One way to travel cheap? Camp. You need to have some essential equipment, but campgrounds can be so cheap. We pay for a week of camping, and it’s the same as a night at a hotel or Air BnB. We acquired most of our gear on Amazon and used their 6-month payment plan to make it even cheaper.
- Air mattress and sleeping bag(s)
- Kitchen gear (we have a stove, coffee pot, mugs, and a pan/plate/utensil set). We bought a stove because I have celiac disease and need to make sure I have a clean cooking surface. Who knows what people cook on the campground stoves!
- Matches, fire starter, firewood, and lighter.
- Towels (we have old ones we no longer use)
- Collapsable chairs for sitting around your fire at night.
- Comfort items – pillows, hand sanitizer
- Cooler and food. We like Coleman, and we reuse the freeze packs we get with Butcher Box and Green Chef orders. We keep food pretty simple, oatmeal or eggs for breakfast, sandwich and chips for lunch, and steak or chicken for dinner. We have bars and candy for snacks.
- Water (plan out how much you need to drink and buy in bulk)
We pack most of it into a Rubbermaid tote and toss it in the trunk. The most expensive items are going to be a tent, chairs, and cooler. Everything else is relatively inexpensive. If you search Amazon, you can find good deals on the higher-priced items. Buy what fits your budget now to travel cheap, and you can always upgrade later.
Not into camping but still want to travel cheap?
I get it; not everyone enjoys camping. So here are 10 other tips on how to travel cheap when planning a vacation!
- If your destination is close, it may be better to drive than fly. We drive to LA and Vegas because it makes more sense and takes about the same amount of time. Compare the cost of driving and flying to determine the best transportation mode.
- If you need to fly, try having flexible dates. A lot of websites have a matrix that will show you the cheapest times to fly. You enter your “ideal” dates, and you can look at what it would cost to fly a day earlier or come home two days later.
- Speaking of dates, try to go off-season. Yes, Vegas in August is hotter than hades, but you are more likely to find the best deals. Another bonus of going off-season? Fewer people! When we went to Joshua Tree, we saw very few other people. It also rained one day, but we didn’t let that stop us. We were the only people in places that are typically packed.
- If you tend to fly the same airline, consider getting the credit card. You can get free check luggage and other perks. The big thing with this is paying off your card every month. If you can’t pay it off, don’t get one. We have two airline cards, and that is how we pay for each vacation. When we get back, we pay it off, but then we’ve earned more miles (which are a great way to fly cheap!).
- Look at flights to different airports. Can you fly cheaper into one a little further away from your destination? Several larger destinations have two airports. Check prices at both. Are you traveling to a more remote location? Does it make financial sense to fly into a larger airport, rent a car, and drive to your final destination? Play with airports and dates to find the best deal for you.
- Look at using public transportation instead of renting a car. In several large cities, we’ve used public transportation. It’s so much cheaper than renting a car. We usually will use Lyft to get to and from the airport, but then we bus and rail it.
- Where are you staying? Sometimes an Air BnB type place may be cheaper than a hotel. Explore all your options. We usually look at the location and find something that fits our budget. We set a per night rate before we start looking and go from there. We also don’t go for suites and other such luxuries because we know we will mostly be sleeping at the hotel. Also, look for free parking (if you will have a car), resort fees, free wi-fi. Hotels are like airlines where they nickel and dime for everything now! Does a complimentary continental breakfast work for you? Great! That saves the price of a meal times how many days you are there.
- Food can add up. Because of my celiac disease, we often research places before we leave. I highly recommend this! We find places unique to the area and can’t get at home. We don’t usually go to a chain. This also gives us an idea of how expensive it is and the budget for different meals. A lot of times, we eat a large, filling breakfast and push through until dinner. I also pack snacks in my check luggage, so if we get hungry at 2 pm, we have stuff with us. We usually choose mostly casual restaurants with one steak house during our vacation.
- If there is a City Pass, look into it. It can be worth it if you will do all the activities. Otherwise, plan your excursions! We have never done a bus tour and probably never will. We did the Road to Hana ourselves and used an app that was under $10. We learned about Hawaii, and it told us where to stop. See what popular places need to be booked ahead of time. We book river cruises, shows, and other things months before the trip. We didn’t do that in time and missed out on Alcatraz (so yes, some NEED to be planned!). It may not save you money, but it will give you peace of mind that you won’t miss your big outing!
- Don’t buy cheesy souvenirs at the tourist traps (try to avoid the traps – they are usually expensive for what you get). I typically try to get a coffee mug or shot glass at places. I use coffee mugs and display shot glasses. I also try to find something I can use or wear that will remind me about the vacation. The ring I wear every day I got in Hawaii. I have some beach cover-ups I bought in Spain and Mexico. Those are things I enjoy more than the cheesy t-shirt with the destination name on it.
Start saving and planning for your next trip. Leave your best tip to travel cheap in the comments!