If you Google (or for that matter, Blackle, my new favorite Google substitute) “student travel,” a whole plethora of websites turn up. Some of them are good, some of them not so good. It all depends on what you’re looking for: cheap airfare, a place to sleep, information about studying abroad, et cetera.
Because student travel, like student travelers, does not fit into a cookie-cutter definition, I’ve taken a slightly unorthodox approach to picking the 10 best websites. Instead of the top 10 general student travel sites, I’ve chosen one “top” site in 10 different categories.
Most informative commentary:
Looking for advice? About.com Student Travel has articles on practically everything. It also features a student traveler blog updated every day with new and interesting information.
Cons: The site is advice and information only, with no booking assistance, and it doesn’t have a particularly intuitive design.
Best for planning a wild spring break:
For many young people, spring break is the first trip without parental supervision. That makes it all the more imperative to not be taken for a ride by less than savory companies looking to prey on eager-to-party coeds. Spring Break Travel is a reputable option for planning that first trip.
Pros: It’s been commended for its ethics; offers a wide range of trips across the Caribbean, Mexico, and the U.S.; and has an easy-to-use website.
Cons: The trips offered might not be as “shady” or hedonistic as what you’re looking for.
Best for cheap airfare:
On a budget myself, I do a fair amount of shopping around when it comes to buying airfare. Time and time again, I’ve found the best deals from Student Universe. This is especially true for international travel.
Pros: The booking tool is easy to use, you don’t need an ISIC card (just an .edu email address or other proof of enrollment), and discounts are open to faculty as well as students.
Cons: You can’t book more than one ticket at the same time, which is annoying because sometimes friends can’t sit together.
Best for going abroad in general:
Eager to get overseas but not sure of the logistics? Should you teach English, volunteer, work as an au pair, get a work visa, et cetera? TransitionsAbroad.com has the answers, offering articles that address most questions related to international travel.
Pros: The site has a wealth of first-person advice about everything from working abroad to studying abroad to traveling and living abroad as well.
Cons: It’s not very well designed, but the info is there if you’re willing to dig.
Best site for working abroad legally without getting hitched or giving up your U.S. citizenship:
Unfortunately for American students, working abroad isn’t so easy. However, BUNAC has information for young people (generally under 35) interested in working or volunteering in the U.K., Ireland, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, or Cambodia.
Pros: The site is easy to use, simple to understand, and (the best part) completely legit.
Cons: Program fees are unavoidable but make your life easier by taking care of the annoying details.
Best site for cheapskate altruistic accommodations:
On a budget when it comes to accommodations? You can’t get any cheaper than free! The CouchSurfing Project’s mission statement reads, “CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding.” Save the world, sleep on a couch.
Pros: It’s a funky concept that restores my faith in humanity. Plus, they’ve recently added extra measures for added security of participants.
Cons: You have to take a leap of faith to be able to participate.
Best backpacking tips:
Intrigued by the idea of strapping 20 pounds of luggage on your back and schlepping across Europe? Backpack Europe on a Budget is a good is place to start, offering lots of practical advice on packing, trip planning, transportation, and more.
Pros: This website offers practical advice, especially for first-timers.
Cons: Euro-centric—it offers no specific advice for backpacking in other parts of the world. It’s also decidedly aimed at newbies.
Most unique transportation options:
Why fly when you can travel with personality? It was hard to pick just one, so here are five options for unique student-friendly modes of transportation. The Vodkatrain is just what the name implies, a vodka-fueled train ride across Russia and Asia. Rail Europe offers a complex network of railways, while Hop On Hop Off consists of flexible bus service in Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Amtrak, the all-American staple, saves students 15 percent with either an ISIC or Student Advantage card. Lastly, Green Tortoise Adventure Travel appeals to the inner hippie in all of us, offering cheap, communal bus voyages in North America.
Pros: Variety, variety, variety! And all options are affordable (and memorable) ways of traveling.
Cons: Luxurious they are not.
Best for student discounts:
Want to save money? The most universally recognized student discount card comes from ISIC. With this handy little piece of plastic you can do things like score discounts on Amtrak in the U.S., save at Subway sandwich shops in Russia, and countless other things for less than the standard price. (Runner-Up: Student Advantage.)
Pros: You save money!
Cons: You have to pay (by buying the card) to save money. Depending on where you’re going, it might not be accepted.
Best all-around student travel website:
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop, STA Travel is the site for you. You can search for and book travel (including airfare), learn about special student discounts, and read postings from fellow travelers.
Pros: The site is easy to use, with lots of options, from airfare to hotels to group travel to everything in between.
Cons: Not many. It even has destination guides.