Banknotes and coins from Northern Ireland.

5 Foolproof Ways to Travel Broke

By Brittany Anderson
Web Content Contributor

Let’s face it: airports, airplanes and time zones are all part of what makes traveling so exciting. A cross-country road trip, the drive that takes you eight hours just to get out of Texas, isn’t sounding so grand after all. While, an overnight layover somewhere in Europe sounds far more appetizing.

The only problem? You’re broke. Bills, tuition, gas, groceries: life always seems to get in the way of crossing off a bucket list destination. But just like there are clever ways around hitting a negative bank balance, there are clever ways to travel cheaply. Here are five tips to help you keep money in your pocket as you rack up those frequent-flyer points. 

A screenshot of the logo from Skyscanner, a website that compares flight prices to get you the best deal.
Download the Skyscanner app for browsing and booking flights on the go. Screenshot taken by Brittany Anderson via Skyscanne.com.

1. Use Skyscanner to book your flights.

Every city, country and continent has a peak, shoulder and off-season. Skyscanner does all the work for you by comparing airline prices to ensure you’re getting the cheapest deal— and they’re the best at it. You can control your trip duration, number of layovers and and even deselect airlines you don’t want to fly. Additionally, you can book flights through multiple cities, track prices on flights you’re interested in and have tempting deals emailed to you. Once you book, prepare to be amazed with the price you end up with. 

A black backpack with a gold pin and passport sticking out.
This Himwari backpack— whether you use it as your personal item or your suitcase— will hold all your essentials and more. Shut Up and Go pin not included, but definitely check out their budget friendly travel content. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

2. Avoid checking a bag.

Although some airlines are more lenient when it comes to flying internationally, most domestic flights charge at least $30 for a checked bag— and that’s only one way. Try and pack everything you need into a piece of carry-on luggage, and don’t forget you can also take a personal item like a purse or backpack if you need extra room. 

A tip for saving space is to bring only your essential liquids and buy the rest (like shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste) once you reach your destination. And of course, go easy on the clothes.

A yellow bee printed water bottle, trail mix from HEB and KIND granola bar.
The travel snack possibilities are endless. Keep your energy up and stay hydrated. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

3. Stay hydrated and satisfied.

Bring your own water and snacks to the airport. Take an empty reusable water bottle with you and fill it up at a water fountain once you’re through security. You’ll be doing your part in helping the environment, plus saving tons of petty cash on overpriced bottles of water. It’s a win-win! You can also bring dry food like chips, granola bars and even chocolate with you through security. This will keep you from spending money on airport food, all the while everyone else on the plane gets stuck eating mini pretzels. 

A wall in a London hostel with pictures of rock album covers.
Hostels are a great option if you’re looking for a place that offers a sense of young, electrifying energy. This is a St Christopher’s Inn hostel in Camden, London, with colorful rock album covers plastered on its walls. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

4. Know where to stay.

Hostels are going to be your new best friend— beds can start at just $15 a night. Sleeping in a room full of strangers might sound weird at first, but you’ll get to meet people from all over the world. Who knows? Your foreign bunkmate might just be your soulmate. If you’re looking for something a little more long-term, go with an Airbnb. You’ll get to live like a local for cheap, plus have access to amenities like a kitchen and private bedroom. No communal toilets here!  

A photo of London’s iconic “mind the gap” floor writing in the underground tube station.
London’s underground tube system transports millions of people every single day. Look into getting a visitor Oyster card before your trip, and remember to please mind the gap between the train and the platform. Photo by Brittany Anderson.

5. Plan out your days.

With transportation and food in mind. These are two costs that will quickly add up once you arrive. Utilize local transportation; it will most definitely be cheaper to get a bus pass or metro card instead of taking Uber’s. Alternatively, walk as much as you can: it’s the best way to see the city for what it truly is.  

If you’re staying in a hostel, take advantage of free breakfasts or discounted food and drink deals they might offer. If you’re in an Airbnb, make a grocery store run so you can pack lunches and make easy dinners. The quickest way to bleed your pockets dry is by going out for every meal. 

Being stressed about money while you’re traveling can totally ruin the vibe, so just be aware before and during your trip of how much you’re spending. Ask for student discounts wherever you go, and find free things to do in the city like museums, parks, cool cemeteries or just browsing streets and shops. Being prepared with options like TSA pre-check or a mobile passport will further ensure that your trip runs as timely and smoothly as possible. 

If you spent too much or didn’t spend enough, remember that it’s all about the experience and being able to say you got yourself there and back. Make the most of what little you have: when it’s all said and done, you’ll find it was completely worth skipping those impulse fast food buys or nights out when it meant you got to travel.

Featured image by Brittany Anderson.

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