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Budget Travel: How to adventure without breaking the bank

A mindset to travel on a budget is an essential and worthwhile objective, whether due to financial constraints, a goal to live more frugally, or you don’t want to spend money where you don’t have to. While some people will stay at four or five-star hotels and eat out every night, racking up massive vacation bills, others like to keep it a bit more low-key.

Camping under the stars. Making meals on a pop-up table from the grocery store. Laughing at the weird roadside places as you drive from location to location. Below we’ll dive into my tips to travel on a budget for those looking to keep their costs down.

Whichever group you fall into – or maybe it’s in the middle – that’s okay. But for this article, we’re diving into how to travel cheaply and still have an incredible time. 

Need to make some extra cash on the go? Try these apps that pay you to play!

Travel on a budget – Tips and More!

budget travel

Lodging on a Budget

The first area where you can cut costs is lodging. Finding a great place on public lands is free or relatively cheap in a campground. 

How to find free sites:

  • The Dyrt: A great app that will lay out great places to camp
  • FreeCampsites: The name says it all. Find free campsites
  • BLM or National Forests: Our public lands are the best places to camp. This is dispersed camping, so be aware there will be no utilities. 

Regular Campgrounds:

  • Using Google Maps or going to a state or national park will have official campsites. These will have bathrooms and tables to use. You can expect these to cost from $10-$30. 

Inexpensive Hotels and Hostels:

If you plan to stay in a hotel, choose the cheapest option. Odds are you’re just there to sleep and won’t need nor care for the amenities outside of breakfast. Using Hotel Tonight is a good option for last-minute decisions. I always go with the less expansive option and have never looked back! Another option to look at is hostels.

While they aren’t as prominent in the United States, they’re a fantastic way to go internationally, and you’ll meet great people!

Decrease your Food Spend


I’m a huge proponent of buying your food at the grocery store and then making it yourself. My friends always joke that I’d go for a PB&J over anything else while on a road trip. (Maybe a turkey sandwich now that I’m older!) This is the most cost-effective way to eat and travel. You can get sandwich material for $20 that will last you multiple meals.

Nowadays, one sandwich at a deli could cost you $15. 

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Credit Cards for Travel Miles

This isn’t an endorsement of credit cards, but I will note that the rewards for the first year can be advantageous. For example, the first year, with my Chase card paid for my roundtrip flight to Iceland. Of course, you should always pay off the full amount each month, and if you do, there’s no reason not to have a CC and benefit from free travel. 

I’ve found Nerd Wallet does a good round-up of Travel Credit Cards


Road trips are good for the soul.

Growing up, my family drove everywhere. We weren’t abundantly well off, so it was the best we could do. And that lifestyle has stayed with me. I’ve gone from Salt Lake City to Glacier, Seattle to Banff, and SLC to Seattle on the Pandemic Roadtrip. However, as of July 2023, gas prices are a bit gnarly, which can bloat any road trip budget. However, it’s still far cheaper than flying.

But if you are going to fly, I’ve got some travel tips on a budget for you too!

  • Scotts Cheap Flights: I use them to find genuinely cheap flights from local airports. They also have a premium version where they email you daily. It makes you want to fly all the time, ha!
  • Fly at odd hours: The least expensive flights are usually early in the morning or late at night. If you’re okay sleeping on a flight or waking up before sunrise, this is for you! Also, flying in the middle of the week will save you tremendously. This isn’t the most convenient, but you’ll survive if saving money is your goal.

Travel on a Budget with a Group

When you go with a group, your costs drop drastically. From lodging to food and gas, traveling with 2-3 friends means your costs are 25% of what they would be. This ends up being HUGE. Find people to go budget travel with, as it’ll make for a more enjoyable experience, AND your wallet will thank you. 

Gear – Travel on a budget

Camping and adventuring don’t have to be a money suck. You can find good-budget travel gear to propel your fun. Below are camping items that won’t break the bank!

Wrapping up – Travel on a Budget

In conclusion, traveling on a budget is not only possible but can also be incredibly rewarding. By following these tips and strategies, individuals can explore new destinations, experience different cultures, and create unforgettable memories without breaking the bank.

From finding affordable accommodation options to utilizing public transportation and seeking out free or low-cost activities, there are numerous ways to make travel more accessible for everyone.

So whether it’s a weekend getaway or an extended adventure, don’t let financial constraints hold you back from exploring the world – with careful planning and smart choices, anyone can travel on a budget and still have an incredible time!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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