When I decided to give away everything I owned and set out on road tripping the US, I did not have a lot of money saved up. I had kept saying I would start traveling once this or that happened or when I had saved up a certain amount of money. Years went by, over 10 years to be exact, and I hadn't really been traveling. One day I realized that I work on the computer all day long and that I can do that anywhere in the world as long as I had electricity and WiFi.
Post-divorce, I was couponing to afford to eat healthy food and was already living a pretty frugal lifestyle. Why couldn't I parlay that to traveling cheaply as well? So that is exactly what I did. I wrote out what I thought were going to be my biggest expenses and figured out how to save money on those three things: Gas (whether by car or plane), Food, and Lodging. Here are my personal tips to traveling on the cheap.
Gasoline Saving Tips
When road tripping, you should have Gas Buddy downloaded. It will show you on a map or list what the current gas prices are closest to your location. You can easily see if you wait 10 miles you can save $0.10/gallon, which when you are traveling every little bit helps. Do this especially before crossing state lines as some states can be up to $0.25/gal more than the state you are currently driving in! Grocery Fuel Reward Points are also essential to the budget traveler. When either Safeway or Kroger has their 4x Fuel Point specials, use them and stack up those gas points.
Food Saving Tips
Just like at home, use coupons and store's specials to buy groceries. Definitely hit up warehouse and grocery stores instead of eating every meal out (I love Costco!). If you do want to eat out while traveling, do it at lunch time. Most hotels give you free breakfast, and dinner cost twice as much as lunch. If there is a half or full portion available, buy the full so you have leftovers for your next meal. Pack snacks that your family loves and resist buying them at convenience stores when they are marked up.
Lodging Saving Tips
I personally camped over 100 days of my 200 days on the road. I loved sleeping outside and invested in a great tent from REI, sleeping bag and mattress, plus a camp kitchen that I used quite a bit.
I also used both CouchSurfing.com and AirBnb.com (this link gives you a $25 AirBnB credit) to secure lodging around the US. As a blogger, I reached out to hotels to do travel reviews. For those travelers that are not bloggers, use TripAdvisor to show you the cheapest lodging for that night. HotelTonight is also awesome as it gets deals loaded up by noon everyday.
These are just a few of the ways I save money while traveling. How do you pinch pennies so you can travel more?