How To Travel While Unemployed (9 Tips and Tricks)

With the recent economic downturn, you are more than likely unemployed, and you might not have any immediate plans to get another job for a while. Now might be a good time to travel, but if you don’t have a lot of money or savings, it might be more difficult to do so. How can you travel while unemployed?

Here’s how to travel while unemployed:

  1. See if it’s okay to travel while collecting unemployment.
  2. Budget your savings, if you have any.
  3. Find gigs to earn money while traveling.
  4. Look for free or cheap places to stay.
  5. Stay with friends, if possible.
  6. Take advantage of local food pantries for groceries.
  7. Research free entertainment venues.
  8. Use your vehicle to travel.
  9. Use free or cheap shower facilities while on the road.

Traveling while unemployed can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. To learn if you should travel while unemployed and how to do it successfully, keep reading.

1. See If It’s Okay To Travel While Collecting Unemployment

If you’re unemployed, chances are you are receiving unemployment checks each week or month. But if you decide to travel, you might be in danger of being charged with fraud.

According to Daniel Taylor, Esq. from FindLaw, going out of town or on vacation while collecting unemployment benefits is illegal. This is because, as part of the conditions of receiving benefits, you must be available for work should the opportunity arise.

When filing a claim each week, you must indicate whether or not you’re available for work. If you’re not, you will not receive your unemployment check for that period.

So when you plan your trip, you’ll need to check with your state or unemployment office if you can leave town for a while. Otherwise, you might want to stay home until you find a job or your unemployment benefits expire.

2. Budget Your Savings, If You Have Any

If you aren’t getting unemployment benefits, and there is nothing to hold you back from traveling, the next step is to look at your financial situation to see if you can travel. Look at your savings, any extra income you might have, or other financial assets.

You’ll need to list all of your expected expenses, such as:

  • Lodging
  • Gas/transportation
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous expenses

You should also figure out how long you will be gone and multiply your daily expenses by the number of days you’ll be on vacation.

Another thing to consider when planning your vacation is that most hotels and commercial transportation venues are showing all-time highs in fares and lodging fees. Most of this is because most places want to recoup their losses from the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.

While this price hike might go down in the future, it’s something to keep in mind when you’re creating your budget. If this is too expensive for you at the moment, you may want to consider postponing your trip until these prices go down.

So if you’re still wondering how to budget your trip, let’s take a closer look at how much you can expect to pay for your trip and make the most of your vacation.

Lodging or Camping

When you’re unemployed, you may need to look at cheaper lodging options such as camping sites or staying with friends or family. However, if you have enough money saved up, you might be able to spring for a low-cost hotel. Typically, though, you’ll expect to pay at least $100 or more per night for a hotel.

In comparison, the minimum you might expect to pay for a camping site is $20-$40 per night.


If you’re driving your vehicle, you already know approximately how much you need to budget for gas for your trip. And, if you’re driving and suddenly break down, you might want to plan for unexpected vehicle expenses.

However, if you’re going by train or plane, you can expect to pay at least $200 minimum for a round-trip ticket. Of course, your destination will determine your final price, which could be a lot more than that.


Whether you dine out or buy groceries, you need to plan on a significant amount of your budget going to food expenses. However, your food expenses during your trip will be similar to when you’re at home. But if you go to a more expensive area, you may want to add $20-$40 per person per day to your budget.

If you don’t have a lot of money due to being unemployed, you may want to check out other options that we talk about later in the article.


The best part about going on vacation is having more time to check out shows, fairs, festivals, and concerts. Or, if you prefer the outdoors, you can find the best hiking or camping spots in the country.

Depending on your preferences, you can expect to pay at least $50-$100 or more for entertainment during your trip.

Miscellaneous Expenses

This category might include toiletries, personal care items, cash for tips or other small items, or souvenirs. We listed this category as last for a reason, as you might want to budget the more important things first before coming to these items.

However, the more you pack, the fewer items you need, so you can use your discretionary funds for shopping or souvenirs. How much you budget depends on how much money you have on hand after your other expenses are accounted for.

Budget Planner

To make your budget planning a bit easier, you can buy a printed budget planner or find one online. But you’ll want to find one that gives you all the tips and tricks that travel advisors use when planning others’ vacations. The one we recommend contains all these and more.

You’ll get packing lists, budget worksheets, advice on the current travel climate, and more.

3. Find Gigs To Earn Money While Traveling

A road trip is a perfect opportunity to earn money while on the road. How do you ask? Well, if you have any marketable skills that you can deliver online, you can find some freelance work to keep your bank account in the black while traveling.

You can find jobs such as:

  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Graphic design
  • Programming
  • Proofreading (different from editing)
  • Transcription
  • Online tutoring
  • Teaching online
  • Data entry
  • Translation

As you can see, there are several ways to earn money online, even when you’re on the road. The only trick is to find cheap or free wi-fi so that you can work for a few hours out of the day.

By doing this, you can reduce how much you dip into your savings.

However, this tip can be tricky, especially if you are receiving unemployment benefits. Since you must report any income to your local unemployment office, this might reduce or eliminate your benefits.

4. Look For Free Or Cheap Places To Stay

If you have a campervan or RV, you only need to find a free parking lot or cheap campground to park for the night. Or, if you have a tent, you can get a cheap camping spot at one of the national forests or camping areas.

However, if you want to sleep indoors, in a bed, then you might want to research several cheap hotels that are clean and decent.

5. Stay With Friends, If Possible

Or, if you don’t have the money to stay in a hotel, and the weather is inhospitable for camping outdoors, you may want to stay with friends that live in your desired travel location. For example, if you live in Wisconsin and you’re taking a road trip to Florida, you might want to ask your daughter in Kentucky if you can stay overnight with her.

Staying with family or friends on the way to your destination can help you save money that you would otherwise have to spend on a hotel. And if you don’t have that much money, to begin with, this can be a budget-saver.

However, if you don’t have friends or family along the way, you can instead save money on groceries following the next tip.

6. Take Advantage Of Local Food Pantries For Groceries

While this tip might be a little out of the ordinary, local food pantries might be a good idea if you’re on the road and strapped for cash. Most local food pantries require you to live locally before they give you food. However, there are two ways to work around this requirement, and it’s legal and ethical.

Let’s take a look at them now.

Go To Your Local Food Pantry Before Your Trip

If you’re unemployed, chances are you don’t have a lot of money to buy groceries, which can make planning your trip more difficult. What are you going to do about food for your trip? You could go to your local food pantry to get some food.

They often give out canned goods and perishable items that you can take with you on your trip.

You might have some hesitation about going to such a place to get free food, but if you’re cash-strapped, it’s perfectly acceptable to do this. And since the pandemic started, more people than ever have had to visit pantries due to how many were out of work.

This will also save you money on your trip that you can use for other things if needed.

Most local food pantries have websites or Facebook pages where you can get the relevant information, such as hours of operation, location, or requirements to receive food.

Ask Your Family Or Friends To Go To Their Food Pantry For You

However, if you are on the road and have no more food or money to buy food, you might try asking your friends or family members to go to their local food pantry for you. But you’ll want to do this only if you’re close to them and you don’t feel awkward asking.

Otherwise, it could put a strain on your relationship with them.

7. Research Free Entertainment Venues

Every summer, millions of people throughout the United States attend festivals, concerts, and county fairs. While many of these require some money, other events are completely free.

Many cities have free concerts every week during the summer, while other cities have other free events. When you’re on the road, you might want to take advantage of these free entertainment venues.

Before leaving, however, you may want to research local outdoor concerts in the area you’re traveling to.

8. Use Your Vehicle To Travel

Commercial travel can get expensive, especially if you have several destinations throughout your vacation. Trains and planes don’t always stop at the more unique destinations along the way either.

For this reason, you may want to use your vehicle to travel with you, especially if your car is ready for road trips. You’ll spend money on gas and maybe repairs along the way, but that might not be as expensive as taking commercial transportation.

Another reason why you might want to take your vehicle is that you can take small detours to see interesting places and things that you would otherwise miss if you took a plane or train.

For example, say you are traveling to California from Wisconsin, and you are taking Interstate 80 through Nebraska. If you take your vehicle, you can make a pit stop in Downtown Omaha to see and play on the huge slide, or walk around the Riverfront Park to experience the “interactive water features or botanical gardens.”

If you took a plane or train, you might miss this fun excursion.

9. Use Free Or Cheap Shower Facilities While On the Road

Whenever you travel longer than a day or two, you’re going to need a shower at some point during your trip. If you’re staying with friends or in an inexpensive hotel, then your shower needs are covered.

However, if you’re sleeping in a tent, van, or at a campground that doesn’t have shower facilities, then you’ll need to find free or cheap facilities while on the road. You can find showers at the following places:

  • Higher quality camping facilities
  • National gym chains
  • Public swimming pools
  • Truck stops

Some of these places will charge you a small fee, but it shouldn’t be terribly expensive. While there are some places where you won’t be able to take a full, private shower, others allow you to do so.

If you have a gym membership to one of the national chains, you can look up their locations and plan on visiting them when you’re on the road.


If you’re not on unemployment, and you don’t need to report to the unemployment office weekly, then you’re free to travel. After all, you have plenty of time on your hands, right?

However, while you may not need to spend time at a job, you also may not have the money to travel. If you look at free or cheap options while on the road, you can have a fun and unique time while traveling.

Bon Voyage!


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