Holiday Hacks for Traveling College Students

With the holiday season fast approaching, college students across the country are thinking about their trips home. Whether the traveling takes place during Thanksgiving or Christmas, or both – if that trip means hopping on a plane, you’re looking at some big expenses.

Can a cash-strapped college student pay for airline flights during the most expensive traveling seasons of the year without going broke?

They sure can! Here’s how:

  1. Start saving now

If you’ve got a part-time job, start skimming a bit off each paycheck for holiday travel costs. You can also skip one pricey indulgence each week from now until the holidays. This small sacrifice will help you save up that extra cash for when it’s time to travel. Every little bit adds up!

  1. Use student discounts

Some airlines understand that you’re a broke college student wanting to spend time with family over the holidays. That’s why some, like American Airlines, offer discounts for students of specific colleges. You can also look for other student discounts on sites like studentuniverse.com and STAtravel.com.

  1. Be flexible

Don’t get fixed on flying out of a specific airport, at a certain time or on your chosen day of the week. You can shave dollars off your ticket prices by being flexible. Put things into perspective: What’s an extra fifteen-minute drive when it can save you $75? And, of course, you can always catch up on sleep you lose during a red-eye flight when you get home.

  1. Pack light

Airlines are tightening expenses all around, and these cuts are trickling down to customers in a big way. One area that’s come under attack is luggage. Many airlines are charging for each checked-in piece, while others will ask you to pay just to bring a carry-on on board. Find out what your airline’s policy is before you start packing. If you’re going to need to pay for whatever you stow under the plane or bring aboard with you, pack as lightly as possible. Remember that you’re going home, not headed for the wilderness. Also, most airlines allow you to bring a backpack as your personal bag for the flight, free of charge. You can fit all of your essentials and travel necessities in there, but be careful of liquid restrictions!

  1. Don’t buy anything at the airport

Airport shops, like kiosks at malls, are outrageously overpriced. Window-shop if you’d like to pass the time, but bury your wallet deep in your backpack. It’s also smart to bring empty water bottles and fill them up at the airport so you’re not stuck paying $4.99 for a 16-oz bottle of spring water.

  1. Find a seasonal job at home

If you still find yourself panicking over the money you’ll shell out for holiday travel, see if you can find a part-time job in your hometown. Many retailers are looking for help during this busy season, and if your break puts you in town for a few weeks, you may be able to land a position. The money you earn can help offset your travel costs.

How do you save money on your holiday trips home? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

 

Solar Eclipse Viewing Events in Central Florida

There’s lots of buzz surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. If you’re as excited about it as we are and are looking for locations to view this solar sensation, we’ve compiled a list of a few places around town holding events.

Orlando

Dr. Phillips Center – August 21, 12-4:30 pm
The green space in front of the downtown performing-arts theater, Seneff Arts Plaza, will be host to an Orlando Science Center pop-up location offering free viewing glasses while supplies last and education information as the eclipse takes place.

Orlando Science Center August 21, 1-4 pm
Included with general admission, the Orlando Science Center will host a special viewing event complete with eclipse glasses, solar telescope filters, special solar eclipse demos and presentations, crafts, and art activities. You’ll also be able to make a phone filter for getting photos of the eclipse.

Orange County Library System – August 21, 1 pm-4 pm
The 10 participating library branches include Alafaya, Chickasaw, Eatonville, Herndon, South Trail, Southwest, Washington Park, West Oaks, Windermere and Winter Garden. Free glasses will be provided while supplies last.

Seminole State CollegeAugust 21, noon-4:30pm
The Buehler Planetarium will host a free viewing event on the front sidewalk of the Automotive Technology building on campus. Short presentations will be given on the eclipse, including a presentation on the science behind eclipses. Free glasses will be provided for viewing the eclipse. Maximum eclipse viewing will occur around 2:51pm. In the days leading up to the event, visit the planetarium for a special new show, “Eclipse” which will be showing six times from August 11-19, 2017. More details can be found on their Facebook event page.

Leesburg

Leesburg Public Library – August 21, 1:30 pm
You can enjoy the solar eclipse at the Leesburg Public Library. This event is free and starts at 1:00. Free eclipse glasses will be available on the day of the event. Visit their website to stay tuned for more details of the event.

Groveland

Marion Baysinger Memorial County Library – August 21, 1:30 pm
Eclipse viewing will take place at the Marion Baysinger Memorial County Library starting at 1:30 pm. Leave your ID/library card at their circulation desk to use NASA-approved glasses for viewing in 20 minute increments. You’ll also be able to enjoy live indoor streaming.

Lake Wales

Bok Tower Gardens – August 21, 1pm
The Gardens provide one of the highest locations in Central Florida for viewing. Visit their website for pricing information

Ocala

Marion County Public Library, Headquarters – August 21, 1 pm
The Marion County Public Library is holding The Great American Eclipse Party at 1 pm on Monday August 21. This event is for ages 13 and up, with viewing glasses provided. You’ll enjoy the film “Little Shop of Horrors” along with eclipse themed snacks.

Longwood

Wekiva Island – August 21, 2:30 pm
Wekiva Island will be providing free viewing glasses and Kona Brewing drafts will be on special for $3. Plan to be there right when the event starts so you don’t miss out on the maximum eclipse viewing time around 2:51 pm.

New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna Beach Library – August 21, 1 pm
Watch the total eclipse live streamed by NASA while making crafts, or head outside to view the eclipse with free glasses from the library (while supplies last). The partial eclipse will begin in NSB at 1:14 pm and maximum eclipse viewing will take place around 2:51pm. This event is free and open to the public and no registration is required.

Titusville

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex – August 21, 11 am
Parkgoers at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be able to experiencethe partial eclipse from the Rocket Garden and watch the total eclipse on LED screens.

Visitors to the park on August 21 will receive solar glasses at the front entrance with general admission. Starting at 11 a.m. NASA’s eclipse live stream coverage will be broadcast from the Rocket Garden.

Kid-friendly activities, such as creating sun spotters, will also be set up in the garden.

Make sure to purchase special eclipse glasses if you can still find them, just in case these events run out. You will need them at all times in order to safely view the eclipse. The eclipse is occurring on a Monday, so if you’ll be at work you can still join the fun. NASA will be live streaming the full eclipse at https://www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.

 

Staycations Are Key to Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer is here, and for most, that means vacation time! Many people travel out of town, or even out of the country, but if you’re on a budget, indulging in a “staycation” may be just the thing for you. In case you’re wondering, a staycation is when you stay in your own city or state and take day trips to local attractions. Here in Florida, there are so many activities to choose from the possibilities are endless. And you can do it all without breaking the bank. We’ve put together a few ideas for you to get your staycation started.

Stop by the beach. Florida is known for its beaches. What would summer be without a trip to one of our sandy shorelines?  If you don’t know where to start, make a game out of it. Make a list of all the beaches in the state you want to visit and assign them a number. Put all of the numbers in a hat, shake it up and pull one out. Whichever beach was assigned that number is your next staycation spot. “Sea” you later!

Visit one of Florida’s many state or national parks. They are filled with tremendous beauty, adventures and new discoveries. Best of all— they’re affordable! Entrance fees to most Florida state and national parks are less than $10. There are about 11 national parks, 160 state parks, and a number of preservation and recreation areas for you to choose from. So you might want to do a little advance planning. Besides the awesome sights, national and state parks are an awesome place to picnic or even camp overnight. So pack up your tents, gather ingredients for s’mores and head out to enjoy nature. Click here to find a park near you!

Get discounted tickets to amusement parks. Most Orlando area theme parks have Florida resident discounts as well as promotions where you pay for one day and get in free the rest of the year! Take advantage of the Florida resident discount to enhance your staycation, and continue the fun for the rest of the year. Click here for a list of Florida resident discounts from Visit Orlando. An added bonus – as an Insight Credit Union member you get discounted tickets to Legoland. Cool, right?!

Catch up on some reading. Find a cute little park, coffee shop or bookstore and let yourself get lost in a good book. This can help with relaxation and transport your mind to another place. You can even take a book to that beach you decided to go to.

Attend a local sporting event. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, golf, bull riding or wrestling, Central Florida has plenty of sporting event options to take advantage of. Get the family out for a fun-filled evening to one of the many Florida Collegiate Summer League baseball games. If you are more of a soccer fan, be sure to check out an Orlando City soccer game! For other exciting sporting events this summer, check out the list that Visit Orlando has compiled for more details.

Visit local museums. History and art museums can be found all over Florida. They may even be a museum celebrating the history of your own city. This is a great activity for both adults and children. You can have fun and learn something all at the same time. Botanical gardens, zoos, and farms that let you pick your own fruit are also great ideas for some summertime fun, not to mention they’re a hit with the little ones.

We hope these ideas can help you maximize your staycation without maxing out your budget! Do you have a favorite staycation spot? We would love to hear more about it! Share with us in the comments below.

 

*This is an updated version of a post originally published on July 28, 2014.