The best word to explain a college student’s idea of bliss is vacation.
Palm trees and tropical locales are, in most cases, improbable for the average student’s wallet – most are satisfied with a beach chair and a scented suntan oil that is somewhat reminiscent of the Caribbean.
With summer break only weeks away, simply being out of school is more than a dream for most.
On the other hand, it is possible to plan a vacation getaway and still stay within a reasonable budget.
The best place to start planning a student trip may be through STA Travel, a travel agency in the Marshall Center devoted to providing the best rates to student tourists.
Students who have utilized the service agree that their fares were significantly lower than they would have been through a regular travel agent or straight through the airline or hotel.
“I’m going to London with some friends in July,” said Tia Jones, a sophomore who visited the STA office earlier in the year. “Just from calling around to the different airlines like Delta and USAir, I’m going to be saving, like, $300, just on airfare. That’s not including how much cheaper it was for (STA) to book us at hotels, too.”
STA also offers special ticketing that allows for more flexible scheduling. For example, a student who decides to extend a three-week trip to a full summer won’t be stuck with transfer fees that are as high as the average ticketed passenger.
With more than 500 help locations in more than 70 countries, STA also offers assistance with problems at every stage of a trip. A list of the help locations is provided on the company Web site, as well as through the company’s toll-free number, 1-800-777-0112.
With so much insecurity when dealing with the Internet, it is difficult to find Web sites that offer legitimate travel discounts and secure credit card processing.
Bizrate.com, an online community that allows consumers to compare prices of various companies as well as give ratings for others to read, displays Expedia.com as the top-rated travel site. It was reportedly utilized and rated by more than 250,000 consumers.
The Washington-based company offers air, hotel, car, cruise and vacation-package booking, as well as destination information and point-by-point mapping. For many consumers – especially a budget-savvy student – this one-stop shopping experience is simple and unusually fast. Reservations are immediate, and confirmation can be directly printed out.
Since it is available 24 hours a day, the service benefits the student who is looking for an inexpensive vacation but is unable to visit a travel agent during the day.
While the site does offer various discounts and last-minute “cheapies,” Expedia’s claim to fame lies in its comparative shopping. A simple search for a flight to New York, for example, acquires prices, times and even plane identification numbers for several airlines at a time. Searches can be limited – and broadened – to include flights with or without layovers, meals and class upgrades.
Prices are usually comparable to – and in some cases less than – the ones offered by the airlines themselves, and frequent flier miles can be directed straight from Expedia.
The ideal way to get away for the summer without losing the chance to earn college credits is through the USF Study Abroad program. Offering “the world as a classroom,” the program allows students to spend anywhere from a few weeks to a full academic year out of the country. In addition, each trip offers valuable credit hours – and can be funded by most scholarships and loans.
“It’s good especially for summer because the state college summer school requirement applies,” said James Pulos, coordinator for the USF Study Abroad & Exchange Office. “There’s so many different programs for every type of student.”
The good thing, he said, is that there are still several trips that have open spaces.
On that list is a 17-day study tour of Ireland, focusing on contemporary Irish writing. Students will spend five days at the University of Limerick and the remainder touring through western Ireland.
Also still open are trips to France, varying in length from one month to a full semester. Students are given the choice of spending time at the Alliance Franciase in Paris or the Institut de Touraine in Tours.
Still another, said Pulos, is a trip to Spain, featuring three weeks of classes in Madrid and a one-week study tour in Barcelona.
“Prices range anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500,” said Pulos. “But that includes absolutely everything – lodging, travel, food, classes.”
Contact Danielle Ritchie at email@example.com