It's no secret Matt and I like to travel. There have been times when we reflect on the year and find ourselves fortunate enough to have been on the road or in the air 6 times in a year.
That being said, we have learned a few tricks to keeping travel within budget. Well, really, credit goes to him. This dude has been doing this a long time and taken me under his wing and taught me the highs and lows- not only of how to travel like a pro but to enjoy yourself while doing so (lucky for him he is also stuck with me for the rest of our lives ;-) ).
February 2018 thru February 2019 was our most epic year yet. We crossed off:
Zion National Park
Glacier National Park
Costa Rica, one more time
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Some of these trips we traveled together, others we parted ways with our friends. But one thing held true for all the travels- we didn't spend a ton of money and always came home planning our next trip.
Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
1. CAMP- this has been the biggest game changer for me. I am at the point now where I even PREFER to camp rather than hang in a hotel. You save money, get to explore deeper into the parks and there is something way more peaceful about sleeping with the crickets than the hum of an air conditioner. Yes, we will stay in an Airbnb on occasion. Usually it is only after 3 or 4 nights of camping. Camping is awesome (and bathing in lakes and creeks is par for the course) but sometimes a warm shower and a bed can be a treat too :)
2. Food Shop. Our first stop when we land is usually a grocery store. We had bought a disposable cooler for a few trips but recently invested in a cooler we can travel with. Leak proof and somewhat collapsable so it will sit in our suitcase well. We will spend about $150-$200 on food and this will feed us all of our snacks, breakfast, lunch and majority of camp dinners.
Things we always stock up on:
Bread, nut butter, instant oats, single serve protein, protein bars, fizzy drinks, plant based sausages and burgers, spray coconut oil, pre-cut veggies, mini potatoes, and...let's be real, a bag of chips or pretzels to munch on during the drive between stops.
No, it's not the perfect diet but it gets the job done and it's only temporary.
3. Travel with friends. Planning a trip with friends can help with money a lot. Splitting the cost of a rental car, gas and Airbnb can make a $400 car rental quickly become $100 each if you have enough people. The trick is to find people you travel well with. This might take some trial and error but a few things I find I NEED from people I travel with:
Early risers, people that want to keep the stoke high at all times and fill our agenda from sun up to sun down, flexible in what we do, eat and where we stop, prefers to be in the woods then in a city and funny is an added bonus.
But really- I have learned from Matt how to fill travel days with as much as possible so you can SEE as much as possible. This isn't a task for the faint of heart. It can often require long days, lots of driving and even more walking. Finding people that are up for the challenge isn't easy. After my first trip with Matt I came home saying " I need a vacation from my vacation"....and that's how you know we did it right.
4. Avoid cities. To each their own but I found that the US has so many amazing national parks that are hidden gems. Rather than visiting a big city with hefty price tags, find a spot on the map where you can knock off 5 or 6 parks in one trip. You will see so much of the country, leave with a greater appreciation for mother nature, learn about animals and forests and never be in danger of not hitting your steps. Besides paying for a parks pass (I suggest getting a yearly pass if you plan on visiting multiple parks) most hiking is free and the experiences you will receive from nature vs a busy city street don't compare.
5. Do it on your own. The internet is something we all know how to use, so I suggest using it to avoid tourist traps- like tours. With a simple search and a few minutes of digging you can find some of the best local spot, hidden gems and places to visit all without being stuck to the time schedule of an overpriced tour with too many tourists using iPads to take photos. I am not talking about yelp, Travelocity or any of those sites either. I mean websites written by bloggers who have real recommendations and firsthand experience at the location you're visiting. Blend in with the locals. Eat the local food. I promise, I have never had a single bad experience doing it this way. You won't know until you try.
There are so many right ways to travel, this is just a few of the ways I have learned over the years to stretch a dollar, make the most of your time on the road and really be able to experience travel on an entirely new level.
I am actually writing this as I check off night 2 on an 8 day trip out west. We have 8 days, 6 National Parks, a few nights of camping, some AirBnb's, a car full of food and snacks and an eagerness that we will once again stumble upon two elk doing the dirty as we wander off a side road in a local National Park. Fingers Crossed!
Anything I missed that you do? Tell me!