a trdelnik (chimney cake) sold on the streets is possible on a roundtrip flight worth around $850. 💸 Consider checking out cheaper airfares to score better deals

A female college traveler on the lookout for art installations along Prague's streets
Prague is a city for the culturally curious college student on a budget. Photo: nightunter/Freepik

Keep your eyes peeled up, down, and around for quirky street art installations like David Černý’s The Hanging Man near Bethlehem Chapel and the Piss installation fronting the Franz Kafka museum

If you’re starting to feel peckish after a day of exploring, visit any jídelna serving classic canteen-style Czech meals and feel full for around (or less than) the price of a burger-and-fries meal back home. 😋

Prague is also known for its party scene, and you can go bar-hopping at Wenceslas Square, one of this city’s main cultural and business centers.  

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, artsy students, party animals
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $38 

23. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 🏞️

After a grueling semester, kick back and relax on the pristine beaches of Punta Cana without inflated expenses for a Caribbean getaway.

You won’t need to spend a dime to take a dip in the calm waters of the famous Bávaro Beach or Macao Beach or simply relax by the shore and admire the view. 😎

A female college traveler posing on a Punta Cana public beach
A tropical escape to a place like Punta Cana during your winter break can break you out of a slump. Photo: emanuelle-bernardo/Freepik

Adventurers on a budget can take advantage of affordable hiking trails to view spots usually hidden from tourists, like the Loma Linda mountain. ⛰️ The trail begins at Rancho Terranova where you pay around $5 to trek the private property toward the mountain or nearby waterfalls. 

Unwind with a happy hour Cuba libre (rum and coke) in a beachside pub and join dancers swaying to the beat of merengue music for a vacation to remember. 🕺

👍 Best for: Beach bums, spring breakers, outdoorsy types
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $43

24. Budapest, Hungary 🏰

With piles of schoolwork upon more schoolwork, you must be Hungary for an adventure. And guess what? You’ll find just what you need in the budget-friendly city of Budapest, with roundtrip flight prices going as low as $477. 😲

Get a breathtaking overview of the city from the terrace of the Fisherman’s Bastion to begin your trip. 🏰

Just a 15-minute walk away lies Buda Castle, the former royal palace which was transformed into the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum. Best of all, you can roam around these two popular attractions for free! 🤩

A female college student on vacation poses for a photo in front of a palace
Beautiful buildings and entertainment hubs at affordable prices make Budapest one of the best cheap travel destinations for students. Photo: lookstudio/Freepik

Quench your thirst while meeting the locals at the city’s famed Ruin Bars (an old Jewish quarter with abandoned buildings), where you can find cheaply-priced booze.

Resting up for another day of adventure in Budapest on a budget is also possible, thanks to low-cost hostels going for $10 to $25 a night. 😴 

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, party animals, history buffs 
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $28

25. Panama City, Panama 🛳️

Tropic like it’s hot in Panama City, but don’t confuse this destination with Panama City Beach in Florida because this one’s in Central America. 🕶️

It’s recommended that tourists warm up by exploring Casco Antiguo, a former Spanish colonial plaza with everything from bars to museums. 🏛️

Three female college students having a picnic on Panama's Parque Omar
Enjoying Panama on a student budget is entirely possible through its public spaces and affordable transportation. Photo: Freepik

Parque Omar is another free-to-enter attraction that’s worth the trip. The large green park offers a wide range of activities, like having a picnic, swimming in the clean public pool, or joining a dance class. 💃

Wondering how you can explore the rest of the city without busting your wallet? The answer: ride the Metrobus for a trip that costs less than a dollar.

TIP: Remember to buy a Metrocard from the Albrook bus station or a supermarket to use before riding the MetroBus because they don’t accept cash. 

👍 Best for: Novelty seekers, outdoorsy types, history buffs
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $26

26. Athens, Greece 🏛️

Whether you grew up obsessed with Disney’s Hercules or the live-action film 300, visiting Athens can have you greeking out. 🤓

Planning your trip during academic breaks opens a lot of doors, like a free close-up of ancient Greek artifacts at the Acropolis or museums showcasing Greek folk music instruments available on selected days from March to May. 

A female college student visiting the Acropolis as part of her cheap travel destinations
Need the ultimate inspiration to ace your history paper? Come to Athens, Greece. Photo: nataliaderiabina/Freepik

After traveling back in time, you can explore modern-day Greece via the Psiri street art, discover hidden city gems guided by locals on a free walking tour, or wander along the narrow streets of Plaka and score some souvenirs. 🖼️

👍 Best for: History buffs, novelty seekers, outdoorsy types
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $46

27. Bucharest, Romania 👢

Sometimes, college can be overwhelming and you just want to get away from it all. While everyone’s escaping to the Caribbean, why don’t you take time off in Bucharest? 😀

Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready when you pass by historical landmarks like the Palace of Parliament (one of the largest administrative buildings in the world) and the postcard-worthy Calea Victoriei area in the city center during sunset. 🌇

A couple of college students walking along the cobblestone alleys of Bucharest in Romania
With picturesque attractions and affordable food and lodging, Romania is one of the best cheap travel destinations for college students. Photo: Freepik

Cheaply priced admission fees and student discounts can be expected when you visit the National History Museum and the Suţu Palace to learn more about Romania’s significant events. 

All that walking is bound to make you hungry, so grab a bite of cheap street eats like covrigi (pretzels). Then, explore some more when you walk around the streets of Lipscani, the city’s charming Old Town filled with cafes, pubs, street performers, galleries, and boutiques.🚶

👍 Best for: History buffs, novelty seekers, party animals
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $45

28. Negril, Jamaica 🏖️

Yearning for a Caribbean getaway? This tropical Jamaican paradise deserves a place on your travel wishlist!

Soak up some sun along Seven Mile Beach, a paradise of white sand and emerald sea. 🤩 The best part? It’s free to the public, with guards patrolling to ensure visitor safety and enough space for everyone. 

A male college student strolling along a Jamaican public beach in Negril
The sun, sand, and sea, with reggae playing in the background, make Jamaica a paradise for frazzled college students in need of a vacation on a budget. Photo: Freepik

Thrillseekers can find just what they’re looking for at cliff-jumping hotspots like Rick’s Cafe, which also has a good view of the sunset. 

Of course, what’s a trip to Jamaica without enjoying some reggae music? Jam at the Jungle Night Club or sit back and relax to classical reggae during live music nights at The Roots Café. 🎶

👍 Best for: Spring breakers, beach bums, music lovers
💰 Average daily spend for a budget-conscious traveler: $45

6 Tips for Affordable Traveling for College Students

Cheap flights are a good reason to plan a college trip, but having a blast while staying within your budget is what makes it memorable. These six tips are bound to give you the #BestVacationEver. 

A female college student taking pictures of her cheap travel destination's attractions
The quote “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” is good advice for college students traveling on a budget. Photo: marymarkevich/Freepik

1. Plan a budget-friendly itinerary

Research your itinerary to know your estimated expenses at least six months before your trip so you’ll know how much to spend on your flight, food, accommodation, travel insurance, and tours. 💸

Start by checking and making your student budget and figuring out how long it will take to save up for your trip. If your current savings need a boost, consider doing side hustles

Note: Don’t forget to set aside some cash for emergencies, like flight cancellations or losing your passport. 😲

READ MORE: 15 Best Summer Jobs for College Students (With Killer Perks!)

2. Book cheaper local accommodations

Popular hotels tend to be near the action, but they also come with a hefty price tag. The good thing is that there are tons of cheaper options available. 🏨

You can stay in hostels which can be great for groups traveling on a shoestring budget, or meet some residents by checking into homey inns run by locals or via Couchsurfing.

If you want a place all to yourself, find an Airbnb or stay with a friend who lives in the area. 😄

3. Maximize your student discounts

This requires one thing you must always have with you: your student ID. Use this to score free or discounted museum admissions, flights, and public transportation fares. 🪪

READ MORE: Sweet Discounts for College Students You Might Not Know About

A male college student biking around during his European trip to save money on transportation
One of the best ways to travel cheaply is living like the locals do: ride a bicycle or a public bus, eat local street food, and sleep in homey inns or hostels instead of big chain hotels. Photo: Freepik

4. Learn how the public transportation system works 

Hailing taxis or booking Ubers in a foreign city can be intimidating and expensive. You have two options to get from point A to B as cheaply as possible: take advantage of public transportation or find a walkable or bike-friendly city. 🚶

If you go with the first option, you can check out tourist guides online or YouTube videos about the city’s public transportation, fares, and routes. 

5. Arrange your visit during the off-season 

Expect cities or beaches to be crowded and overpriced during peak season. It’s important to anticipate which months are too popular so that you can find a better alternative because no one wants to swim at the beaches of Puerto Rico if you’re packed like sardines. 

Since this can differ among locations, research will be your wallet’s best friend here. ✅

6. Book flights with the best value

Consider the Goldilocks window — or the period when the best rates are found — to secure the cheapest airfares. 

Here’s how it’s done: book one to three months ahead for domestic flights and two to eight months ahead for international flights. ✈️

Do this by checking for available dates on budget airlines then make the deal sweeter by setting alerts on days when ticket prices are at their lowest (typically on Tuesdays and Wednesdays). 

Use flight comparison sites like Kayak or Expedia as references to book directly on the airline which has the lowest price or the better deal. 🤑

Even if college students don’t always have the luxury of time and money, who’s to say it’s impossible to travel? 

With this list of 28 cheap travel destinations for college students, you’re ready to discover new places without breaking the bank. Bon voyage! ⛵

Cheap Travel Destinations for College Students: Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the cheapest place to travel out of the US?

Cheap travel destinations that US college students can consider are Mexico, Central American countries like Panama, Puerto Rico, Belize, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, or Eastern European countries like Serbia, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania because the US dollar can go a long way when converted to their local currency.

How can a college student travel on a budget?

What factors should you consider to keep travel costs to a minimum?

How much does the average college student spend on travel?

What is the best place to visit during spring break?

What are cheap travel destinations in Europe?

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