15 Ways to Keep Costs Low on Your Custom Program

ISA’s Custom Programs division is celebrating its 15th year in service to U.S. universities for their faculty-led and partnerships study abroad programming. Join us for this series of 15 things as you imagine, develop, and implement your own custom programs abroad.

1.    Consult your Custom Program Manager as you plan your program to avoid high tourist season and keep crowds and costs to a minimum.

2.    Book round-trip airfare to and from the same international airport; one-way tickets and changing airports can drive airline costs way up.

3.    Establish a home base in an ISA site and take day-trips or excursions rather than embarking on a travel-intensive itinerary, where transportation costs can add up quickly.

4.    Get more bang for your buck by spending more time on site. Consider flexibility in your program dates and open up your program to those housing options that may have a minimum length of stay.

5.    Do as the Romans (and French, Spanish, and English) do and travel by high-speed train, which is often more comfortable, quicker, and less expensive than a chartered bus.

6.    Stay with a host family and enjoy two to three home-cooked meals per day, and for less than you would pay at a hotel.

7.    Take daytrips to nearby relevant locales and cut out hotel expenses while traveling.

8.    All-inclusive does not necessarily mean cost-effective. Limit the included group meals, but take your students to local, affordable restaurants where they can pick what they can afford from the menu.

9.    For academic and cultural activities about town, talk while you walk whenever you can or include a public transportation pass to get around inexpensively.

10.    With ISA staff by your side, you can teach and lead comfortably and may not require the help of a T.A. or their added group cost. Consider keeping a 15:1 student to faculty leader ratio.

11.    Look into departmental or grant funding at your university to cover professor costs and/or offer student scholarships.

12.    Align your program dates with ISA programs already going on in your program site, and save on shared excursions and current class offerings.

13.    Include museums and sites in your itinerary relevant to your course topic, and you can be the group’s guide rather than hiring one.

14.    Speaking of museums, take advantage of the city’s schedule of free museum entry days, special events, and local cultural activities, and…

15.    Use the city as your classroom so you can spend less on reserving a formal class meeting space!


Melissa Stone is a Program Manager for ISA Custom Programs. Melissa works with programs in Belgium, France, and Jordan.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.