Low on cash? I know the feeling! This spring I’ve been working on paying off my car and medical bills, but I’m getting a little stir crazy since that has meant No Travel for a while.
If you’re in the same boat, here are some suggestions for satisfying the travel bug while still being kind to your bank account.
Minimize accommodation costs
During my trip to the UK last winter, my biggest expenses were hostels and hotels, especially with the high prices around the holiday season. A £15–20 hostel every night adds up, and here in the States it costs much more—if you’re traveling by yourself, a low-end hotel room is usually between $60 and $90. How can you cut down on those hefty accommodation fees?
While it probably won’t get you out of the state, you can easily make a two- or three-hour drive to another town or city or a beautiful wilderness area for hiking. If it’s somewhere you’ve never been, you can check it off your bucket list. Visiting a destination a few hours away helps you feel mobile and exploratory. And it’s often those close-to-home places that we never really get around to visiting, since we can go “anytime.” Best of all, you can drive home that night and sleep in your own comfy bed.
Here are some places that are a convenient distance from Minneapolis for a daytrip:
Towns near the city
St. Cloud, Excelsior, Wayzata, Waconia, Jordan
A little farther away
Stillwater, Duluth, Hinckley, Taylors Falls, New Ulm, Rochester, Walnut Grove
In other states (still within 3.5 hours from Minneapolis)
Fargo, North Dakota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Ames, Iowa; Des Moines, Iowa
I usually think of the Midwest as a relatively boring place, but just looking at a map reminded me of all the places in Minnesota I haven’t been in years and would love to visit again.
You definitely know someone who has moved away or has always lived in another city. Check in with them to see if they would be willing to let you crash at their place for a few days. They’d probably be happy to see you, even if you haven’t caught up in a while, and people love showing off their town to newcomers. I’ve stayed with distant family and acquaintances in Washington State, California, Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, Michigan, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C. Visiting people is a great way to get you somewhere you might not have gone otherwise and to experience the local scene. It’s also helpful for cutting down on hotel costs (though you might want to compensate your friend in the form of dinner or a gift card).
If you like to travel in the US, you’ve probably already figured this one out. I’ve met retirees who are using their savings to drive around from national park to national park in a camper for months at a time. One of my dreams is to hike and camp a (small) part of the Appalachian Trail, which extends from Georgia to Maine and looks absolutely gorgeous.
Campgrounds are often much cheaper than a hotel; when a friend and I camped on Mt. Rainier in Washington, it was $20 ($10 each). If you love hiking and being outdoors, camping is the perfect way to take a longer trip without breaking the bank.
Be aware that many national park campgrounds fill up during the summer, so you may need to book your spot very early or go for a first-come-first-serve campground.
Trawl for cheap flights
Things are a lot farther apart in America than they are in Europe, so I usually don’t even consider looking for flights unless I need to fly somewhere (to visit my sister, for example). I often assume they will be too expensive.
But there are actually some reasonably priced flights in America if you have a little flexibility on time and where you are going. Taking a look at the “Suggested” sections on the Kayak homepage just now (it knows I would be flying out of Minneapolis), I found round-trip flights to Denver, Colorado and Boston, Massachusetts for under $80. In the past, my sister and I have flown to LA for $70 by planning ahead and searching for cheap airfares.
These cheaper flights are usually with an airline like Spirit, which offers only the bare essentials and definitely does not have a reputation for luxury. They charge a lot to check a bag, so pack light and pay attention to the allowed carry-on dimensions. I haven’t had a problem with cheaper airlines; I just know to bring my own water bottle and snacks for the flight.
Work on the road
Sometimes you can get travel time off of work—especially if you are a student or work part-time and don’t get paid vacation—but you might need income to continue coming in while you’re gone.
So many jobs are remote now, and employees can work from anywhere. I used to work with a girl who had an online job as a stylist for a clothing website, which she did in her spare time in the evenings and on weekends. This might not be something you could do full-time, but you could put a few hours into each day or week into a remote side job while you travel.
Another suggestion is using Workaway or a similar program to find short-term host homes where you do work in exchange for accommodation and food. The work usually involves building or helping on a farm, but there are so many opportunities that one is sure to align with your hobbies and interests. Workaway is available all over the world.
What are your tips for traveling on a budget?
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