Five Ways To Get Your Caffeine Fix While Traveling on a Budget


By Kristina Baltutis

When all’s said and done, during my clinical year of veterinary school I’ll have spent a total of 3 months away from home.  I’ve stayed at friend’s houses, friend’s parents’ houses, hotels, Air B&Bs, with local families, and in internship-sponsored dorms.  Some of these experiences have been a few hours’ drive down the road, some have been a short plane-ride away, and one was on the other side of the world.  During all of this travel, pinning down a reliable source of caffeine has been a repeated challenge.  

While buying a cup of coffee is often an option, sometimes it’s not, and with my student loan debt being what it is, I have a hard time justifying buying coffee every day when it’s so much cheaper to make it myself.  Below, I’ve shared five methods to acquire a cheap cup of caffeine, and I hope my fellow travelers will find something new to try the next time they’re on the road.

1) Stay with Friends. Not only is this one of the best ways to travel on a budget anyway, but the vast majority of my friends drink coffee and are more than willing to share. Unfortunately, I don’t already have friends in every place I want to go, so I’ve had to get creative with my caffeine-acquisition methods.

2) Tea. When I first started out my clinical year, I replaced a lot of coffee with tea.  Tea bags are easy to pack, and I always bring a microwave-safe mug with me in case there isn’t a source of hot water.  Although black tea has less caffeine than coffee, it’s still enough to hold off my afternoon caffeine headaches.

3) Instant Coffee. Before you say, “Ew, gross” and keep scrolling, hear me out.  Throughout all four years of vet school, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands, South Africa, and New Zealand, in that order.  When I started out in the Netherlands, I was intrigued to find that the coffee pots which are a staple in American hospitals were pretty much absent in the Dutch hospital.  Instead, they use instant coffee, but not the granulated Folgers type of my grandfather’s table.  Instead, they use freeze-dried instant coffee.  Over the next few years, I found this was also true in South Africa and New Zealand, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the way much of the world drinks coffee!  It’s a little more expensive than granulated coffee, but it definitely has way better flavor, and it’s certainly less expensive than buying it from a coffee shop.  Freeze-dried instant coffee is a little difficult to come by in the United States, but in today’s society it’s only one Amazon-order away.

4) Bring Your Own Equipment. It’s helpful to know what’s available in the facilities in which you’ll be staying.  On some of my rotations, such as most of the internship-sponsored dorms, a coffee maker was provided but coffee and filters were not.  In this case, I pack coffee filters and coffee myself.  On one particular externship, I packed up my whole slow-drip coffee maker, but this would be an even easier option if you have a French press.

5) Make-Your-Own Coffee Bags. This is my new favorite method!  I wanted the convenience of tea bags with the caffeine of coffee, and I had recently been discussing sachets for loose-leaf tea with my little sister.  It struck me as odd that I had never thought of putting them together.  I purchased drawstring tea sachets without any metal so I would be able to microwave them if I couldn’t get hot water otherwise.  I usually use two tablespoons of coffee per bag, but there’s room to adjust for your strength preference. Then you tie off the top, pour hot water over the bag, and let it steep until the desired strength.  It works really well and they are super convenient to prepare ahead of time for travel.  You could also play around with including powdered creamer and sugar right in the bag, so you don’t have to pack them separately.


Ensuring a source of caffeine gives me more than just freedom from caffeine headaches in the afternoon.  It encourages me to take a moment to respect my morning routine, to appreciate the experience before me, and to be thankful for the opportunities I have to travel and explore diverse facets of veterinary medicine.  In the inherent unknowns of traveling, the moment of calm afforded by a warm beverage in the morning enhances the entire experience.  It is my hope that finding your caffeine fix while traveling can do the same for you!

Kristina is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{featured image via pexels}