Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Top Travel Tips for the Broke 20-Something

The past year, I decided to take a break from school, work my ass off, and start ticking travel destinations off my bucket list. I am only 21, and I am not a paid travel blogger or a particularly thrifty saver — I am not the result of luxurious parenting, and I am not studying abroad with any school. None of those options are the wrong way to do it — in fact, props to you if they apply. Traveling is wonderful, no matter what way you grow into it. All I’m trying to say is that I’m just your average 20-something, working an average job, that has a passion for traveling to beautiful and fantastical places.

My coworkers and family see the resulting photos from the trips on Facebook and Instagram, and the response is usually among the lines of, “That trip must have cost a fortune. I wish I could travel, but I just can’t afford it.” I listen to them say this and just wait in excitement to unload on them the skill of budget travelling. Its something I wish to share with everyone, because travelling is a beautiful part of living the human experience. To experience different cultures, attitudes, and historical places is to broaden our relationship with the world, and with our fellow inhabitants. Travelling is a gateway, that does not have to be discriminatory based on age, experience, or salary.

You might be reading this and thinking, “Another person on the internet talking about budget traveling, with ideas that are not applicable.” Well, I’m here to share my top tips with you that are easily available, applicable, and easy to use. Better start packing your bags!

  1. Flight Deals

After one has a destination in mind, often the first order of business is to start thinking about how to get there. Flying is the most common form of travel, and can be extremely expensive. Your first friends I would recommend would be Google flights or Kayak.com. With these sites, you can punch in destinations and look at months in advance — both sites put green dots by the cheapest dates, so that you can monitor flights and jump on deals that work for you.

Another tool that I would recommend is the online business, Next Vacay. It is run by a couple that has a passion for getting travel deals to you! After you give them the closest airport in your area, they will send you emails when flight deals pop up, all over the world. You can try your first months membership with them for free.

It also helps to not be picky about where you’re flying into. Flying into international airports that are in the same relative area as your destination, and then finding a flight between the two, is often far cheaper than flying directly into the airport of a more remote destination. For example, lets say you’re wanting to visit Romania. Flying into Paris or Amsterdam, and then getting a connecting flight to Romania, is going to be less expensive than routing yourself directly to Romania.

2. Accommodations

You’ve probably heard this tip before, but I’m here to say it again — book your accommodation in hostels. I know, there are some pretty terrifying movies out there about these kind of experiences, but I promise, hostels are worth your time and your money. Depending on your destination, a night’s stay in a hostel can start from as low as ten dollars a night. A hotel can be upwards of $100 a night!

You can meet the most extraordinary people in hostels — it is always fun to connect with people from all over the world, and if you’re lucky, you’ll make lifelong friends. Also, other travelers can give you tips on the best things to do in the area you’re in. Usually the employees of the hostel will also do this, and since they are more than likely from the area, they can tell you secret gems to visit, and how to avoid major touristy spots. It’s multiple concierges with information for you to feast on, at a much lower cost than some pricey hotel. (Not to mention, most hostels have deals and coupons for sites and places!)

Yes, you will most likely have to share a room with others (unless you opt for a more expensive private room — most hostels have these as well), but most travelers like yourself will be respectful and keep a polite and friendly distance. Some hostels have male or female only rooms, if that would make you feel more comfortable, and almost all have a locker or crate to store your belongings (just bring your own lock!).

At the price, what’s not to love? For an easy source of information, check out Hostelworld.com to view them in all parts of the world, for any dates that you desire.

3. Deals and Savings

Okay, so you’ve chosen your destination, you’ve booked your flights, and you’ve booked your accommodations. Now, you’re perhaps wondering how you’re going to feed yourself and do the things you desire once you’re there. Food and tourist attractions can be outrageously priced, especially in the bigger cities of the world. (And hard to find in the more rural locations!)

When you are searching for a hostel, pick one with a kitchen — once you’re there, an employee can tell you the closest market or grocery store, and you can save big bucks by cooking your own food, and storing it in your hostel’s kitchen. Of course, if you’re in Italy, you’re going to want to try out Italy’s famous pizzas and pastas — I get it. But, buying and cooking your own food means you don’t have to eat out every day!

When you have a destination in mind, you might have some sites that are must sees on your bucket list. The prices of admission can really add up. Look into these places — some museums are free on certain days of the week, or some sites offer a bundle package, combining admission of a few places into a cheaper price. Some cities offer passes that are valid for 2 days to a week, with great deals. Hostels also often have tours available that combine a few sites into one day. And when you’re getting where you’re needing to go, skip the Uber or taxi and head straight for the nearest metro or bus — the prices are much better, and you’ll feel like an experienced professional.

4. What to Bring

It can feel overwhelming when packing for a backpacking trip, or a vacation in another part of the world. You don’t want to forget anything important, especially when finding such materials in another country can be trickier than at home. Of course, specific essentials will vary from person to person (some people can live without a blow dryer or travel pillow) but here is a basic list of goods that would be helpful to any person. Plus, most of them can be found on Amazon or at Walmart.

  • Universal charger (most countries have different outlets than we do!)
  • Small sized lock (for locking luggage)
  • Large sized lock (for locking luggage)
  • Money belt (to wear underneath your clothes and to store jewelry and money)
  • Travel sized toiletries (shampoo, body wash, lotion, toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.)
  • More than one form of payment (e.g. cash and a card)
  • Back- up copies of your passport and/or other important documents
  • Versatile clothing that can layer easily (for various temperatures and situations)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Emergen-C and/or Airborne (to fight the millions of germs on planes, or hangovers, or jetlag)
  • SIM card (these are actually bought in the destination you are headed — easily purchased at airports to ensure phone usage)
  • Travel insurance (I prefer to use World Nomads!)
  • An open mind, and a smile :)

Hope you have safe and happy travels! It’s time to start planning.

Isle of Skye, Scotland