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.
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:
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.