10 budget-friendly travel tips
If money is what you think is getting in your way of exploring, LET'S DISCUSS. One of the biggest questions we get is "How can you afford to travel so much?" I'll tell you the secret, that isn't really a secret: Prioritize what you spend on. In a nutshell, take a quick look at what you're spending your money on. You might think you don't have money, but are actually spending hundreds of dollars on clothing or subscriptions each month. How can we afford a trailer? I paid off my car years ago and haven't upgraded to a new car because I would rather save the money. The funds that would go towards a car payment go straight into my travel savings account.
BUT, there are plenty of little hacks that we've learned about to help you save some monaaay. These tips below are really geared towards road trips and camping because that's our area of expertise, but can totally be applied to travel on planes, abroad, etc.
1. Bring + Cook Your Own Food
You know that we absolutely looove to cook on our camping and road trips, so why can't you? The secret is to plan ahead and prep, prep, prep! When we plan out a trip, we make an itinerary and pop in what we want to cook each day. Then we make a shopping list, head to the store, and prep ahead as much as possible. That means chopping veggies, mixing up dry ingredients and putting them in Tupperware or using a food vacuum sealer.
2. Stay at free campsites
If you haven't heard of BLM land, time to check that off your list. BLM land = land owned by the Bureau of Land Management that is available for recreation, also known as public land. A good amount of campgrounds are actually on BLM land, but most folks don't know that there is public land out there that offers dispersed camping for free! Keep in mind, dispersed camping means public lands away from developed facilities. AKA no bathrooms, showers, etc. Yes, you poop and pee outside, but we would say that's a part of the adventure, right?! Also, make sure you pack that shit out, literally.
Most public lands are open to dispersed camping as long as it doesn't conflict with other authorized uses or in areas with signs that state the obvs, "closed to camping." There are also some areas closed off due to natural resources and wildlife conservation. Nathan and I do most of our camping actually on BLM lands because we love to explore the backcountry and be away from others. To find the closes BLM land near you, check their website.
3. Borrow or Buy Secondhand Camping Gear
We love REI, I mean who doesn't!? What we don't always love, their steep prices. Don't get me wrong, they do have amazing quality items that are seriously worth the investment, BUT if you are on a budget, there is nothing wrong with a secondhand tent you snagged off of Facebook marketplace.
Check your local garage sales, flea markets, online marketplaces, or even follow other influencers who sell their used goods. It's a great way to save on that $$$. AND REI, our forbidden love, also rents out camping gear. YEP! There are also resources like Outdoor Geek that let you rent as well.
4. focus on free activities
We actually do this for the most part when we travel - it's become second nature. Since we're usually out on the road or camping, we really try to root ourselves in nature. Lucky for all of us, nature can be free :) Awesome things you can do: hike, swim, fish, cook, hang by the fire, play frisbee, soccer, football, etc. You can also work on survival skills, like tying knots, building a fire, etc!
5. make sure your car is in top shape - bonus if it gets good mileage
I know what you're thinking: this is a no brainer, but it's actually something that people end up having to dish money out for! Make sure your tires are in good shape, your oil has been changed and your car is in good shape. If you break down on the side of the road, you have to shell out cash for a tow and fix which can ruin an entire road trip. This is probably more relevant for offroad folks. Know the limits of your car, too. If you don't have the right suspension to clear a gnarly trail, be smart.
Lastly, gas in California is also definitely NOT cheap and that's what most of our travel money goes to on a road trip (shocker - our FJ guzzles), so if you have a car that gets better mileage, you'll definitely save on gas.
6. brew your own coffee
We love our Vietnamese drip coffee filters, also known as a cafe phin. We have two that are so perfect for traveling since they're small. Just pour in your coffee, press down on the filter and pour over with hot water. There are plenty of filter systems for on the go travel, but you seriously don't have to get fancy. It is nice to have your own coffee and you save some $$$, too!
7. bring your own booze
If you like to relax with a drink over dinner or are out on a trip with friends, be prepared and avoid liquor store costs by bringing your own alcohol! Nothing beats Bailey's in hot coffee or a campfire marg.
8. invest in a national park pass
The best investment and purchase we make every year! If you travel through several National Parks a year or are going on a trip where you go into 2-3+ parks, you definitely want to invest in this! The National Park Pass is $80 and gives you access to all national parks and some additional federal land areas that have fees. With most national park entrance fees around $25-$30, you'll end up saving and have this for the whole year.
9. Ask for discounts + use AAA
I was definitely the girl who cringes at the customer who asks, "Do you have any discounts available?" That was before I met my husband. He has no shame, but in the best way. There's no harm in kindly asking if the car rental place, lodging, tour, etc have a special package or discount. It's obvious, but kind of the secret way to save $$$! If you have AAA, a ton of places offer discounts, so be sure to ask!
10. check for free events + avoid big city tourist traps
Anytime we visit a new town, we check for any free events (Covid-friendly, of course) and try to work those into our schedule to get a true feel of the place we're visiting. We also love to browse farmer's markets and buy from locals. It's just a fun way to support where you visit. By thinking like a local, we get to feel like a part of the location and it helps us avoid big tourist traps. Don't get me wrong, if you want to dive with sharks, dive with sharks! Most of the time, some tours you can map out on your own and try to save on those fees.
WOO, that was a hunk of a blog post. We hope you learned a few new tips + tricks! If you have annnnny questions about travel budget hacks. Drop us a comment below.