You keep telling yourself you don’t have money, you can’t travel… but then you see all your friends’ instagrams filled with their travel adventures. Some on weekend getaways, some on a semester abroad. And you think to yourself: How are they doing that? Why can’t I be traveling too?

We’re here to tell you that you absolutely can travel cheap! You just need to know the secret in-and-outs of traveling low budget and still having a great time.

A group of friends walks under the neon lights and signs on a shopping street in Seoul, South Korea.

Tips on having the time of your life traveling, even though you’re a broke, busy college student:

1. Accommodations are just for sleeping.

Don’t bother spending all that money for luxurious hotels when you won’t even be getting into bed before 11pm. You’re wasting your money on time you’re spending unconscious. Of course, you’re going to want to be sleeping somewhere that isn’t crawling with bugs or filled with smells or leaks, but there are still tons of choices to pick from that can save you hundreds while not feeling diseased.

Hostels can also be great alternatives to the hotel game. They’re cheap, accessible, and offer a variety of rooming options from private rooms to large bunk rooms – ready to fit your needs. If you’re worried about safety, you totally don’t need to be if you stay smart (plus we’ve got a guide all about it!).

2. Free things >>>

Depending on where you’re traveling to, there are literally tons of free things you could be doing. From museums, to street performances, to walking the streets sightseeing, not spending money does not mean not doing anything. Plus, so long as you hold onto that student ID card, you can always see if the things that you’re dying to do offer student discounts. You’ll find that some cities will even have free public transit. While that probably won’t save you tons, every penny counts, right?

If you’re needing free activity inspo, we’ve got tons of guides for that!

Domestic cities: Boston, NYC, Chicago, San Francisco

Around the world: Bali, Amsterdam, Rome, Bangkok, Madrid, London, Iceland, Paris, Scandinavia, Prague, Europe

3. Travel at the right time

This means avoiding peak travel times. Generally this is when the weather’s best in the location, so it makes sense that’s why everyones going, but because everyone’s going, everything will be more expensive and extra crowded. If you can’t bare the thought of off season travel though – opt for shoulder seasons which are on the borders between the high and low seasons. You’ll deal with less people, less lines, and wind up paying a lot less.

When it comes to actually flying away, it’s often cheapest to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (because less people want to – just like the high/low season rules). While shopping, try using flexible search tools so that you can see how the pricing of your flights changes by departure and return days. You should also opt in for price alert notifications, that way you don’t have to worry about flight price fluctuations. Instead you’ll just get an email or push notification when the flight price changes and you can book that when the flight you want is cheaper!

Young woman sits on rocky cliff and watches the ocean in Greece, a popular destination for cheap travel.

4. Pack light unless you want your wallet light

You know what costs a bunch of money? Checking bags or taking carry ons if they aren’t included in your ticket cost. You’ll save quite a bit of money if you just opt for bringing less items with you. And you can pack a surprising amount of outfits into a backpack (personal item) if you’re strategic about it.

5. Watch what you eat (and drink)

It can be pretty expensive if you spend every single meal out at nice restaurants. Instead, choose cheaper eating out options, like a smaller local place or even a street vendor. To make eating even easier while you travel cheap you can opt to stay somewhere with a kitchen and either bring food with you or go to the grocery store and do your own cooking. If the fancy restaurants are screaming your name and you simply can’t say no, picking to eat there for lunch instead of dinner can save you money. Lastly, in most places, alcohol is going to burn through your money so fast. Places such as Germany where beer is cheaper than water at restaurants is the expectation to this rule. However, if you aren’t in Germany, limit yourself to an occasional drink to save quite a bit.

Bonus tip: Choose your destinations wisely

Sometimes we just have to face the facts and recognize that some places are just more expensive to visit and travel in than other places. And it’s okay! The places that are more affordable aren’t any less fun. And we’ve already done the hard work of figuring out what exactly the cheapest destinations are right now just for you. Now go off and travel cheap!