Free camp sites
We almost never pay for a campsite. There are plenty of ways to find free places to stay. Some times its simply a Walmart or a Cracker Barrel parking lot but those aren't always ideal (this only works if you have a camper van or car camp set up). Most of the time we use websites/apps like Campendium, Free Roam, and by simply following the rules of dispersed camping for whichever state you're in. We have also had luck by searching the word "campground" on google maps and seeing what pops up for the area that we are going. To keep these campground free, please oh please, leave them better than you found them. It makes me so sad to see messy campgrounds.
It's rare that we spend any money on activities unless it is something that has been on our bucket list for awhile. Luckily for us most of the things that we enjoy to do are free like hiking (despite having to pay for state or national park passes). When we're not hiking we're usually exploring the near by town and finding a place to picnic for the afternoon. On our down time with trips we usually ended up playing card games that we bring along with us.
Cook our own meals
While this helps us save money, we honestly love to do this! Even when we're home we barely ever eat out unless we're celebrating something or going out with friends. We love to cook and try new recipes, so this is something we often do. But if you're someone that doesn't cook, I can see how this would be difficult to take on. This is one of the biggest ways we save money. When we go out to a regular restaurant, we can easily spend $60-80 on the two of us. That's just on one meal!! When we cook for ourselves our meals rarely ever cost more than $10 in total depending on what we're cooking. That's a huge difference!
Now you might be thinking we'll get fast food because that'll be cheaper than going to a restaurant. We may do this if we're driving a far distance to get some where and don't want to take up time to cook, but when we're at our destination we don't do this. Mostly because we don't want to leave nature but also because greasy, fatty foods don't give us the proper energy we need to keep up with the activities that we do. We're usually cooking some sort of protein like chicken or steak, veggies, and rice or potatoes. This is our normal diet as well, so again, it's easy for us to carry this into our travels.
Car camp set up
Building out the back of our Traverse has been the biggest game changer for our travels. 10/10 recommend if you have a big enough SUV. (I'll create another blog post on how we did this soon). Since Tommy works a 9-5 jobs, most weekends we end up leaving right when he gets off of work. This means we usually don't end up arriving to our destination till after dark. When we first started road tripping we slept in a tent, and putting up the tent and blowing up the air mattress in the dark was THE WORST. Especially with mosquito season. Now with our car camp set up all we have to do is climb in the back. We have window covers and a curtain for the front that we put up for privacy. I feel safe with our car camp set up as well because we can lock the doors at night. This has also allowed us more flexibility on where we can stay especially if we're passing through a city and our only options are a Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lot. The only downside that we've seen is on hot summer days it can get pretty toasty in the car, so we need to find a better way to manage that.
Split the cost gas
Gas can add up so quickly, especially these days. When we first started road tripping I swear gas was only about $2/gallon. Now is $3-4 or more depending on where you're traveling. Having a partner to split this expense with is so helpful! Props to the solo travelers out there handling these expenses themselves! Inviting other couples or friends to come with on trips not only makes it more fun but can alleviate the costs as well. There are also apps out there like Gas Buddy that can tell you the cheapest place in the area to get gas. Google Maps usually shows the prices of near by gas stations as well.
Brew our own coffee
As much as I love a good cafe, not spending $5-7 per drink, per day while you're traveling on a budget is a simple way to cut back. It can add up so quickly and brewing our own is a fraction of the price and some times tastes just as good. This also allows us to drive to a lookout point in the morning and brew our coffee while watching the sunrise! And you just can't beat that!
Use travel credit cards
Now I'm no expert on this so do your own research to see what best fits your needs. There are so many out there! But you can get cash back, or collect points and miles to use toward future travel. I've seen people do this and get trips and flights for free! Nothing is better than free! Keep in mind to do this responsibly. Don't go into debt just trying to save some money.
Less expensive accommodations
At lot of the times when we travel near to home we stay in our car camp set up. When it comes to actually having to book a hotel or airbnb we almost never splurge on the nicer place. We like to get outside and adventure around, so we only use the place we are staying for sleep. If it not some where that will consume a lot of our time it doesn't make sense to pay more just to sleep there. I would rather save that for excursions and activities. When we go to places where family and friends live, we also see if we can stay with them! This allow us more time with our loved ones, but we get to save as well.
Explore your own state or surrounding states
Most of the time, our trips are close to home or somewhere we can drive to on the weekends. There is so much beauty in your home state and ones around you. You really don't need to go too far to have a wonderful trip! All states and major cities have websites that you can use to find things to do in the area that you are thinking of going. Simply search Visit *location* and there is usually a website full of information on things to do in the area that you are wanting to go.
Sign up for flight alerts
I prefer to use Google to help me track flight prices, but there are lots of websites, apps, and even instagram pages that let you know when good deals come up. When using google.com/flights all you have to to do it put in where you want to travel and for which dates. Then you can turn on Track Prices and you will get email alerts when a good deal comes along!
Bonus Tip: If you're open on where you want to travel you can use google.com/flights to explore different desitantations all over the world. On that page, just click on Explore Destinations and a map will pop up. It will tell you which location has the best flight deals within a specific time period.
Don't rent a car from the airport
Booking a rental car from a location off of the airport can save your hundreds of dollars depending on the location. I get it, you're probably asking how you'll get there from the airport. That answer is easy! Uber! Lyft! Whichever ride share company you prefer! Of course this could vary, but should only cost about $20-30. I looked up the cost of a rental car from Enterprise at the Denver International Airport and then compared the price to the closest Enterprise location to that airport (20 minutes away). The price difference was about $250 for a weeks rental. If you're up for the extra steps then this could save about $200 for a weeks rental car.