Many of the years I spent living abroad were when I was either an undergraduate or graduate student.
I was relatively clueless about all of the student discounts that are available (for flights, museums, ground transportation, etc.) the first time I lived abroad, but by the time I was doing my dissertation research in France, I was a seasoned pro at cashing in on student discounts at museums, theaters, restaurants, on rail passes, flights, you name it. The more I learned, the more money I saved. Here are some general tips and resources for making the most out of student discounts while studying, traveling or living abroad (many of these student discounts also apply to students living in the U.S.).
- Get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC). This will open the door to over 40,000 discounts at home and abroad. They partner with various organizations (Target, AMC, Virgin, to name a few) to bring an excellent array of discounts (from spa services to accommodations) to students. The organizations that partner with ISIC will require this specific card in order to get discounts, so it’s best to get your hands on one before embarking on your international journey. Any full-time student in an undergraduate or graduate program is eligible to get a card. If you are a part-time student and you are under 26 years old, there is another discount card you would be eligible for, the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC). The IYTC card offers similar benefits, services and savings to the ISIC card. See http://www.isic.org for more information and to order a card. You can also sign up for their email list to get weekly alerts on new deals in your city/country.
- Always carry your ID card from your home college/university. To be able to prove your status as an American student, it’s a good idea to have your college/university ID card in your wallet at all times. This, combined with your international student ID card, will be enough proof to garner you all of the discounts for which you are eligible.
- It never hurts to ask. If a museum, theater, cultural center, etc. does not have student rates posted, it’s always a good idea to ask about them anyways. You never know what they might say, and asking could save you quite a bit of money over the long run. Of course, be prepared to prove your student status by showing your student ID card. Many museums have days or evenings that are free for students, so be sure to ask about those as well.
- Check out student discounts on flights and vacation packages. There are a number of organizations that offer discounts on flights, accommodations and vacation packages specifically for students. STA travel is a great site to check out for student discounts on airline tickets, rail passes, hotels, car rentals, hostels and tours. I know many students who have found some great package deals for spring break on this site. Other reputable student discount sites include: Smarter Travel, Student Universe, ISTravel, CheapoAir and the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC). I’ve found quite a few good deals on intra-European flights and rail transportation on some of these sites.
- Don’t forget about restaurant discounts. There are a variety of restaurants throughout the U.S. that offer student discounts. In addition to discounts on entrées, some places offer a free appetizer or drink for students with an ID. When in Europe, ask if there is a “prix fixe” or set meal price that is lower for students. Again, just because you don’t see it on the menu doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It’s always good to ask.
- Get the most bang for your buck with other discounts as well. Sites like LivingSocial and Groupon have now gone international. Sign up to get deal alerts from both of these sites that will help you make the most of your budget while traveling or studying abroad.
- Share the love! Pass along discounts you learn about to students you meet while studying abroad. I am grateful for the many discounts I learned about from other student travelers.