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Post-Graduate Travel

How to travel smartly, safely, ethically, and independently after college.

Where to Start

Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. Check out the ideas below to see what may be the best places to start planning the specifics of a trip.

Budgeting

Identifying big ticket items is a good practice when starting to build a trip's budget. The tricky part tends to be when a traveler starts to look at day-to-day expenses--expenses which are hardest to identify without being in the destination, and which can fluctuate most easily.

In summer 2019, Lonely Planet put out a list of their favorite tools for budgeting for travel. From hotel discounts to expense tracking, these cover a range of the essentials, and can be found here. While Lonely Planet is a site run by travelers, for travelers, it is always recommended that personal research is done to make sure these apps will be right for a unique traveler.

US News put out a similar list in 2017 with a focus more on the financial side. Check it out here.

Accommodations

When traveling, there are three main options a traveler will come across for accommodations: hotels, hostels, and homestays. What's the difference?

Hotels

Hotels are considered the traditional method of accommodation while traveling. And with so many amenities and perks often included, such as privacy, breakfast and/or a central location, it is an understandably natural choice for unburdened travel. However, because hotels can offer many amenities other options can't or won't, they tend to bulk the price up.

Hostels

Hostels have been slow to spread in the U.S., but are quite common in other countries, especially those in Europe. They allow for serendipitous socialization and keep more money in your pocket, along with other perks this TripSavvy list notes. But if a traveler craves privacy or peace at the end of a long day of sightseeing, even the rooms with fewer beds may not offer the space they need to unwind.

Homestays

Different than homestay tourism (visitors stay in a home with the family participating as active hosts), homestays are accommodations where locals rent out rooms or full homes to travelers. The locations can range all over a location, have varying levels of amenities, and are attractive in their offer to have a tourist feel and live like a local for the duration of their visit. There are many companies who arrange such stays, so compare options and be responsible when communicating with potential hosts.

Homestays are quite popular right now, particularly through Airbnb. And while the appeal of staying in a local's home, as well as a often-comparable price to a hotel, seems like the ideal way to experience a new place, the homestay industry's impact on those very locals and hidden neighborhoods has not been as positive.

Cities across the U.S. have been cracking down on Airbnb and limiting their influence on the travel industry, with some cities banning Airbnb all together. In 2018, San Francisco enacted new laws for short-term homestays for a variety of reasons, including absentee tenants who were flouting city policy. Cities outside the U.S. have also had problems, with gentrification and false rent inflation causing neighborhood discord, as reported in this 2019 New Yorker article about Barcelona.

Be sure to check how the homestay industry has affected the place(s) on your itinerary, and also the limitations that have been placed on such companies. It may also mean that those prices taken for granted as being better than hotels and hostels may no longer have that advantage.

Transportation

Determining how to travel to and from a travel destination can be a daunting first step in trip planning.

There are quite a few resources for comparing methods of travel, such as Google Flights, Kayak, and more. There are also student-and-youth travel agencies, such as STA, that help find travel excursions and transportation discounts specifically for young travelers. Signing up for accounts with major airlines, train lines, and car rental companies is usually free, and they will send out email announcements when they are having deals or sales on fares or rates.

For plane travel, specifically: If a traveler is interested in a place and has the flexibility to decide when they want to go later, or if they know when they want to go, but don't have a preference for the destination, check out flight alert resources, such as Scott's Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club, which have both free and subscription tiers that help find heavily discounted fares for specific windows of time and destinations. 

Within foreign countries, it’s always a good idea to not assume anything about preferred methods of transportation. For example, while the U.S. is most commonly traversed by plane or automobile, Europe relies on a lot of interconnected, international (and intranational) rail lines to convey their citizens affordably. Within cities and towns, it is also important to research methods of transportation for each place. Some questions to ask:

  • Do they have ride-sharing, taxis, and/or pedicabs?
  • Does their transportation occur mostly by bus, or by bicycle?
  • How do you pay for public transportation?
  • What do locals consider the safest or most efficient option? What do tourists?

And don’t forget about that tricky step: getting from the airport or station to the hotel or other first destination after arrival! Often, there will be a shuttle/tram into a central location, or occasionally a hotel can provide a shuttle to pick up guests at scheduled times from major transportation hubs.