Exactly How We Afford to Travel so Much (Hint: Travel Cheap & Local)

How do you afford to travel so much?

We get this question often, and we’re spilling the tea. The secret to traveling more often is to travel like a local! In this article, we’re sharing exactly how to travel cheap, more often, and like locals so you can explore more and make the most out of your time off.

how-we-afford-to-travel
Road trip to local state park to hike and camp.

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How to (Seriously) Travel Cheap and More Often

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Local road trip to a state park.

Pablo and I love to get outside and explore our backyards. When we say backyards, we mean the state we live in and the neighboring states.

We have a great appreciation for seeking fulfillment outdoors through an active and healthy lifestyle hiking, camping, and road-tripping close to home. Pablo and I currently live in a city and take every chance we can to get out and explore off the beaten path.

We believe you don’t have to quit your job to do what we do. You also don’t need a lot of money or always use vacation time. We are here to show you how to make the most out of your adventures!

Local road trips to hike and camp are the perfect way to recharge and reinvigorate your soul.

It is a great way to travel on a budget and an easy way to save money while traveling.

Keep reading to learn precisely how we travel more often!

Road Trip + Travel Close to Home

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Explore local parks and hike.

Look for local places to explore and road trip close to home.

Pablo and I search for public parks, green spaces, state parks, national parks, wildlife refuges, Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds, and places to explore up to four or (sometimes) five hours from our house.

Our reasoning – it is easy to road trip somewhere for 2-3 days if the drive isn’t too far.

How to Plan a Road Trip

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Road tripping

Planning a road trip doesn’t have to be complicated, and it is a great way to budget travel!

Below are some easy ways to plan a road trip.

  • To find out where you want to explore, start by doing a simple Google Search or find inspiration on Pinterest. Then, look for state parks close by, national parks, the best trails to hike, and places to camp.

  • Once you find some camping and hiking areas that call to you, figure out how far the drive is and make camping reservations.

  • We always make reservations because it is nice to know where you’re sleeping once you get to your destination. I read somewhere that since the pandemic, more and more people are camping (which is incredible), but that also means campgrounds fill up. A little planning goes a long way.

Get inspiration to plan your next adventure with free apps for hiking, camping, and navigating road trips!

There are quite a few apps for outdoor trip planning that can be of great help to hikers, campers, and road trippers. That’s why we decided to share the FREE apps we use ALL OF THE TIME.

How We Travel More Often

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Local travel + hiking

If we have two or three days off – we leave early the first day we have off and drive to our destination.

Once we get to the destination, we set up camp and explore the rest of the afternoon. On the first day’s afternoon, look for short hikes or familiarize yourself with the destination and plan the next day’s excursion.

Then you have a full day or two to explore, depending on your time off.

Drive home early on the last day of your trip, so you have time to unpack and relax before heading back to work.

We Camp

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Camping is budget friendly.

In 2021, we finally invested in our dream camper – the Aliner. It has literally been a game-changer in how we camp and travel. It truly has become our tiny home on wheels.

Most places we camp cost $20-$40 a night.

Shop Camping Gear (We Love)

Patagonia Duffel Bag

Rumpl Camp Blanket

Helinox Camp Chair

Are you a member of REI? Shop the best camping gear on the planet! Plus, REI members get sweet perks!

We Bring Our Food

gluten-free-muffins-with-fruit-camp-breakfast
Bring your own food.

Pablo and I never eat out. EVER. We bring all of our food, water, and snacks.

Bringing our own food saves us so much money.

Shop Camp Kitchen Essentials (We Use)

Yeti Cooler

Camp Mugs

Coffee Press

MSR Camp Bowls

We might spend $50 on groceries for a weekend camping trip. And honestly, we usually just bring whatever we have from home and eat that.

We also always bring a few Good to-Go meals for emergencies or if we are feeling too lazy to prepare food after hiking all day.

Looking for easy camping meal inspiration? Check out 15 easy and gluten-free camping ideas (all of our favorites)!

Do Free Outdoor Activities and Travel Cheap

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Sunset watching is romantic and free!

Hiking is free. Mountain biking is free. Taking pictures is free (after investing in the gear). Driving back roads is free (minus the gas). Watching sunrises and sunsets are free. Roam and explore the woods! Jump in the lakes, creeks, rivers, and have fun!

“All good things are wild and free.” – Henry David Thoreau 

Free outdoor activities are a great way to keep travel expenses to a minimum, entertain yourself, and explore.

They are also great for entertaining friends and family on trips and saving everyone money.

Find hiking inspiration by using apps such as AllTrails or The Hiking Project.

Shop Best Hiking Gear!

Oboz Hiking Boots (Men)

Oboz Hiking Boots (Women)

The North Face Thermoball Jacket (Women)

Kula Cloth (Pee Cloth)

Cost of a Typical Weekend Camping Trip (How to Travel Cheap)

Below is a simple breakdown of the cost of a typical weekend camping trip (in 2022).

  • Camping fees – $20-40/night
  • Food – $50
  • Gas – $150-175 – pricing depending on the weekend and what the world is doing. We usually buy a tank of gas going and a tank coming home.
  • Highway tolls – $20

A weekend camping and hiking trip in Oklahoma and Arkansas costs us less than $300.

The most expensive thing we pay for (in 2022) is gas.

The breakdown above is how we keep our travel expenses to a minimum. As you can see, a long weekend costs as little as $150 per person round trip with this style of travel.

Do you live in Oklahoma or Arkansas? Check out these 27 Easy Road Trip Ideas! Keep it simple and go! Most of the parks are free to enter if you are already camping in Oklahoma. In Arkansas, state parks are free to enter.

You don’t have to have an RV or camper – you can always car camp or sleep in a tent.

When we lived in Colorado, we did the same things except we camped on BLM Land in Utah and Colorado, where camping is free.

Final Thoughts on How We Afford to Travel So Much

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Local travel to state park.

Traveling locally helps our dollar go further. So, we can travel more often and do trips multiple times a month.

We aren’t spending tons of money on airplane tickets, hotels, or restaurants, and we are having just as much fun! AND, most importantly, we aren’t accumulating debt to travel places and have incredible life experiences.

We have so much fun exploring locally.

These cost-cutting strategies and travel tips are a lifestyle and so easy to do.

Plan your next trip close to home if you want to travel more.

We hope this article inspires you to explore more places locally.

Enjoy your home state and neighboring states!

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee + Pablo


You might also like…

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We’d love to hear from you!

What are your thoughts on traveling locally?

How do you afford to travel cheap and more often?

Tell us your favorite places to adventure close to home. We would love to hear!

Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

20 Comments

  1. Burt Randall on March 12, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    This is a great article, informative. Have FUN camping, Ashlee + Pablo !!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 14, 2022 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Burt! Thanks for reading and commenting. We appreciate you!



  2. Lasma on March 26, 2022 at 10:10 am

    These are great tips and I love the photos of the article! I think doing what the locals do is always the best decision!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Lasma! Thanks for reading and commenting on our article. You are so right!



  3. Linda (LD Holland) on March 26, 2022 at 10:35 am

    Some great tips to help people travel for less. We too love to head out for local day trips with our cooler packed for the trip. There are indeed so many outdoor experiences that are free. And help us to slow down and enjoy the moments.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Linda! Thank you for stopping by and reading our article. We love hearing that you bring a cooler too!



  4. Megan on March 26, 2022 at 1:10 pm

    Love this article! We have put a lot more local plans in our upcoming travel and I’m so excited to see more of what’s nearby. We don’t do a lot of camping (kids make it a little more work!) but I’d actually love to try camping more if it means we can travel more!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Megan! Thanks for reading! There are so many neat things to do close to home (in most places). I know you live in CO, just a little drive and there is something to see every weekend. Maybe as the kids get older you can enjoy camping. Have a great week! Safe travels.



  5. Krista on March 26, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Lots of great tips here! Eating at restaurants all the time while travelling is so expensive, so I often bring my own food where possible as well.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:01 pm

      Yes, Krista! Eating in restaurants DOES get expensive. We loved reading you try to bring your own food as well.



  6. Erin on March 26, 2022 at 4:09 pm

    Ashlee + Pablo, Looks like an amazing trip! Thanks so much for sharing!



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Erin! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. We appreciate you!



  7. simplyjolayne on March 26, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    There are so many tips for planning travel that makes it easier to afford. My biggest tip is to start a vacation fund…today.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:02 pm

      Hi Jolayne – great advice! Thanks for adding that.



  8. Sarah on March 27, 2022 at 1:16 am

    Great ideas, I love camping adventures. I also house sit internationally, that’s another great way to be able to afford to travel so much especially if you love pets.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:03 pm

      Hi Sarah! What a great idea! I’d love to hear more about how you plan house sitting out. Cool share.



  9. Susan on March 27, 2022 at 11:23 am

    I love this! Local adventures and camping are go-to’s for me too. There’s so many awesome places to explore once you start looking! I would love to have a camper someday, but for now I do tent camping.



    • Ashlee Fechino on March 29, 2022 at 4:04 pm

      Hi Susan – thanks for reading our article. We love hearing that you like to travel locally. You are so right – there are many awesome places to explore locally once you start looking.



  10. Marianne on March 31, 2022 at 8:46 am

    Absolutely LOVE this! We have been doing a little more local travel in the last couple of years, and are having soooo many amazing adventures. As a family, we are slowly getting into camping, and are thinking of getting small camper as well. While going abroad is nice, we live in Canada and our own backyard is gorgeous.



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 6, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      Hi Marianne! Thank for sharing. Everything we see about the Canadian wilderness is just incredible. I bet you will fall more in love with camping after you get a camper. We used to tent camp and after getting the Aliner – camping feels like our little house on wheels. Thanks for commenting. Happy adventuring!