Traveling on an actual budget

As promised, here is the post I mentioned about traveling! The last three weekends I have taken trips of some sort, and it occurred to me that traveling is probably one of the most desired and difficult things for emerging adults to pull off. Especially when looking at the Instagram accounts of other people our age and wondering where the heck they got the money (and/or time off) to hit up such insane destinations.

Here’s the disclaimer: None of my trips were holy crap levels of cool, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford them all on my own. But each is still a good look at managing to travel without draining one’s bank account.

Weekend 1: The Day Trip

Length of trip: 6-8 hours

Total spent: ~$50*

My brother and I went to some local farms about an hour away from my house that offer craft fairs, apple picking, and other fall-related activities. Main costs were activities (who doesn’t want to make a candle and pick organic tomatoes?), gas, and then some food.

Weekend 2: The Big Trip

Length of trip: 4.5 days

Total spent: $111.38*

After almost 3 months apart, I got to fly to Maryland to visit my boyfriend for a few days. Overall, the trip cost much more than the number listed here, but the flights out were a gift and my boyfriend paid for way more than his fair share, so that brought the number down. Most of this cost is food and Lyft rides around parts of Washington, D.C., where we spent that Saturday.

Weekend 3: The Road Trip

Length of trip: 3 days

Total spent: $125.42

As mentioned in last week’s post, I took a trip to my old college for the first time since graduating. The drive was about 7 hours each way, and I stayed for 2 nights at my friend’s apartment. Most activities were free, so food and gas were the only real costs. On the way back I picked up another friend headed the same direction, which helped cut gas costs.

*I’m omitting the cost of any presents I bought because while it did impact my spending, it wasn’t necessary to the cost of the trip and technically comes out of my gifts budget.

Here is my advice, condensed as much as possible:

  • Driving is often cheaper than flying, and then you still have transportation when you get there. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going alone and can do the drive in one day, consider driving. If you’re going with two or more people and can do the drive in three days or less, consider driving.
  • If you are flying, search around for airline prices. There are tons of discount airlines, but even the bigger names have fare sales and such, which can be great if your dates are flexible.
  • Find a couch to crash on. I am constantly updating a list of people I know in various cities, states, and countries so that if/when I end up there, I can pretty please ask to crash on their couch. Do offer to buy them a bottle of wine or take them out to eat as a thank you, but it’s way cheaper than a hotel.
  • Don’t eat all your meals out. The big trip I talked about above was an exception, but usually I try to limit traveling to one meal out per day. For the day trip, we packed a lunch and only bought a snack, and for the road trip I spent a whopping $47.43 on 3 days of food (which included drinks). Pack snacks or small meals, and don’t be afraid to go to a grocery store or market instead of a restaurant.

It’s also worth noting that each of the trips above could have been done more cost effectively, but also that I wouldn’t have been able to afford either of the latter two without other people being generous. After three consecutive weekends of travel, I’m also cutting back on spending for a while. I’m definitely not the expert on inexpensive travel, but being able to travel is important to me, so it’s something I’m going to keep working on.

What are the best tips you’ve learned for traveling on a budget? (Also I’m not asking facetiously, I really would love to hear them.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope you go somewhere cool this week!

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