Buying a house. Retirement. A new vehicle or home renovations.
If you ask somebody what they’re saving money for, you’ll likely hear all of these answers.
But there’s another expense that keeps many of us scrimping and saving all year long. And because it’s considered a luxury, it isn’t always prioritized when those hoarded stacks finally start to add up.
I’m talking about travel.
Hear me out. You may not think that a vacation is a responsible financial choice in the same way a home or even a new car might be.
But seeing the world is one of the only ways to spend your money that leaves you fundamentally richer — having seen more of the planet we live on and developed a greater understanding of other ways of life. You don’t even have to take my word for it — it’s science! Recent research suggests we’re happier when we spend our money on experiences than things.
But immaterial riches aside, travel isn’t the most affordable way to spend your time or cash. In fact, it can quickly become downright expensive. That doesn’t mean you should write off your wanderlust and hang up your exploring shoes just yet, however. If you employ a few surprisingly simple strategies, it’s totally possible to see the world on the cheap.
So how do you travel on a budget?
Read on for some of our favorite budget travel tips and hacks.
How to Plan Budget Travel
When it comes to traveling cheaply, one of the most important tools in your arsenal is careful planning well ahead of time. Whether it’s airline tickets or a campsite, booking well before your travel dates is usually much cheaper than trying to nab a spot at the last minute after they’ve all been taken up.
Plus, doing your homework well before you leave means you have ample time to price check different options, giving you the best opportunity to score an incredible deal.
That said, if you’re not a planner, there are some last minute travel deals that might work in your favor. For instance, if a campground has a spot or two to fill for the evening, they might bring down the price a bit to encourage full occupancy. However, finding these deals will require a lot more diligence and research.
Aside from actually booking your means of transport and accommodations, you can also save yourself money by planning for necessities like meals ahead of time. Packing food or cooking your own lunches and dinners can save you an incredible amount of cash over the course of a trip — and what with its included kitchen facilities, traveling in an RV makes it super simple to do so!
Budget Travel Road Trips
Road trips already lend themselves to budget travelers in some ways. For one thing, you’re not paying an outrageous amount of money for an airline ticket, which is always a plus.
But road tripping also gives you the opportunity to adjust your travel plans to match what you can afford. Got a ton of time and a decent stack of change saved up? Take on a two-week-long trek around the American west. Under a bit more of a pinch? A quick weekend getaway to the coast is probably still within reach. Simply by choosing to stay relatively close to home, you can completely control your fuel costs.
You also get to choose the priciness of the accommodations, entertainment, and food you’ll purchase during your trip — expenses that can be less flexible when you’re stuck in airports.
RV Budget Travel
Budget travel in an RV specifically is a bit of a give and take.
On the one hand, you have your bed, bathroom, and kitchen along for the ride, so you don’t need to worry about buying expensive hotel rooms each night or paying for even a single restaurant meal if you don’t want to.
However, these hefty vehicles aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient beasts on the road. In fact, in a large Class A motorhome, you might be looking at as little as 6 miles to the gallon.
You might also be surprised to learn that camping itself isn’t always free, or even inexpensive. Some inclusive, resort-style campgrounds in popular areas can cost up to $75 per night for sites with full hookups, or even more during especially busy seasons.
But luckily, you have control over all of those costs. Don’t want to pay an outrageous sum for fuel and mileage on your rental RV? Stay close to home. If you’re looking for an inexpensive campsite that still has just about everything you need, check out your local state parks. (The whole idea is to get outside, right? So who needs a rec room?)
For more of our favorite budget tips when travelling in an RV, check out some of these other posts we’ve written, which have great ideas for couples, seniors, and families on the road:
- Ways to Save During a Road Trip
- Money-Saving Tips for RVers
- 8 Clever Ways to Save Money While Traveling in Your RV
Budget Travel Destinations
Another good thing for RV travelers? There are tons of amazing, but cheap, places to visit in the USA. Some of the best times you’ll have when it comes to RV camping are simple moments around the campfire, sharing stories and s’mores with the people you love. It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to make that happen — and in this vast and stunning country of ours, you can even have a scenic backdrop, too!
Some of the best budget travel and vacation destinations in the United States for you and your family to enjoy include the vast array of National and state parks, which offer affordable camping coupled with ample outdoor adventures. Here are just a few of the most popular:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- The Grand Canyon National Park
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- Everglades National Park
Although these might be among the most well-known and beautiful destinations, you’d be surprised at how much natural wonder is waiting right outside your own front door. Look for public lands that allow boondocking for free or for a small permit fee — and read up on how to conserve water so you can stay out there as long as you’d like.
No matter where you are, grab your map, pack up the cooler (or RV fridge), and get out there! It doesn’t have to make you go broke — and we’re pretty sure you won’t regret the small investment you do make.