Planning your Gap Year Airfare

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Airfare is one of the trickiest elements to building a strong Gap Year. Typically it’s the priciest pieces in the equation of an any Gap Year, and still remains one of the most expensive considerations even on academic study abroads. That being said, there are a lot of ways to save money on your flight. We highly encourage you to start your airfare search early given not only the volatility of the market, but also the constant changes that the airline industries seem to be going through.

There are a lot of elements to consider when scoring a great airfare. Here are a few tips gleaned from years of banging our heads against the proverbial walls of travel:

Know your rights!

The Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division lays out certainties of compensation and expectations for travelers: http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer. If you feel like you’re not getting this, mention it, and if necessary, never hesitate to talk to a supervisor, or threaten to report the airline. Note: this only is required for US airlines.

Sign up for air miles

These little things are priceless and within a few years you’ll typically earn yourself at least one free domestic flight if not a free international one!

Keep track of your boarding passes

It’s unfortunate, but many airlines will “lose” your information and make it more difficult to get your miles awarded.

Visa Check

If you’re traveling to a place that requires a visa, don’t forget to get one! The airline won’t let you board your plane if you don’t have the necessary visa! Find out if you need one by going to the State Department and checking out the entry requirements for your destination. In many cases you can get a visa-on-arrival, but just as often you’ll need to send your passport to a Consulate General’s Office (a foreign embassy) to get a visa stamp for entry.

Those who ask, receive

If your flight is changed, don’t be afraid to ask for free things – hotel vouchers, meal vouchers, etc. Heck, the worst they can say is ‘no.’

Do your research

Find out online what arrival dates should be cheapest. Keep in mind that weekends will be more expensive, and typically the cheapest day to fly is Wednesday. It’s usually cheapest to book your flight approximately 6 weeks out . . . if not more. Roundtrip tickets will help cut the cost, as will flying early in the morning.

Buy local

Book your regional flights through local carriers. When traveling internationally this is particularly important to do and easily can save you hundreds of dollars simply by booking your flight (for example within Southeast Asia) from a Thai travel agent.

Discount companies aren’t always the best bet

Booking your flight through a discount company – like Priceline, or Expedia, often will save some money but disallow the earning of airmiles, and very regularly will route you through some fairly exhausting itineraries. Remember, the times a traveler are most at risk are in transit, so showing up exhausted and not fully present is a recipe that simply compounds your exposure.

Check here

Don’t forget to check the usual suspects: www.kayak.com, www.Cheapflights.com, and www.yapta.com for good deals.

Read the fine print

Be aware of the terms of your travel: change ticket fees, abilities to re-route, change dates, etc.

Keep composure

Changing your flight once you’ve started can sometimes be simple and sometimes complicated. But remember that when you’re traveling in a foreign country it never helps to lose patience. Be polite, ask for a supervisor if needed, and be patient but assertive.

Student deals

Take advantage of student airfares if you’re currently a student. www.statravel.com.

Do you have any additional tips for keeping airfare low? Help keep us updated!

Tips From A Student: How To Travel Overseas On A Student Budget

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Travel Overseas On A Student Budget

College is an amazing time of life full of new friends and new adventures.  With so much stress from coursework while class is in session, it’s great to use the breaks either before college, or, between semesters to travel to new places.  You can fit a lot of experiences into just a few weeks, but paying for this can be tricky. I use some clever tips I’ve learned to be able to travel to exotic places without spending a fortune or coming back to school knee-deep in debt.  Yes, you may have to work a bit while you travel, but it’s all just part of the adventure and working in a different country is an experience most people can’t claim as something they have done.

The first problem is, of course, how to pay for the trip. One way to do this is by picking up a part-time job and saving some money. When that falls short, I would suggest doing what I did. I did some research and learned that I could get a travel credit card that was designed for students. This was great for a number of reasons. I was able to pay for my larger expenses after my trip and not stress about how to pay for it before my trip. Also, the card gave me a way to pay for meals and lodging while I was overseas (in places that accepted cards) without having to carry hundreds of dollars in cash on me at all times (don’t try this, it’s too dangerous). Finally, it allowed me to exchange currencies automatically without having to deal with small kiosks that exchanged cash for you while charging you a massive fee. A not-so-honest lady in Poland once charged me extra because I didn’t understand the exchange rates; so by using a card, I generally cut this problem down to a minimum. Having a travel card was, and continues to be, very useful for me when traveling abroad.

Airfare’s always a challenge too, but one of the best things to do is ask for miles from friends/family, or, visit this great website for good deals and tips for travel.  There are some student-only fares through STA that are usually discounted, but occasionally there are deals to be had for last-minute flights.

Some places give you the option of paying for Internet services but you can save some cash by sitting in coffee shops or hostels that offer free Wi-Fi; it’s a great thing to find while traveling and believe me, they’re almost anywhere. Keeping your friends and family updated on where you are and the fun you are having is a nice thing to do, and you want to be able to do it as cheaply as possible.  Often your hostel will give you a password for their connection when you check in, and most have a computer or two available in the lobby for paying guests. Be sure to check with your hostel manager to make sure you can use the computers because if they aren’t for your use, they’ll be pretty upset (trust me). If you need a hotspot and you’re far away from your hostel, try this hotspot locater to get a sense for what’s in your vicinity. This website has been very helpful for me on a number of different occasions.

Packing light when you travel is the way to go.  Not only are you hauling around less baggage, but you’re also saving money by not checking bags on planes, and sometimes trains and buses.  Most people find that a backpack is more convenient than any other type of luggage, but fortunately you can get a sturdy backpack that is lightweight for fewer than one hundred dollars.  For the price and convenience, you can’t beat it. I love using a backpack because it’s more personal. If someone is trying to pickpocket you and you have six bags, it’s easy. If you have one bag that’s in your hands or locked on your back, you’re giving them a bit more of a challenge. I found mine on Amazon and it has been all over the world without breaking. Find yourself a high quality pack and you’ll find yourself a travel partner, too. I was on a train in London, once, and a man tried to slide his way into my backpack without me noticing. Too bad for him, I noticed. Take care of your pack and your pack will take care of you.

 

KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.