How I Travel on a Budget
Before I became full-time freelance, one of the questions I was constantly asked is how could I afford to travel as often as I did?. I would get tons of comments along the lines of “I wish I could travel as much as you!”, and truthfully, it wasn’t that long ago that I would browse through friends and strangers feeds alike and have my own serious case of FOMO. The first step to any adventure is, of course, to just GO. When I was just starting out, (and to this day!) sometimes the adventures would be on a small scale, and only as far as a tank of gas could carry me. Others, like my five week road trip last summer, required a bit more planning. So first off:
Plan Out Your Route in Advance
I know this takes away from the fun, spontaneous aspects of a trip, but having a rough itinerary is the easiest way to rid some unnecessary stress. This is especially important if you’re traveling with a group! Each person should share a list of places they’d most like to visit, and together, you can start to draft together a route to hit as much as possible with your timeline. Last year, my friend introduced me to the site, Furkot, which allows multiple people to add and edit locations to a road trip! Obviously, things happen, and you won’t be able to get to everything, but having that initial itinerary can save from some backtracking (and gas money) down the line. This also opens up opportunities to find sleeping arrangements, food, etc. Which brings me to:
Car Camping is Free
In the warmer months, long-term travel becomes a lot easier for me, because sleeping arrangements are a lot easier! Last summer, two of my five weeks on the road consisted of car camping. I had a tent with me, too, for the days I’d be with another person, or in a national park. For over a month of summer travel, I spent less than $300 on sleeping arrangements. Sites like Hipcamp are great, if you’re looking for campsites in the U.S.! For travel outside the U.S., look into local hostels or hut systems (if you plan on hiking!). To keep my sanity, I made sure to have a non-camp place to sleep at least once a week. It gave me a chance to recharge my batteries - literally - and have some personal space to sprawl out (which is super important, no matter the length of a trip!). Camping also makes it easier to meal plan and save on food. Eating out - especially in touristy areas - can be super pricey, so traveling with a Jetboil and some non-parishables (like soup and pasta), brought my food budget way down.
Sign Up for Airfare Alerts
If you’re heading out a bit further than your car can take you, obviously the farther out you book your airfare, the cheaper it will be. I take advantage of email blasts for some of my preferred airlines. Every now and then, they’ll have specials going on during periods of time. Two sites I use fairly often for flights are Scott’s Cheap Flights and Skiplagged.
Give Yourself a Weekly Allowance
Once you’re out on your adventure, it’s important to have a little in your budget for SOME spending money. I gave myself a $20 spending cap every week for non essentials. Having that dollar amount in mind can save you from overspending in the moment. So allow yourself to get that cup of coffee, but hold off on that overpriced magnet. Everything in moderation!
Not every trip has to be on a Grand Scale
Living in Brooklyn, there isn’t a TON of nature in the immediate vicinity. However, upstate New York is home to two pretty remarkable mountain ranges. Traveling wise, sometimes the best adventures can be within your own state! Check out parks, national monuments, and national parks that could just be a day’s drive away. Personally, some of my favorite adventures have been right here in the Northeast. A round-trip train or bus ride upstate from the city will in most cases cost you less than $100, with endless destinations just a few hours away.
I hope these few tips help you to plan and budget for your next trip! After January, I’m getting back out on the road, and couldn’t be happier to spend time on some long stretches of highway.