Student life is the time when one wants to travel the most and has the least finances to actually do it. Not only is it difficult for the student to find budget hotels and low-cost travel packs, but one often sees parents coming in the way of a perfectly nice travel itinerary for concern over security. But what seem like insurmountable odds could be taken care of with a little bit of research, dogged convincing powers, and, of course an open mind, which can take some amount of inconvenience, all for the sake of fun.
To begin with, you need to find a place to visit. There are a few parameters to find the place you want to travel to if you are a student. It should be easily reachable, preferably within 7-8 hours by road from the city/town you are based in. The reason for this time frame is to make sure that you can catch a night bus or train to travel to the place and not waste an entire day in journeying. Plus, you would also be able to sleep off the often tiring train/bus journey that takes you to the place of your choice. Try researching on nearby tourist spots on the net, the attractions over there, budget hotels and dormitories in the area well before you go for the trip.
The second factor in planning a student trip is deciding on a proper time to travel. It always works the best if you plan your trip during the off-season, which will enable you to get a hotel or a guest house for highly slashed tariffs (and do not forget to bargain even if you get a place to stay for real cheap). Of course, the place of your choice might not be at its best during off-season, and tourist attractions like national parks or passes may stay shut, but it is good to remember that naturally beautiful places have something to offer throughout the year, and probably going during off-season will give you an opportunity to see the place at a more personal and intimate level. The duration of your trip should not be more than 5 days, as long holidays are not friendly to a student’s bursary, and it is difficult to control the temptation to shop till one drops in interesting flea markets, with the result of having her pockets empty before even planning the trip back home. In addition, if the trip is short, one can have a lot of experiences in quick succession, making it very eventful. Weekend trips are also very suitable for a student’s life because it comes as a short, intense, but fun break from packed academic schedules.
Perhaps the most difficult part about organizing a trip if you are student is to manage the budget. The key is to set an upper limit and sticking to it. For a three-day trip, for example, one should not take more than 3000 rupees. Thus, the trick is to allot a thousand rupees for a day. No matter what the provocation, you should be able to control spending over the designated amount for the day. It is always good to research on the local markets or handicrafts before you go to a place, so that you can set aside a small amount above your designated thousand bucks for shopping. For example, if you are travelling to Dharamshala, it will be nice to get Tibetan turquoise and silver jewellery, a craft typical to the place. This extra bit of cash can come from a range of sources, mainly money received as gift from parents and relatives (the amounts for these are not much quite sadly. They try to compensate money with oodles of love, which, of course, we appreciate). Ideally you should be able to fund your own trips, with money earned as prize from inter-school/college fests (this should be an incentive for students, who strictly stick to academics to try their hands at the extra-curricular), salaries from part-time jobs, honorariums from social projects, or from your piggy bank.
It is very important to look after parental involvement in your travel plans. Try avoiding financial support from them, as they will often refuse to pay, and if they pay at all, they will not be able to estimate the exact expenses properly and either give you too much (which is bad) or too little (which is worse). Always try being honest with them, giving them the smallest details of your itinerary (parents love to see you being organized, so try and corroborate everything with facts, even if they are unnecessary). Practice withholding problematic information, which may make them worry, i.e., if you are planning to travel in the general unreserved compartment of the train, (which you often have to do if you do not have money) just be vague and say your tickets are ready, not specifying class or coach number. Most importantly, try not to travel in trouble-torn areas of the country, not just for the sake of your parents, but for your own safety. There is a limit to being adventurous, beyond which adventure just becomes danger.
Some other points to keep in mind are carrying as few clothes and toiletries as possible (you will be gone just for 3 days. You DO NOT need that face-pack), travelling in groups to avoid security issues, crashing in one hotel room together to avoid excessive spending, travelling by public transport, if necessary, even if it is inconvenient and uncomfortable, and not carrying valuable things like laptops or iPhones unless absolutely indispensable. Always carry at least 3 packets of biscuits and nuts; in case you are not being able to afford food. Above all, have an open mind, and try to experiment with local cuisine, adapt with local customs and make friends with localites. Do not get caught up in well-made prior plans, as ultimately, going where the flow takes you is the best way to travel with an empty-pocket, a hungry stomach and a curious mind.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gaptraveleurope/2867236315/]