StudentUniverseTop budget-friendly activities for students in the US

Top budget-friendly activities for students in the US

The US may not be the cheapest place to study in the world but that doesn’t mean students have to miss out. There are plenty of budget-friendly activities to enjoy in the country

The US is an appealing destination for international students. It is the centre of so much of our global culture and is home to some of the most iconic musicians, film stars and A-list celebrities in history. It has a diverse food culture made up of influences from around the world and it contains many highly rated universities.

It is, however, one of the least affordable countries to study in. Unless a scholarship or bursary can be acquired, student fees in the US can easily exceed $20,000 (£16,700) depending on the institution. After these costs have been paid, there may not be much student budget left to explore all the amazing sights this country has to offer.

The good news is that the US also contains a multitude of affordable activities that students can enjoy no matter the size of their budget. From discount tickets to cheap but delicious food options or simply taking in the great outdoors, many activities are no less enjoyable for their affordability. We’ve listed some great budget-friendly ideas worth exploring.

Make the most of student discounts

In the US, your student ID provides you with great discounts at a range of attractions, while the Student Advantage Card, which costs $20 (£17), makes even more offers available to you. Many attractions, including cinemas, theatres, museums and sporting events provide discounts for individuals studying in the US, so remember your student ID whenever you leave the house. It’s not just for gaining access to the college library – it can be a gateway to affordable fun too.

See if free days are available

Although many of the most famous sights in the US require paid entry, several offer free admission at certain times. The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago, the GLBT Historical Society’s archives and museum in San Francisco and the MIT Museum are just a sample of the attractions offering free entry at specific times. And don’t forget the many attractions, like those run by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where entry is always free. 

Check out on-campus events

With universities acutely aware that students may not have lots of disposable income, there are often affordable events taking place on campus. Activities like theatre performances, debates and sporting contests, as well as a wide range of facilities, are usually subsidised or free for students that might be on a tighter budget.

Take a walking tour

Particularly if you’re an international student, you may not be that familiar with your new home. Although getting to know the area surrounding your university takes time, a walking tour is a good way to familiarise yourself with its history and different neighbourhoods. These are often free, with the guide operating a “pay-what-you-can” policy once the tour is complete. 

Sample a nearby diner

Eating out may be more expensive than a home-cooked meal, but that doesn’t mean it is out of reach for students in the US. In fact, this is a country that prides itself on creating delicious budget meals. It is the home of the diner, after all. These rustic eateries may not look like much, but they provide affordable, tasty meals like waffles, chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy.

Take a road trip

The US is built to be explored by car. Although public transport is available in many cities, it may not get you to all the sights on your list. Fortunately, road trips can be affordable – take a picnic, stick to a manageable distance and consider camping rather than hotel stays. A road trip is the only way to enjoy iconic sights like Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway or the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Take public transport to a new part of town

Many US cities have an enviable public transport system, including the likes of New York, Boston, Portland, Seattle and Chicago. If you normally take the metro or bus between your home and campus, why not see what can be reached farther afield? The city of Fredericksburg, for example, is located on the Washington D.C. metro and considered a great day trip in its own right. A fantastic activity may be closer than you think.

Get outdoors

Although not always free, enjoying some of America’s natural splendour usually won’t cost you a cent. Visiting a park or hiking route can be a great free activity, especially when combined with food, drink or simply spending some quality time with friends. Remember that national parks in the US are free on five days of the year, including the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and Veterans Day. Parks are bound to be busier on these days, but it’s a great way to see the Grand Canyon and other iconic sights for free. 

Ready to book your flight? Find out more about Student Universe, a travel agency for students, offering exclusive discounts on flights to the US that you won’t find anywhere else.­

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