Finding cheap vacations as a college student might seem like a bit of a stretch, but, there are plenty of destinations that can be visited on a shoestring budget, whilst still offering an awesome adventure! Whether it's cultural experiences, the great outdoors, or really good food and drink you’re after, this cherry-picked list brings you a selection of the very best budget destinations at home and overseas.
North Goa is renowned for watersports and beach parties, while the south brings a much calmer vibe for those who prefer to chill out on a sun lounger with a cocktail. Hostel rooms can be found for as cheap as five dollars a night, with private beach huts starting at twenty dollars a night, making this Indian beach paradise a great cheap vacation for college students.
Goa has a great selection of affordable restaurants and bars, but the most money-savvy way to eat is to stick to the array of amazing street food. Hiring a scooter for the day for around 5 dollars is a great and inexpensive way to explore and hiring kayaks to go dolphin spotting is about 7 dollars per hour. With beautiful bays and plenty of opportunities for relaxation, Goa offers plenty without having to reach for your wallet.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When thinking of cheap vacations for college students, flying to Europe might not jump to mind. However, it’s worth considering a city break to Amsterdam outside of the summer months when flights are cheaper. The Dutch capital is a great choice if you’re seeking a mix of culture, European history, great food and drink, and plenty of great photo opportunities along the many canals.
While public transport in Amsterdam is relatively inexpensive, the best way to see the city is (of course!) by bicycle. A rental costs around 10 dollars per day, with discounts for multiple days. This is a great way to cover a lot of miles and get a real feel of the city along its many cycle paths.
Amsterdam offers many great parks, museums, and, of course, the infamous coffee shops. We’d suggest a free walking tour to get your bearings and learn some of the history of this beautiful European city. Amsterdamers also know how to party, so if your trip coincides with the legendary King’s Day in April you’ll find plenty of free festivities and concerts in the street and on hundreds of boats along the canals—just make sure you wear something orange!
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
Located 35 miles apart, the Texan cities of Dallas and Fort Worth offer two totally contrasting experiences that can be covered in just one trip—the perfect cheap vacation for all college students.
The bustling urban metropolis of Dallas offers plenty of things to see and do. It’s an experience in itself to wander around the vibrant Deep Ellum district, well-known for its live music venues, galleries, and street art. If the outdoors is calling, head to White Rock Lake, a great city park offering plenty of activities including kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching, drawing over 1 million visitors every year.
Considered more ‘authentic Texas’, Fort Worth is the much calmer and quieter little sister of Dallas, offering an array of free activities such as heritage trails, parks, and the world’s only twice-a-day cattle drive in the Stockyards National Historic District—a real Texan experience.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
With nearly 30 airports flying direct to the Puerto Rican capital, including 42 flights a day from New York and 23 from Orlando, San Juan is an easy and relatively cheap destination to get to. The Atlantic coastal city is known for its beautiful fortress-lined coastlines, its colorful Spanish colonial architecture, and its lively nightlife.
Hostel dorms start from a little over 20 dollars per night, which may not be as cheap as other destinations, but, there are plenty of free or low-cost activities to enjoy during your stay. El Yunque, a waterfall-filled tropical rainforest is only 35 minutes outside the city, with plenty of hiking options. San Juan also boasts two excellent old Spanish fortresses to soak up a bit of history, with a combined ticket costing 10 dollars. The San Juan Cathedral (free to enter) shouldn’t be missed, and make sure you get a Piña Colada before you leave the city—the legendary cocktail was invented in San Juan, making it a must-try!
Recently ranked as the second cheapest place to fly to within the US, Denver is a great choice for cheap vacations for college students. If you’re an arty type, Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District offers plenty of galleries to check out, whilst the Denver Center for the Performing Arts hosts free performances year-round. The city also has plenty of great parks, including Red Rocks—home to one of the world’s most famous amphitheaters, and City Park which offers free jazz concerts during the summer months.
If you want to get out of the city, you can visit one of Colorado’s 41 state parks. Campsites can be booked for 10 dollars per night, so make sure you pack your tent! From Denver, you’ve got the Rocky Mountains, pine forests, and red sandstone parks right on your doorstep, so go and enjoy the great outdoor experiences that Colorado has to offer!
Picturesque Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region—a beautiful part of the country to explore on any budget. From walks along the river Arno with gelato in hand, to soaking up the atmosphere in Piazza del Duomo, the city offers many things for those on a student budget. While eating and drinking may set you back a little bit, hostel prices start at 27 dollars per night, and some even offer a private pool!
For a great sunset spot, head to Piazzale Michelangelo with stunning city and river views, and dive into the Florence lifestyle at the colorful San Lorenzo Market. Finally, make sure to get an aperitivo — a classic Negroni or Aperol Spritz is often accompanied by a free buffet of hot and cold snacks. Don’t fill up too much though, the Italians go here before heading out for dinner!
Long story short…
There you have it—cheap vacations for college students can be rustled up at home or overseas! So long as you’re a savvy budgeter with a good eye for finding cheap flights and an openness to trying a variety of activities, the world is your oyster. Go forth and enjoy!
Written by AC Callahan