Putting that student or teacher ID to good use by potentially shaving a bundle off your airfare using specialty student and teacher discounts on plane tickets
Important point to understand from the outset: there's no guarantee that a "student fare" will be the cheapest one available.
Seriously. In these days of deep discounting and fire-sale prices, you'll often fare better just searching out a cheap ticket the way the rest of us who can no longer pass for the picture of the guy on our old college ID cards do. (Start here to do that.)
Why bother with a student fare? The flexibility.
But here's where student fares come in real handy. Most cheap fares have a maximum stay of 30 days.
That just ain't long enough, whether you're studying abroad or simply taking a few months to bum around Europe. (Though sometimes you'll find a cheap fare with a return window of nine months, which might be plenty.) Other fares are only good for travel from a certain date to a certain date, and that "to" date falls well before you plan to come home again.
However, there are special air tickets designed for student needs that might be worth the extra expense.
I'm talkin' long-term or open-ended airfares that'll let you traipse around the Continent for three or four months, or study abroad for a year (yes, go for a full year; don't bother signing up for this namby-pamby single semester stuff—you'll thank me later) without having to know yet what date you'll finally drag your sorry ass back Stateside for the fall semester.
(Hint: try for three days before classes start again; that should be enough time to do laundry, get in some quality time with the folks, and make your way back to campus.)
Those kind of open-ended tickets are available to anyone, of course, but usually they come at a premium—and when I say "premium" I mean four figures, and the first one ain't necessarily a "1." For students, you can get the same open-ended deal for much less.
Where to find student airfares
Your friendly neighborhood travel agent (if you can find one not put out of business by the Internet) should be able to help.
But for real bargains, go straight to the student travel experts. Since such outfits as Aussie-born STA and Mass-based Student Universe specialize in backpacking students, they're adept at finding rock-bottom rates for all folks in high school, college, grad school—just about anyone under age 26, as well as teachers, though they'll search great deals for anyone.
STA Travel (www.statravel.com) - Premier travel agency for students (and teachers), providing everything from discounted airfares to international cell phones and calling plans to the ISIC student identity card. I used them (well, their predecessor Council Travel) to book the big ticket items like airfare when I took my Boy Scout troop to Europe.
Student Universe (www.studentuniverse.com) - Online rival to STA, with decent line of cheap airfares.
Travel CUTS (www.travelcuts.com) - Premier Canadian student travel agency. All the services of STA for our Canuck neighbors to the north.
OneTravel (www.onetravel.com) - Major online travel agency with frequent coupons and advertised airfares up to 60% off. It also has a specialty in student fares.
Council on International Educational Exchange (www.ciee.org) - CIEE is the preeminent study abroad group, and even though STA has since swallowed the old Council Travel student travel agency, this site still has student-oriented bargains.