How to travel like a jetsetter on a student budget

New York City isn't as far or as expensive as you might think. (John Bird/ For The AQ)

When other students find out my family is in the travel business, I start getting questions – especially around this time of year.

Getting to the south, or any other place, takes money,and plenty of it; students just don’t have the time or the resources. What most people don’t realize is that travelling can be moderately pocket friendly – if you know what to look for. So I asked my Dad, Troy Coughlan of J&T Tours, what are the most economical alternatives if a student wanted to get out of Dodge for Christmas or the March Break.

“One thing that most people don’t realize, is that it’s not always impossibly expensive to travel. They’re just looking in the wrong places,” he said.

New York City

It may be difficult to believe that the most famous city in the world would also be considered a budget trip – and it doesn’t mean you have to stay in a “dive” hotel either. You can book
Hilton hotel accommodations in the center of Manhattan, all transportation, two New York City tours, all breakfasts provided and just in time for the world famous Macy Parade and the New York Christmas Lights. With a price tag of $599 for a week. Shopping however, is a different story altogether in the Big Apple.

“I do about 12 trips to New York a year,” Dad told me. “They sell better than any trip because it’s affordable and there’s a certain clientele that only see the price tag.”

Cruising

“You haven’t travelled until you’ve cruised,” said Dad.
Most veteran travellers would agree.
And it can be relatively inexpensive. Cruising works a lot like staying in a hotel. You pay for the room with up to four people. Everything, except for alcohol, is included.

Depending on the ship, they can have malls, ice rinks, outdoor theatres, golf, multiple pools and spa and casinos. Spending a day on a Caribbean beach doesn’t hurt either.

For $150 a night, you’re definitely getting more for your money.

Prices do vary, however. Older ships, while still spectacular, might not offer quite as much, but the price is usually right.

The biggest problem with cruising can be getting to the boat itself. Not many ships headed to the Caribbean leave from Atlantic Canada. But don’t count yourself out just yet. Many ships leave for warmer climate from the Big Apple; a long day’s drive can save you a lot compared to flying.

These trips usually span from five days to over a week, so if you’re looking for an extended trip, this is definitely the way to go.

The other option is to fly. If you’re looking to cruise for only two or three days, catch a boat leaving from Tampa, Florida. Two things you should know before attempting this. One: fly out of Bangor, Maine. It’s cheaper to fly within the country than from Canada, and you only have to drive for a few short hours. Second: what any experienced cruiser will tell you – if you’re flying, make sure to land a day before the cruise. Anything can happen within 12 hours and the boat waits for no one. You don’t want to be stuck watching the ship set sail without you.

“Anything can happen.” said Dad. “Your flight can be delayed, you get lost, you break down. When it comes to cruising, everything has to be planned ahead and you should be there at least a day before the ship sets sail.”

Cuba

Cuba tends to be a popular get-a-way for Canadians. The best part of a place like Cuba, is the all-inclusive trips, where your flight, hotel, food and even your alcohol are included in the price. The price all depends on the time of year, of course. During spring break, for example, you’re going to find the price isn’t looking as hot as the destination. Flying from Bangor won’t be an option either, seeing as Americans don’t have the best relationship with their Cuban amigos.

But our home and native land has you covered. And it’s easy. West Jet is a Canadian low-cost carrier that provides scheduled and charter air service. They also provide vacation packages or all inclusives. It’s as simple as logging on to their site and finding the “Vacation” tab and start searching for the trip that bests suits you. West Jet flights don’t leave out of Fredericton, however, other carriers such as Air Canada do, so look around.

Booking

So how do you avoid a possible horror story? How do you know your hotel won’t be a dump and you’re getting ripped off?
It’s simple, do your research. As painstaking as that sounds, it may save you a headache. Look up the hotel on the internet. Look for pictures and reviews before booking. Compare prices with other carriers and travel agencies. It’s your money, so don’t throw it away.

Another good money saver is bus trips. They  are convenient and everything is looked after for you. It’s a competitive business, so trips are scheduled year-round and price is everything. But before booking, look for the company that provides the most bang for your buck. One company might offer a New York trip $100 cheaper, but often when you look closely, the cheaper trip’s hotel is located in New Jersey and not in Manhattan.

Whatever plans you make for this holiday season, take your time, look around and save some of that hard-earned money.

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  • Show Comments (2)

  • Mark

    This reminds me of our recent European vacation. We were on a tight budget so we planned everything out in advance – even where we were going to stay, which turned out to be the luton hotel.

  • Bill B.

    Oh, how fancy! I stayed at hotel luton, too! I was a student at that time and I needed some break from the pressures of college. Awesome experience.

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