By Zhuoxiu Xing, University of Missouri

I believe I am not the only one who likes traveling around the world. But as college students, the cost of an international trip is often beyond what we could imagine. I’ve traveled by myself since high school. I’ve been to Sri Lanka, Iceland, Morocco and so on. Looking back on these experiences, I’ve always felt that there were some costs that I could have saved.

Transportation is a major cost when you plan a trip. It is important to remember that the cost of airline tickets fluctuates dramatically during holidays. Most of them will increase in price when the time gets closer to summer or winter breaks, so you should always start to pay attention to ticket prices as early as possible. For example, if you plan to travel in June, you should keep your eyes on ticket prices starting in January. Several travel websites let you sign up for price alerts. Another tip is that when you travel in Europe, sometimes taking an airplane is cheaper than train or other types of transportation. For example, EasyJet is a low-cost airline based in England. If you book tickets in the slack season, sometimes you can get a one-way ticket for only $20 to $30.

Accommodations is another cost. What I usually do is to register to work in a volunteer program that includes free breakfast and lunch as well as accommodations for 15 days. I need to do volunteer activities during morning time in weekdays, which I really enjoy. Then I can arrange my own time for afternoons and weekends. The total costs are around $400. I like it for two reasons: first, it provides me with an opportunity to fully engage in local culture since I lived with local household, and I still have free time to travel; second, the costs include pretty much everything for 15 days. One such program is International Volunteer HQ, a leading volunteer travel organization.

Another option are youth hotels. An average price for one night is about a fifth of the cost of regular hotels. The accommodations vary widely, so do your research. For students, hostels are a great chance to know people around the world, to know their cultures.

Currency rate is another thing that deserves our attention when planning a trip. Especially considering how unstable the current market is, currency rates could vary tremendously in just in few days.

For example, last year I went to China, and the first thing I did was to look at the overall changes that happened between yuan and dollar in recent months, so I could know the average currency rates. I exchanged currency when I noticed the rates were lower than the average.

Zhuoxiu Xing is a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.