Operating on a student budget means succumbing to the pop-tarts, popcorn, and ramen diet every once in awhile (yeah, mom, I lied about eating my vegetables). You’re no stranger to scrimping, scraping, and saving every single one of those student coupon books, or taking advantage of flashing that perfectly laminated student I.D. around to save a buck here and there— so, why should travel be any different? It shouldn’t! So save that money and spend it on something else because we’re here to help you get some cheap international flights.
Whether you’re embarking on an epic adventure to study, volunteer, or intern abroad, you might have noticed that international flights aren’t exactly free. So, what’s a guy or gal to do? You’ve found your perfect program abroad and now it’s time to book your ticket out of town. Well, the good news is, just like those discounted matinee tickets to the next superhero blockbuster, there are also tons of student travel deals to take advantage of. Here are a few insider tips to help you score a student discount and get cheap international flights.
Timing is Everything
There are lots of different travelers’ schools of thought that will tell you how/when/where to travel. Everyone has their own secrets, tips, and tricks to get you the best student travel deals on flights, accommodations, tours and experiences, museums, etc.
The secret to travel (just like in comedy) is timing. But, as a meaningful traveler, even on a short trip you’re not just looking to hit the major landmarks and “must-sees,” you’re looking to go a little deeper, without digging deeper into your pockets.
When to Book Your Flights
This is the not-so-secret of scoring cheaper flights for students. You have to know WHEN to book your ticket. As tempting as it might be to get that study abroad acceptance, hop online, and book the first flight you can find that will get you there before orientation starts, patience has always been a virtue, young grasshopper.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect formula for when to book your international flights and it will vary from location to location. Here are the general rules of thumb for when to book flights to various regions:
Central and South America: 70 days prior to departure date
Europe: 120 days prior to departure date (four months)
Asia: 160 days prior to departure date
Middle East and Africa: 215 days prior to departure date
South Pacific: 320 days prior to departure date
You might notice that the best times to book cheaper flights for students coincides with dates and deadlines for visa applications.
Take Advantage of Shoulder Seasons
This might be a little tough if you’re embarking on an international program, since you’ll have less control over your departure date, but shoulder seasons are your new best friend. Wait— what’s a shoulder season, you ask?
A shoulder season is simply the period of time between peak and off-peak seasons, and arguably the best time to find a deal on cheap international flights for students in addition to discounted accommodations since you’ll be beating the tourist rush.
Studying abroad in New Zealand and hoping to snag cheaper flights and giving yourself a little time to settle in before your semester starts? December is mid-shoulder season for this south Pacific island. Volunteering abroad in Morocco for the fall and wanting to beat the heat and miss all those European tourists? September and October is the perfect time to embark on your adventure. Have your eyes on a summer program in Europe? You’re just in luck because May is the perfect time to have a euro-trip before mid-summer tourists arrive.
The Early Bird (and the Night Owl) Get the Cheaper Flights for Students
Mastering travel timing for student travel deals isn’t just about how far in advance to book your flight, it’s about when you actually go wheels up and off into the air. It will come as no surprise that most people don’t love those crack-of-dawn flights or those red-eyes, which means they’re usually much cheaper fares.
And, as a college student you’re much better equipped to handle the bleary-eyed early mornings and late nights. It can’t be much different from that one all-nighter studying for your biology midterm, right? And at least this time you can sleep through it. Load up your phone with some soothing playlists and podcasts, invest in a good travel pillow and eye-mask, and go for that cheap 5:00 a.m. flight!
Don’t forget that if money is super tight, there are ways to make money while studying abroad!
Chase Fares, Not Destinations
Again, not always the easiest of feats when you’ve had your heart set on studying abroad in southern France ever since you ate your first baguette. But, this is something to consider if you’re not married to a destination— and it’s especially important once you’re abroad and planning to make the most of weekend trips. The world is a big and beautiful place, and everywhere will surprise you. So maybe a flight to Costa Rica will be less expensive than that round-the-world trip to Southeast Asia and both have equally great opportunities to work on environmental conservation projects. Chase the cheaper fare and don’t let that “dream” destination blind you and make you miss out on great opportunities and sweet student travel deals.
Join the Club
Sure, no one really loves combing through countless newsletters and marketing emails, but to save a few bucks and snag cheap international flights for students, sacrifices must be made. Join rewards clubs and mailing lists for airlines, and sign up for updates on price drops. Your wallet will thank you later when you’re looking to treat yo’self abroad.
Signing up for memberships on student booking sites will offer you the best student travel deals. Bank on these student travel sites and their partnerships to snag you a great student discount on cheap international flights and make your dreams of traveling abroad a reality.
Miscellaneous Hacks for Cheap International Flights and Deals
These don’t necessarily fall into a specific category, but are good online tricks to save a buck here and there as you start booking your cheap international flight/travel.
Clear your cookies, or shop for fares “incognito.” This prevents booking sites from using your most recent searches to hike up fares based on changes in demand for that particular flight.
Use social media to your advantage. Following all airlines (big and small) on social media will keep you privy to any new deals or fare drops.
If you’ve got credit card perks, use them! Some credit cards (especially travel rewards cards) offer special deals on airfare and if you’ve racked up a good amount of points or miles you might be able to apply them to your international flights and save a pretty penny.
Book the Flight, Enjoy the Journey
Now that you have these online travel hacks in your back pocket, you can spend less time worrying about finding cheap international flights for students and spend more time preparing for your life-changing adventure abroad. What a weight off your shoulders! At least, until you strap on that backpack for your summer or semester abroad.