When people discuss why they are unable to travel or take on an outdoor adventure, the two biggest obstacles we hear most often are time and money. We get it. Travel is not always affordable for everyone. There are, however, many easy ways to save money on travel that don’t take too much time or effort.           

Although it is difficult to give up outings with friends and cook your own meals to save money on travel, small changes in your spending habits and savings habits can make your next adventure more possible.

These are some ways to save money on your next outdoor adventure or travel:

Track Your Spending

A spending journal is one of the best ways to understand your spending habits and to save money on travel. To give an honest picture of your financial situation and your spending habits, you should keep a detailed record of all your expenses. This will help you to set realistic and healthy budgets based on real numbers, not the ones you think you have.

You can track your spending with many apps. We recommend Mint and YNAB (You Have to Budget). Trail Wallet.

A spending journal is a good option for those who are more visual learners.

Here’s how it works.

Keep track of every purchase and payment for 30 days. Use a pen and a notebook to keep track of every expense, including:

  • The date
  • The item
  • The cost
  • How did you feel about the purchase?

Then, take three highlighters in different colors to match different types of expenses. Review your journal at the end of each week and highlight the essentials (gas, bills, and food), then the things that you can cut (clothing, eating out, and movies) in another color. Finally, the major budget-busters in a third. You want to see how the color responds to your “essentials,” which will help you identify where you can cut back, either temporarily or permanently. To remind yourself of what you are saying, yes, each week, you should write down the trip that you are saving for.

This practice can be adapted in many ways. The key point is to make a Spending Journal that suits your needs. Kim, a former Bearfoot Theory Community Manager, used a similar strategy to save $15,000 over a year for a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. It doesn’t cost $15,000 to hike The PCT, but Kim had budgeted $5,000 and needed $10,000 for a safety net when she returned from the hike. The $5,000 includes all her personal items in a storage unit for one year, as well as car payments. Here is an example from her journal of one month.

You will see her color code – pink for items to be eliminated, orange for meals out (a personal goal), and yellow for important expenses that she can’t avoid. Kim set a $1,500 monthly spending goal. Kim compiled her expenses into categories so she could see which areas she was spending the most money on. Then, she set a goal for the next month.

Kim found it eye-opening to highlight in one color how much she had spent on dining out. She spent, on average, hundreds of dollars eating out in one month. Gradually, she was able to cut this to $50 per month by inviting her friends over to dinners, using coupons from local newspapers, and avoiding expensive drinks at restaurants.             

Cut Down on Extra Expenses – “The Latte Factor”

You may have heard it before. The phrase “The Latte Factor” refers to all the small things that add up to your financial situation, such as $5 for a morning latte. It doesn’t have to be a costly coffee. You might consider the Kombucha or FroYo Factor. Or whatever other guilty pleasure you may have. This will allow you to tighten your purse while still saving money on travel. $5/day quickly becomes $150/month or $1,800 per year — enough to pay for many trips!

These trends are easier to spot after you’ve done the 30-day journal. Or, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, during the month. Give yourself some time to get used to it before you dive in.        

Make Your Homemade Meals

Postmates or cutting back on dining out is a great way to save money and travel. It is easy to let life get in the way, making excuses for not being able to cook at home. But the key to planning ahead is the key. Take some time to plan your meals, get groceries, and prepare your meals for the week. You’ll be less likely to stop at a restaurant or shop for food if you have a list of what you want to cook.

Are you a fan of going out to dinner with your friends? Spending too much on dining out can lead to financial problems. So why not host a potluck with your friends and invite them over for dinner at home?

I switched to a plant-based diet in 2019 and have seen significant savings on grocery bills. You can save money on travel by cutting down on your meat and dairy consumption.

Set Reminders for Your Savings Goal

Sticky notes on your fridge that contain the name or number of the destination you are interested in can be a great motivator. It is better to start small and set benchmarks for your spending goals. This will make it easier to remember why you are doing this than to feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of money you want to save.   

Create a Separate Savings Account

You should open a separate bank account to hold your travel fund. Each month, set a goal of depositing a certain amount. It’s easier to keep your travel fund separate from your savings and not in your checking account. This savings account is one that you cannot withdraw from (unless you absolutely need to).        

Pick Up a Free Hobby

To keep your spending under control, you should be busy at work, outside, or with hobbies at home. Spending less time online and out will result in less money. You can also enjoy new hobbies such as hiking and other outdoor activities.        

Cut Down on Your Subscriptions

Monthly subscriptions such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, Audible, etc. These subscriptions can quickly add up. Find out where you can cut down on subscriptions, or even better, share them with friends and family.

This is also true for books. You can check out books at your library instead of buying them. Do you prefer audiobooks or e-books? Get the Libby app to link your library card, and download audiobooks and e-books free of charge to your smartphone or tablet.        

Sell Your Stuff

Many of us hold onto physical items that we no longer need or use. This includes clothes, backpacking gear, and housewares. Why not sell that stuff to make money while you travel? This will not only extend the useful life of your items and keep them out of landfills, but it can also make you some extra money.         

Get an Idea of your Costs and Book a Cheap Flight and Accommodations

Before you decide on a destination, you should first know the average cost of the area. Be My Travel Muse offers a great guide that shows you the most affordable destinations around the world and how much you can expect to pay for lodging, food, and other activities.

After you have chosen a destination, find ways to reduce the cost of your accommodation and flight.

These are some ideas to help you save on lodging & flights:

  • Track flight price: Search for good deals on flights through websites such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Kayak and Expedia. Momondo, JetRadar. Skyscanner can help you find the best day to fly. Make sure your browser is incognito. To get a great deal, you can set up flight alerts that track the price of your flight.
  • Avoid peak season prices by traveling in the off-season: To get better rates on hotels and Airbnb, you can visit during shoulder season or off-season.
  • Camp vs. staying in a hotel: Camping has the lowest prices and is if anything, the best. Our guide will help you find dispersed campsites.

Find Free Activities

It’s free! You only need your hiking boots along with some basic hiking equipment to plan a day of adventure on a budget. To find out if there are any free activities in your area, visit the website of the local tourism board.

Having a list of free activities to do when traveling will help you avoid signing up for expensive tours or activities just because you don’t know what to do next. You can also use your favorite hiking app for local trails while you travel.        

Buy Used

You should also consider the cost of travel insurance, shots, and visas depending on your stay. To save money when you travel, borrow from friends or buy from these discount outdoor gear retailers. These costs should be included in your trip expenses to ensure you have enough.   

Spend on the Splurge

Once you have figured out your travel budget, you can now start to think about the fun stuff. THINK about The day you go scuba diving or the unique gift that you bring home. You can indulge in the occasional splurge, but it’s okay. It can be a memorable trip. Just make sure you have some limits. You need to determine how much you can afford for splurges and how much cash you have on hand in case something unexpected happens.

Travel is well worth the money, so don’t be afraid of spending it. Smart spending habits and budgeting can help you have a wonderful trip without breaking your budget.

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