My Favorite Money Travel Tips Learned In 3 Unique American Cities

One of my favorite topics to write about on Her Campus is any practical knowledge I might have gained through personal experience. While you’re young, it’s important to go out into the world but it can be daunting, especially with the amount of debt students have been loaded with today.

Since 2019 was my most traveled year yet, I’m taking a look back to see what financial tips and tricks I gained from some of the different places I visited. Organized by the places that I visited for the first time, I offer my thoughts on what to spend money (and what not to) during trips.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Controversial millennial opinion: hotels triumph AirBNBs. I haven’t had totally bad experiences in AirBNBs. In fact, I’ve stayed in some truly lovely and unique places because of AirBNB. The most memorable being an A-cabin in the forests of northern California (very north, practically Oregon) next to a Lord of the Rings themed hobbit house. And of course, the property was a communal living space for people who wanted “off the grid.”

But the reason why I recommend hotels over AirBNBs is because hotels offer more protection for the guest. After staying in at least eight different properties last year, I found that the more one shells out for a BNB, the more one is likely going to end up with that special and worthwhile experience that the rental company promises--which you can’t always afford on a student budget! Paying for a cheap BNB in Salt Lake City resulting in a broken window in 30-degree weather wasn’t worth it and we ended up in a nicer hotel closer to the city sights. My friends and I came to the conclusion that cheap BNBs tend to be cheap for a reason with less care and investment from owners. It doesn’t help that AirBNB has a terrible refund policy.

So while those tiny house and treehouse BNBs look so cool on the ‘gram, sometimes generic hostels and hotels are a safer bet for students new to traveling. Even budget hotels have a 24 hour reception, security and often include shuttles to airports. I have found the budget aspect of hotels tend to come from their locations and the environment of other possibly rowdy hotel guests.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Hang out near other colleges. When visiting a new city, local universities contain a wealth of free or cheap activities that you can take advantage of by blending in. So always keep your student ID handy (even if you’re a few years out). ​

It’s also just super interesting to see the cultures of other campuses! When visiting New Orleans with friends last September, we saw a great exhibit on Flint’s water crisis at the University of Tulane. Then we checked out the nearby Audubon Park and watched boats on the Mississippi. All for free! Being a student has its advantages.

Austin, Texas

Small talk can also be your friend. When out and about in a new city, making small talk with complete strangers can be hit or miss. Always be safe and trust your gut. Your best bet is to talk to friendly folks in public places. Striking up conversation with locals in a coffee shop can lead to great discoveries. Don’t be afraid to specify you’re looking for something affordable or even free. This is how I found out about two free interesting tourist sites in Austin: the Harry Ransom Center and the Museum of Weird. 

The Harry Ransom Center is an arts and culture center run by the University of Austin Texas. It features fabulous artists like Frida Kahlo and historical works like one of the copies of the Gutenberg Bible. On the other side of the spectrum, the Museum of Weird on “Dirty Sixth,” the entertainment section of town, hosts oddities and assortments like wax models of Siamese twins. The Ransom Center is great to check out in a full afternoon around the campus while the penny museum, open late, is perfect for a fun night out.

With these tips in your adventuring arsenal, you can make better travel decisions that you can feel confident about. With Utah, Louisiana and Texas under my belt, I’m eager to see what cities and future tips and tricks 2020 holds!