When my son turned 18, we suddenly had to rethink the way both he and we as a family traveled.
Quickly realizing that he needed his own paid Clear membership and TSA PreCheck number and that hotels no longer considered him a “kid” when we made a reservation, I envisioned a life of added dollar signs everywhere I looked.
Related: Child turning 18? Here’s everything you need to know before the next time they travel
Luckily, I was wrong. Yes, young adults have added expenses (hello, car insurance premiums, and don’t even get me started on exorbitant college tuition), but there are some hidden perks to being an 18-plus student, including rail deals and airline discounts.
With all of this top of mind, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why do airlines, which are notorious for watching their bottom lines, want to give college kids a break?
“Loyalty matters greatly for airlines,” said Katy Nastro, travel expert at Going. “Loyal customers help fill planes without spending marketing dollars while simultaneously feeding the revenue beast through cobranded credit cards [if they have one]. Gaining a loyal following takes time, so why not target people when they are young to help build that brand trust?”
Building loyalty plus saving money? Now that sounds like a win-win scenario to me.
You may be surprised to discover that a number of airlines, especially international carriers, provide perks to student travelers, including discounts and increased luggage allowances, which come in handy for study abroad programs.
The following are the discounts that were active and had the most availability at press time, but check with other carriers if you have foreign travel within other regions planned since there may be other deals available.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts
United is the only U.S. airline that offers a consistent year-round discount just for young adults. You don’t need to be a student to take advantage of this rate, either. Young adult travelers between 18 and 23 are eligible for discounts that start at 5% but are sometimes much more than that depending on the route, according to TPGers’ firsthand experiences.
Note that this discount is only available on the United app.
Book before March 31 for Emirates’ special sale for students. This deal is especially flexible for both younger and older students, with an extensive age range between 16 and 31 years old. Travelers need to present a current student ID or school acceptance letter at check-in.
Emirates’ deal extends to 250 destinations, including some in the U.S., if you book your flight by March 31 and use the promo code “STUDENT” at booking. This code applies a discount of up to 10% on economy- and business-class fares. You also get an additional 10 kilograms (22 pounds) more weight for luggage or one extra piece of baggage depending on the route, plus flexible options to change your flight.
Singapore’s Student Privileges program was one of the most extensive discount programs I’ve found, offering reduced fares to students around the globe after you’ve verified that you’re an active student through its KrisFlyer student verification service. After student status has been verified, you’ll receive a 10% discount for Lite, Value and Standard fares in economy and for premium economy fares.
Students also get an increased luggage allowance, with three pieces allowed from the U.S. and Canada and 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of luggage elsewhere. Plus, Singapore Airlines will waive any fees for the first booking change you make. (Know, though, that if you keep changing, the carrier will start charging.)
SAS makes booking its youth tickets very simple. The discount for this one applies to anyone age 12 to 25, and you do not need to prove eligibility beyond providing your birthdate.
Note that this discount only promises “special rates” without a specific percentage given, and no special luggage allowance is available. Still, it’s worth checking out since we’re fans of the airline’s flight deals for kids.
If you’re planning on studying abroad, definitely bookmark this deal: Lufthansa offers student fares with proof of enrollment for bookings originating in the U.S.
Student fares are only available in economy to destinations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India. Not only is the airfare discounted, but you’ll be able to check a second bag for free.
Reduced fares are clearly identified as “Student Fare” on the flight selection page. Passengers must be full-time students age 16 and above, enrolled in a higher educational institution with a valid student email address, and must have a valid form of identification.
If you’re a student going to school in Europe, budget airline Ryanair has a deal for you. Register with the Erasmus Student Network (a nonprofit, international student union) and you’ll be eligible to get a 10% discount on Ryanair’s already affordable tickets, plus a free checked bag.
Note that fares must be booked at least 28 days in advance, and the deal is only eligible during the school term (from Sept. 1 to June 15).
Select rail companies also offer travel deals and discounts for college-age students.
Amtrak is generous with its definition of student, allowing anyone between the ages of 17 and 24 to take advantage of its national student discount, which provides a 15% discount on regular fares.
Since this is a promotion my family regularly tries to book when possible (my son goes to college in Washington, D.C., and I live in New Jersey), I’m well versed in some of the pros and cons of this deal.
According to Amtrak, “The discount will automatically be applied when qualifying travel is selected. Or, use the Amtrak app and enter code V814 when booking your trip.” I suggest doing the latter to ensure the reduced fare is applied to your booking.
There are a number of restrictions, and there’s definitely a limited number of seats on each train that are eligible, but when it works, the savings are worth the effort. Also note that the earlier you book, the less expensive tickets are, so you’ll have a better chance of saving more money. Keep in mind, too, that this deal must be booked at least a day before travel.
TPG has been following the rollout of Florida’s Brightline train with much enthusiasm. The new, modern train system links Miami to Orlando with stops in several South Florida locations; it’s a game changer for Florida travel, especially for trips to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
Brightline has great rates for students on its current routes, including a 25% discount for students when you create an account with an active university email for most Florida colleges.
Exploring Europe by train is a rite of passage for students and young adults from around the world. One reason: It’s an affordable and easy way to travel.
This is especially true with Eurail’s Youth Discount, which reduces rail pass rates by up to 25%. You can use the youth pass discount if you’re at least 12 years old but no older than 27.
Other deals for students
Student IDs unlock a world of discounts in the arts. Almost every museum I’ve visited around the globe has reduced or free admission for students who can prove their school affiliation or age. (Remember to always carry your student ID when you’re traveling to take advantage of these deals.) Many Broadway theaters and performance venues elsewhere have student rush seats, too, making it possible to show up on the day of the show and spend some time in a line to score a steeply reduced ticket.
Unfortunately, you won’t find deals on car rentals for young adults since the minimum rental age is usually 23. When there’s a lower minimum age, like at Enterprise, you’ll typically find an additional fee for younger drivers gets applied to the reservation.
Hotels are another area where student discounts are hard to find, but if you begin building your own brand loyalty by joining one or more rewards programs, you can eventually rack up enough nights, stays or points to qualify for elite status, which comes with all kinds of extra perks.
Being a young adult brings travel benefits in the form of discounts on airlines and trains. Students can almost always show their student IDs for reduced or waived admission to museums, too.