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Published: May 06, 2016
The red train of the Swiss Alps - Bernina Express
Making tracks to Europe this summer? Check out a student discount travel card.
Luca—Getty Images

If you plan to spend this summer off-campus—especially way off-campus—you could be in for a bargain.

College students are eligible for numerous special discounts that will help defray the cost of summer travel, as well as travel for study-abroad semesters and even just getting home on break. For example:

Discount card programs

Discount cards offer the most deals, such as the widely used International Student Identity Card (or ISIC Card), available for fulltime students only. This card provides discounts in 133 countries (including the U.S.) on airline, bus, train, and ferry tickets; hostels and budget hotels; restaurants and bars; attractions (including museums and cultural sites); city tours; and even some retail shopping (such as a 30% discount on Lonely Planet guidebooks).

ISIC cards also come with basic travel insurance for overseas travel, with upgrade options providing more comprehensive coverage available at an additional charge. Cardholders also have access to a 24-hour emergency help line.

To apply, you’ll need a document showing you’re a fulltime student (taking at least 12 hours of courses per week for at least 12 weeks a year) at a recognized institution. A course schedule or tuition receipt will do, as will a photocopy of a student ID with a date showing current enrollment. Cards cost $25 (plus $3 shipping) and are good for one year. The organization also offers similar cards for teachers and for non-students up to age 30.

Best college education image

Another option, the ISECard is an international student photo ID that provides discounts on airline tickets, Eurail passes, bus tickets, hotels and hostels, and certain tours and attractions, in addition to some retail purchases.

ISE offers one card for full-time students and another for part-time students (as well as one for teachers and faculty). Applicants must submit a photocopy of a student ID or tuition receipt to prove their student status. Recently, the cards varied in price from a mobile version for $1.99 to a plastic one for $14.99 with free shipping.

Student Advantage Cards offer discounts on a wide range of goods and services, including travel. For example, cardholders get a 10% discount on Amtrak rail travel, 20% off Greyhound bus fares, and various discounts on hotel bookings. Discounts also apply to certain retail outlets on or near campus at many schools as well as to some online purchases. The cards cost $22.50 and are good for one year.

Other ways to save

Here are three additional (non-card, non-membership) student discount sites that are also worth checking out:

Globe Student Discount offers deals on airfare, bus travel, and train travel, as well as hotels, hostels, and attractions—as well as spring break packages. Discounts apply to non-travel purchases, as well, including textbooks, computers, and software.

STA Travel offers rail passes and individual rail tickets, as well as flight discounts for worldwide travel (including last-minute travel specials). The discounts apply to 60 countries (including the U.S.) and also cover hotels and hostels, tours, and certain retail locations. STA offers a 24/7 global travel help line and a price-beat guarantee.

StudentUniverse provides discounts on flights, hotels, tours, and group travel. The program also includes a travel insurance plan. Car rental discounts are available for travel outside the U.S., but not for domestic rentals.

Katy Koontz is an award-winning travel writer and editor as well as the parent of a college senior. She last wrote for us on 6 Smart Ways to Save on College Tours.