Being a university student is one of the best positions to be in if you want to travel. That crushing debt looming over your shoulder may make travelling feel difficult, but really it’s not. The amount of holiday university students have allows them to be very flexible about when they travel, allowing them to get amazing deals. There are rarely noteworthy student discounts on flights, but students have one major advantage over most people; flexibility.
1. Travel out of school holidays
Let’s start with the obvious, yet people constantly ignore it. Check the dates of your universities holidays and the dates of school holidays and arrange to travel in the gaps when you are taking a break but the school students are still at work.
Flights increase dramatically during school holidays, to some destinations you can end up paying 10x the amount for your flight if you book it at the start of a school holiday, when everyone else is wanting to go away. (The cheapest times to travel in Europe are usually September, early December and April, if your university is on holiday at these times)
2. Be flexible on dates (and even location)
If you know your destination, check a wide range of dates, it’s not like students are pressed for time during the holidays (unless you chose medicine, you poor soul). I highly recommend using Skyscanner to look at flights across whole month periods, the right dates can change everything.
Skyscanner, Skyscanner, Skyscanner... Seriously this is the most useful tool you will ever use. It’s up there with the wheel in revolutionary development. No I am not paid to promote them (I wish!), they are just awesome.
Also aim to fly on less popular days. Flights will be most expensive on Fridays and Sundays due to people leaving after a weeks work or coming back to start work again. But since you are on holiday every day of the week, how about flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday when flights will often be cheaper.
If you don’t have a particular place in mind yet, but just want to explore somewhere other than home, use the ‘Everywhere’ feature on Skyscanner, which allows you to find the cheapest destinations from your airport. Mess around with the dates on here until you find some really cheap travel destinations.
3. Hide your browsing data
If you have been searching for enough time, likely you’ll have experienced flights suddenly jumping up in price the more you search. This is a clever trick used especially by budget airlines giving you the impression that tickets are selling out fast! Oh no, you say, and accept the higher price burrowing further into your overdraft black hole.
Wrong! You can avoid this by searching for flights using private browsing (incognito for Chrome). This will stop websites tracking that all-important cookie data and taking your money.
4. Consider pairing up two or more places, look at one-way tickets
Don’t just look at returns, sometimes you can find a cheap one-way ticket and then a cheap return from a nearby place.
For example, say you find a cheap flight to Vienna but the return is really expensive, then you could check return flights from nearby Bratislava and if you find something cheap visit there for a few days before returning home.
This way you save money on your flights and also get to explore a new area.
5. Book at the right time
For flights in Europe booking very far in advance or close to your flight is unlikely to be a good idea. Many people will hope for last minute flights at low prices, but these are rare for popular routes.
Searching around 4-6 weeks before should give you the best prices. A very helpful tool I use for predicting when I should book is AirHint which indicates if prices are likely to rise or fall, though these are just estimates so don’t rely on them wholeheartedly.
6. Book on the right day
Believe it or not, the day of the week you search for flights will sometimes change the prices that you get. Generally searching mid-week for flights will give you the best deals. Lots of people are searching for tickets at the weekend so this is a bad time to buy tickets, as price drops on these days are less likely.
7. Don’t be afraid of going with budget airlines
Yes, Ryanair is far from a comfortable or enjoyable experience. But it gets you from A to B, which in Europe probably doesn’t take long anyway.
Stop paying stupidly high prices for luxury airlines unless you enjoy wasting your money, not my favourite past time. Spend your not-so-hard earned government loan on proper travel experiences, not extra leg room and airline food.
8. Try different airports
If you are lucky enough to live a short ride from other airports, check out flight deals from these when you are booking. It might save you money getting a bus/train to a nearby airport.
Also if they are different places, make sure you check flights from your home airport and also university airport. A holiday in Europe sounds like the ideal thing to do after a stressful term at university.
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