Author Topic: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?  (Read 1121 times)

coachfrigo

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Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« on: March 08, 2018, 02:07:56 PM »
Basically, I can't stand just sitting in the house, or doing everything within walking/biking distance. I like to be able to go on 3 hour drives to go see an abandoned asylum. Those short drives are great. But what I wonder is...how do you guys travel across the country in a time-efficient, and cheap manner?

I'd love NOTHING more than to start traveling around the country, but have limited time/money.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2018, 02:22:00 PM »
I often take a bus to a nearby city to visit friends for a weekend, so I have a free place to stay and I can explore somewhere new. I also save up for big trips every year or two, if you travel in off seasons or keep an eye out for cheap flights and aren't too picky about dates it can be done for a reasonable price. I have dreamed of outfitting a van for extended camping road trips, but so far it's just a dream, I don't have a remote job and I don't have enough saved up to feel comfortable quitting yet. If you have somewhere in particular in mind, set a timeline, set a budget, and put money aside for that. Look into hostels, couchsurfing, housesitting, camping, rideshare, bus, to find the cheapest way to get there and stay. Pack a cooler if you want to save on food. Go on long weekends to get a bit more time in if you have limited vacation. Where there's a will there's a way. Travel doesn't have to be expensive.

bogart

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2018, 08:33:22 PM »
Not sure how limited your time is or what your goals are.  I drove across the country some years back in 10 days in my small pickup truck (any vehicle would have worked), slept in state/national/Army Corps campgrounds (I did have a tent/sleeping bag/sleeping pad, though some nights I skipped the tent and slept in the bed of the truck), packed food/water and small camping stove (but many nights I ate uncooked food, e.g., bagel + cream cheese or whatever, or pre-cooked food, e.g. fruit + hard-boiled egg) and had a lovely time.  Of course, once I'd gotten there I needed to get back; a friend flew out and we drove back together in (if I remember right) slightly fewer days than I'd taken getting out there.

I had a cousin who brought a driveaway car up the east coast and my brother did that on a midwest-to-middle west states trip, very cheap way to travel.  You can google those, both my vicarious experiences on those were probably 2 decades ago, so the system/rules/pricing may have changed, but a quick google search tells me the setup, at least, still exists.

Trifele

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2018, 04:58:15 AM »
We love to travel, and we've done it all different ways, from the super cheap to the semi-luxurious.  The cheapest way we've found is to drive and then camp in state or national campgrounds.  We throw a tent in the car with sleeping pads/bags, and some simple cooking gear.  A cooler is a must.  You can get ice anywhere, and stop for groceries when you need to re-stock.  We eat out of the cooler for the whole trip. Restaurant stops are budget killers.   On long trips we throw in a hotel stay here or there to clean up better, do laundry, etc.

Car camping works even for far away destinations, with a little more planning.  Several times we have used points (from a credit card churn) to book plane tickets to a destination and rent a car, then we did our regular car camping thing.  We just threw the camping gear into our checked baggage. (Which is no additional fee because we have a frequent flyer account with that airline).  One example:  We did a two week vacation to California a couple years ago with our kids using this fly-and-camp method.  After two days in San Francisco (used points for the hotel) we hit the road and stayed at Yosemite, Redwoods, and a couple of state parks.  Total out of pocket cost for the trip was about $900 for our family of four, which covered food, gas, and campground fees.

We also did this same churn-fly-drive-camp method to travel to Utah, Mesa Verde, and New Mexico on the cheap.  You can fly with a cooler, btw.  Most airlines will accept it as a checked bag.

If you don't want to camp, churning can still help you get airline tickets, car rentals, and hotel stays. Have you read up on credit card churning, a/k/a signing up for cards to get the points bonuses?  There is a bunch of info on that in this forum, and also online.  That's how some people get travel costs down.  It can work well if your spending is at a level where you can meet the minimum required spend easily, or if you know you have a large purchase coming up that you are going to make anyway.  If you are at super low spending level, and no large purchases coming up, then credit card churning is probably not a good fit. 

Last tip -- AirBnB is a good option whenever you stay in an area longer than 4 days or so.  (That seems to be the tipping point at which it makes more sense to rent a place than stay in a hotel).  If we know we are going to be in a place for at least that long, we find a place to rent.   

Tl;dr:  Car camping and credit card churning.  Have fun!

BeautifulDay

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2018, 05:18:26 AM »
+1 for camping

We would love to have a little camper trailer.  But too cheap to buy one.  So we are converting a Subaru Outback into a camping car. I think it will make it super easy to take longer road trips in comfort.

We also travel internationally every couple years.  I book off season.  I set my budget then find a destination that fits within my budget.  I'm driven by the deal not a set place or time. And I book package deals a lot on Expedia to get huge discounts.  I don't credit card churn, so this is my best way to get flight deals. Often I Can find package deals - hotel plus flight -for the same or less than the regular flight price.

coachfrigo

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2018, 06:02:24 AM »
I just don't want to wait until I'm retired to travel. I'd have a lot more freedom if I became a firefighter.

wordnerd

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2018, 07:10:21 AM »
I'm not sure if the Southwest credits cards are still as good a deal as they used to be, but travel hacking those can be great if you want to travel domestically and have a use for a companion pass. There are some threads around here on them...

Trifele

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2018, 08:02:29 AM »
I just don't want to wait until I'm retired to travel. I'd have a lot more freedom if I became a firefighter.

You don't have to wait until you're retired -- you can do it now.  We've managed at least two cool trips per year, even with 2 kids and both of us working full time.

What's the biggest challenge for you -- the time or the money?  If you want to travel far without a lot of vacation time, then you probably need to fly.  That's where the credit card/airline card churning comes in.   It just takes a little research and planning (both of which I find fun -- but then I'm a nerd about those things.)  To do it cheaply, couchsurf or car camp.  You can do a combination of flying and couchsurfing/camping.

Where do you want to go, and how long do you have for a trip there?  If you throw out some more particulars, maybe the group can give you ideas. 

 

SimpleCycle

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2018, 08:31:21 AM »
In my experience time is my biggest limiting factor.  But there are lots of options!

Bus
Pros: cheap, good for shorter trips, bus often has wifi
Cons: might not run on schedule, takes longer, higher probability of being seated next to a crazy person

Train
Pros: often the cheapest option for medium journeys, comfortable and enjoyable (in my opinion)
Cons: takes a long time, schedules can mean crazy departure or arrival times

Car
Pros: most flexible, usually faster than the train or bus
Cons: traffic, you have to drive instead of just sit there

Plane
Pros: fastest for long trips, can use miles from travel hacking to pay for tickets
Cons: usually most expensive option, have to deal with airport security

When I am traveling alone, I will often travel by bus or train.  I hate driving and love just sitting there reading a book or messing around on the free wifi.  A lot of how feasible these options are depends where you live.  I can take the bus almost anywhere from my city, but the train is more limited.  I'll also take the train if I need to book a trip home on short notice.  Short notice plane tickets are often $$$ and it's less likely to be a ton of money on the train.

When we are traveling as a family, we drive or fly.  Southwest has been an excellent deal for us.  It's a matter of learning the system and booking when you see a good deal.  I was able to get tickets from Chicago to Havana for 15k miles each and jumped on that price.  Chicago to New York is also an exceptionally cheap itinerary lately, so I'm going to do that later this year.  I've done two Southwest credit cards and the Chase Sapphire Preferred for the sign up bonuses to use on Southwest, and that has kept us in plane tickets for a couple years.

Don't put off traveling!  Even if it's just a long weekend within driving distance, it's great to get out there and explore!

coachfrigo

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2018, 09:34:08 AM »
I just don't want to wait until I'm retired to travel. I'd have a lot more freedom if I became a firefighter.

You don't have to wait until you're retired -- you can do it now.  We've managed at least two cool trips per year, even with 2 kids and both of us working full time.

What's the biggest challenge for you -- the time or the money?  If you want to travel far without a lot of vacation time, then you probably need to fly.  That's where the credit card/airline card churning comes in.   It just takes a little research and planning (both of which I find fun -- but then I'm a nerd about those things.)  To do it cheaply, couchsurf or car camp.  You can do a combination of flying and couchsurfing/camping.

Where do you want to go, and how long do you have for a trip there?  If you throw out some more particulars, maybe the group can give you ideas.
Time is definitely the biggest factor. Never have two days off in a row, very no vacation time this year, very one week starting next year. But I hope to be a firefighter by the of May.

Trifele

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2018, 09:39:44 AM »
I just don't want to wait until I'm retired to travel. I'd have a lot more freedom if I became a firefighter.

You don't have to wait until you're retired -- you can do it now.  We've managed at least two cool trips per year, even with 2 kids and both of us working full time.

What's the biggest challenge for you -- the time or the money?  If you want to travel far without a lot of vacation time, then you probably need to fly.  That's where the credit card/airline card churning comes in.   It just takes a little research and planning (both of which I find fun -- but then I'm a nerd about those things.)  To do it cheaply, couchsurf or car camp.  You can do a combination of flying and couchsurfing/camping.

Where do you want to go, and how long do you have for a trip there?  If you throw out some more particulars, maybe the group can give you ideas.
Time is definitely the biggest factor. Never have two days off in a row, very no vacation time this year, very one week starting next year. But I hope to be a firefighter by the of May.

Gotcha.  Then definitely more vacation time is a priority need -- both for sanity/health and to satisfy your wanderlust.  Sounds like you have a plan.  Good luck!

Aminul

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2018, 11:59:32 AM »
If you're looking at cross-country travel, sometimes you need to be creative.  A number of years ago I drove across Canada with some friends.  We flew to the west coast and purchased a vehicle to drive back east.  Through some personal connections we were able to arrange a dealer plate which legally allowed us to drive the car without first licensing it.  Nights were spent about 50/50 between inexpensive hotels and acquaintances.  We spent 12 days going from coast to coast.  We tried to use grocery stores for food when possible.  (Tortilla shells + bag salad + deli chicken strips = chicken caesar wraps)

I've also had the opportunity to travel via motorcycle.  I haven't camped on these trip (yet!),  but I've had good luck staying in inexpensive motels.  I try to have cash with me and I don't hesitate to haggle over the cost of the room.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.   I'm usually too tired from riding all day that I just grab a bite to eat and then fall right to sleep.  Motorcycles are pretty cheap on gas, too.
 
To keep costs down on any road trip I always bring a cooler, even just for drinks.  Finding people who can split some costs with you makes it easier.  Being flexible and not having expectations are helpful in keeping costs down.

Obviously any of this advice assumes that you can string a few days off in a row, which the OP doesn't have right now.  Hopefully that changes in the future -- there are a lot of great things to see and do without spending a fortune!

coachfrigo

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2018, 11:44:04 AM »
Any tips for finding local attractions? I watch these channels like Yes Theory, and wonder how they find all these amazing things to do.

rws

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2018, 02:40:19 PM »
Check out couchsurfing.com - people let you stay with them for free. I've never done it myself but I've met people who have and loved it.

PoutineLover

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Re: Cheap Ways To Travel/Explore?
« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2018, 02:58:35 PM »
I do couchsurfing, have hosted lots of people and can confirm it's a legit way to travel too. As a dude it's probably even easier. Relies on references, you can start building them up by hosting and attending local meetups.
Funny that you mention yes theory, I know those dudes. Once they started doing cool shit, new opportunities opened up. When they first started I had no idea it would take off like it did.