How We Travel for Next to Nothing

Our family loves to travel. We have the drive to visit new places and to absorb ourselves in different communities than our own. We feel that it gives us (and our children) and a much better perspective on the world around us.

Our family loves to travel. We have the drive to visit new places and to absorb ourselves in different communities than our own. This is how we afford to travel often! #budgettravel #rving #rvtravel #familytravel

How We Travel for Next to Nothing

But traveling can get so expensive, especially if you travel with traditional methods. Airfare, meals, activities…all of those things can add up in a hurry! Over the years, we’ve found many ways to travel for very little. It’s the only way that we’ve been able to travel so often and to so many places. I will also admit that traveling is one of the big reasons that our heart has been opened to working in rural communities across the US. Once you see and meet people that live in different areas like this, it’s hard to forget their stories.

Not all of these ideas will be applicable to you, but hopefully, you will find some inspiration in this blog post so that you and your family can enjoy inexpensive travel as well.

Also…keep in mind that this blog post was originally written when gas prices were much lower. I understand that not everyone will be able to travel this summer, but for those that have to or still plan on doing so anyways, these tips might be able to help!

1. We use a camper that we paid cash for.  We found something very inexpensive and small so it could go anywhere and takes very little effort to maintain. We offered the dealer half price (in the middle of winter…good time to buy!) and they took it! Our camper isn’t perfect, it has some hail damage and occasionally we feel like we are on top of one another if we are traveling too long, but it has beds for everyone and the space we need to cook, clean ourselves, and enjoy time together as a family.

2. We never eat out. Never as in never. Occasionally my hubby will get a coffee but that’s it. Eating out is one of the biggest budget busters while you are traveling since it’s hard to assume food prices and since a small (or large!) family can eat a lot in a day!

We take as much of our food from home that we possibly can. On a recent 10 day trip, we didn’t have to buy any meat because I stuffed so much in the camper freezer before we left! Also…see the next point to know how we eat while we travel…

3. We buy fresh and local and shop at grocery stores.  This is one of my favorite parts of traveling! I always scout out farmer’s markets where we are going first and we buy a lot from there. I get the rest of what we need from local grocery stores and fill in if we have to with Costco if we have space. It’s so much fun to buy local foods and explore local flavors.

4. We boondock or park with friends/family. This is probably one of the biggest money savers. We love being able to park on someone’s property and aren’t against hanging out in a driveway if we have to or if they don’t mind. There are several websites that I use to find other free and cheap campsites as well. They are:

You can learn more about Boondocking here.

Of course, this means we have to be prepared to go without regular RV hookups. We carry an external water tank and have a small solar setup on top of our camper to recharge the batteries. Yes, boondocking takes some extra work, but we love it and we get to skip the $50-$100 nightly campground fees!

5. We visit free and cheap attractions. This is another thing I scout out in advance. It’s amazing what a simple google search for “free things to do in ___” will turn up! There are also passes that can be purchased at one place that are good for many (like the reciprocal museum memberships). Groupon can be good for finding a bargain too.

6. We steer clear of tourist traps. We almost never go to the “big name” type of attractions and prefer to find things off the beaten path. Not only are they cheaper, but they are also calmer, less crowded, and more fun to visit. We’ve had private tours of plantations, museums, and other neat things, all because they were less advertised.

7. We do not buy things we don’t need at home. Travel is one of our family’s big priorities so we buy less junk (or no junk if I can help it!) while we are at home so we can save money for trips. Another thing we’ve done is asked friends and family to give our children money or tickets to various experiences instead of gifts for birthdays and holidays. We collect less clutter and the kids have more fun and create more memories.

8. Our work is location independent so there are no vacation days. I never stop working (because I love writing for you!) and I do a little of something every day. So when we travel, work doesn’t stop and it’s not necessarily a vacation in the true sense of the word. Thus since work doesn’t stop, income doesn’t stop. We’ve learned how to set up mobile internet so I can still work freelance writing and consulting jobs just as well in Kentucky as I can in my own living room.

Obviously, this isn’t a tip that everyone can use but if you are able to work or find some kind of side job that can be done at home, it can be done anywhere.

Also, another note…we roadschool when we are traveling as well so no days of school are missed. Plus it’s SO fun for the kids to do some kind of unit study and then get to visit a location that is relevant to that study. In the pic above you can see some of the things I brought for a unit study when we visited New Mexico.

9. We don’t buy souvenirs. Nope, just never. I have no magnets or mugs with town names on them! Occasionally the kids bring home a seashell or a pretty rock they find to put in their “treasure chests” that they keep in their rooms, but that’s about it for souvenirs. We also keep a map with the locations that we’ve visited. Be sure and watch the video below to see our map!

10. We enjoy the great outdoors.  There is so much to do that is totally free in the great outdoors. Hiking, fishing, swimming, etc. These are always our top activities when we travel! I will absolutely scout out any waterfall that is nearby to where we are staying so that we can enjoy it while we are in the area. Because we like to take in the natural wonders, we’ve really learned how diverse our country’s landscape is.

Want to learn more? Here’s a video I made talking about all of these frugal traveling tips and more!

Does your family travel? How do you save money on travel?

This blog post on How We Travel for Next to Nothing was originally posted on Little House Living in 2019. It has been updated as of June 2022.

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30 Comments

  1. Marissa, can you tell us where the picture above about 1275 Different Seed varieties is located? That looks exactly like someplace we’d love to go!
    I’ve been following your blog about 4 years now and truly enjoy it!

    1. What intenet carrier have you found that works well when you are traveling? I’m considering fulltime RV life and travel but need internet as my job requires it.
      Thank you.
      You inspire me to live a frugal life.

      1. The last internet we used was just a hot spot through our phones (currently through Straight Talk) and then we also utilized the internet of where we were staying as well.

    2. You camping started many years ago. I loved the way you figured how to survive the winter with children. Then the fixer upper. Canning, shopping at co ops. You have kept me in the straight and narrow. Our little camper is a Casita. We have traveled many trips and learn something new every trip.

    1. Ok! I was thinking after I get it put back together again (we just got back recently from a 2 1/2 week excursion) I will do a video of how I have the inside set up 🙂

  2. That picture of you and your husband on the white sand reminds me of a car trip I took with my family back in the 60’s. The white gypsum sands of New Mexico will forever be in my memories!

  3. Have been following your blog for years. We rarely ever eat out when traveling ( have been 12 weeks in pickup with regular cap -9500 miles & we are still friends+married) or hosting & traveling for fun. We always get the “local shopping card” for groceries. Thanks for all the recipes and tips.

      1. I’m on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Not to be missed for natural beauty and free outdoor things to do! Best wishes. 🇨🇦

  4. We also purchased a small pop up camper for cash, and it has been our vacation getaway for several years now. We don’t care if we have hookups or not.
    Friends who blog are setting out on a year long tour of the US this fall. They found this neat ‘membership package’ that gets you no cost camping all over the place at lots of neat places. Their description “Harvest Host is a membership program. For a small annual fee, RV or tow-behind campers can park and stay at any of the 709+ locations in their network.” This is how they are planning their trip, as well as accepting invitations from blog members.

  5. Great tips. I had no idea there were sites for free camping – thank you! We have a little trailer and that is our favorite way to travel also. One silly/fun thing I do is keep a journal in the trailer and log the trips we make since many are in state or to an area we’ve visited previously. I also make a quick note to reference any out of ordinary things – event, weather, or whatever.

    1. We eat most of the things we have at home, which is very basic and simple meals. Grilled chicken with cucumbers and some kind of sliced fruit or hamburgers with toppings, canned beans, and some kind of fruit.

  6. Unfortunately its forbidden to camp with a camper or VWbus anywhere outside of an official payed camping place in most countries in Europe 🙂 Also most people don’t live with a lots of room around the house(if they are so lucky to own a house :most people I know rent a small appartment and don’t always have a car)
    Paying for a camping is still more expensive than paying our rent. Still dreaming when I i see all those movies on Youtube of people traveling a year or permanent with the family in USA or Australia……

    1. I’m always so envious when I see American neighbourhoods with the detached houses with lots of room around each house. I’d love a house like that. I’m in Wales and my house is joined onto my one neighbour and there’s about 4 feet gap between us and my other neighbours house. All that neighbourhood space would be wonderful.

      Thank you for all these tips, Merissa. Petrol prices are utterly insane over here in The U.K so any chance to save some money whilst travelling is very very welcome.

      1. Good stuff! I only wish I could do this. I was homeless for a year, and in that time, almost bought an RV (partly because I could not find an apartment). I may end up getting an RV anyway, or at least, a cargo van. I can camp out of a van. Already did it for a year.

  7. I use to travel a lot with my 6kids. At least a couple breakfasts in a small town cafe.They can have
    Oatmeal or pancakes,usually the cheapest things.If we can camp out,we eat something we cook over the campfire or on a Coleman stove.I keep all the supplies in totes,labeled. Even clothes,
    Towels,soap etc .Liquid bottles in baggies. We always had to travel in a pickup with canopy. Pretty
    Crowded some trips.I only had one child up front and the youngest,who was 2-3. You’d be surprised how peaceful the trips were,no “are we there yet?” Every 10min,And every 200 miles
    We switched kids so they all got a turn and some individual time with Mom.

  8. Congratulations on your websites’ 10 yr. anniversary. I love your site! We love to travel too and road trips with our teardrop trailer beats tent camping any time. We save money by packing meals we cooked and freeze for the trip . All we have to do is re-heat ( at least for day 1 and 2). We limit eating out and if we do, it’s usually lunch or happy hour menu. For sightseeing we research and prioritize rather than visit all the popular/touristy spots. Our best memories are sometimes the free ones (watching our dog play by the river). No souvenirs–they end up being donated anyway. Bring supplies that you got on sale and might be expensive on the road–peanut butter, honey, powdered milk for pancakes,gourmet coffee, wine if you drink, etc. Also checking out any entertainment put out by nearby college campus rather than big name venues.

    Your blog puts out so many wonderful articles. Keep it up and here’s to another 10 years!

  9. Love reading your blog.I used to drive OTR delivering freight.I always kept the cig lighter frig from Wal-Mart.If I took somebody with me I had another if I needed it.My survival kit has a cigarette lighter oven & water heater.Ive had to use them when electric goes out.Just thoughtnid share that with those with pop up campers and it raining or something.Truck stops is where I got those types of things and walmart for the cupboards.you can cook or heat water while you drive.Had a microwave too.

  10. Great tips! We find staying in the free spots and bringing our own meals is good on the travel budget. Love stopping at farmer stands along the way, too.